Charcoal Peel-Off Mask

I knew what ingredients I had on hand and wanted to use, so I did some digging and found someone else had already tried pretty much the exact same recipe I wanted to try. The internet is a magical place.

Activated Charcoal

Charcoal Peel-off Face MaskThis is a few minutes after I applied the face mask. Please ignore my hair. It has a mind of its own.

Charcoal works as a binder. The microscopic surface of charcoal is pitted and has tons of pores. If it's taken internally, it traps toxins in the pores, but charcoal isn't absorbed by the body. This is why it is taken for food poisoning and drug overdoses. If it's taken before the toxins are absorbed into the bloodstream, the charcoal will bind to them and exit with your bodily waste, taking the toxins with it. 

The idea with using charcoal on the skin is that toxins and acne causing bacteria on the skin will bind to the charcoal and be washed away. 

Don't rely on just activated charcoal if a poisonous substance is ingested.

Call Poison Control or visit an emergency room. 


The main purpose of gelatin in this recipe is to hold the other ingredients together so they peel off like they're supposed to. Some recipes use Elmer's or another kind of glue. In middle school, I enjoyed covering my fingertips with Elmer's and peeling it off when it dried as much as the next bored kid, but now that I know what kind of ingredients are in it, there's no way I'd put that stuff anywhere near my face. My skin only seems to get more sensitive as I get older. 

The molecules in gelatin are too large to be absorbed in the skin, so it's not going to help much, but it isn't going to hurt you either, because gelatin is great for the skin when taken internally. 

Collagen (found in unprocessed gelatin) is one of the things that give skin its structure. You may have seen it on the labels of other skincare products (which looks good, but is mostly useless since it's just too big to absorb). When your body slows collagen production, your skin begins to wrinkle and sag. 

The best way to get more collagen in your skin is through your diet, not by applying it to your skin. But that said, using gelatin as a base won't hurt your skin, as it's much gentler than an artificial peel off face mask.

Bentonite Clay

This is the redness right after removing the mask. You can see where the clay pulled the blood toward the skin.

Bentonite clay draws out toxins by taking on a charge. Anyone who's taken a chemistry class knows that ions take on positive, neutral, and negative charges. Ever heard the phrase "opposites attract"? This is not as true in the dating world as people would lead you to believe, but it is especially true in chemistry. In its natural form, bentonite clay has a negative charge, and many heavy metals and and toxins have a positive charge. This makes it extremely easy for the two to bind together.

Bentonite clay deserves its own page due to the healing properties it shows. It speeds healing of skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and poison ivy. It's used in toothpastes and detox baths. And it's increasingly used in beauty products.

Redness after applying a clay mask.This redness is about 10 minutes later. This lasted about 30 minutes. My face felt hot both to me and to the touch.

I've used bentonite clay as a face mask by itself or with apple cider vinegar multiple times. It's full of minerals like magnesium, potassium, silica, and calcium which it deposits on your skin and absorbs oil. I usually mix it with lavender and melaleuca essental oils (which are both great for the skin) because ACV has a pretty intense smell, especially when it's right on your face. 

I recommend using bentonite clay at bedtime, or on a day you don't plan on going out at all. There are 3 phases to a clay face mask. The first phase, while the clay is damp, your skin is absorbing the nutrients from the clay. Once it starts to dry, it draws the blood to your face. This is good, because your blood carries oxygen and nutrients from the inside, but it can be surprising and a little uncomfortable if you're not expecting this result. The first time I did a clay mask, I didn't know to expect that and was extremely concerned when my face stayed very red for about half an hour. However, you want to avoid the third phase, when the clay dries out completely, and draws moisture from your skin.

Don't make my mistake. With a clay mask, you want to wash it off before it dries all the way. While writing this page, I researched clay masks, and found (a skin care specialist) that supports all the things I learned the hard way about clay face masks. 

In this particular charcoal peel-off mask, the clay is mixed with gelatin, so it's okay to let it dry. It will pull moisture from the gelatin, drying out the mask, not your face, and you can peel it off.


  • 1 tablespoon of gelatin - I used Great Lakes.
  • 2 tablespoons of water, filtered or distilled. You don't want extra things in your water that might bind with your clay or charcoal instead of the toxins on your skin.
  • 1 teaspoon activated charcoal (approximately 5 capsules twisted open). The only charcoal I had on hand was the capsules I keep for upset stomach. 
  • 1/2 teaspoon calcium bentonite clay - I used Redmond 

Note: You shouldn't use metal utensils to mix this face mask. The positive charge of metal would neutralize the clay, completely cancelling out its drawing properties. You'd essentially just be putting dirt on your face. You can use glass or plastic safely.

When Janelle tried this face mask, she mashed up an avocado and mixed it in. Avocado is highly moisturizing to the skin.


  • Change into something you don't mind staining. This may be very messy.
  • Wash your face. It helps the mask to stick if your face isn't oily.
  • Mix your charcoal and clay together. Remember to stir with a plastic, glass, or wooden utensil.
  • Mix your gelatin and water. It should get thick and clumpy. I put mine in a liquid measuring cup and hung it over the side of a pot of water. Add the clay and charcoal.
  • Heat the water until the mixture is warm and smooth (no clumps). It only took me about 5-10 minutes. 
  • Let the mixture cool if it got too hot and thicken. You can refrigerate to cool faster. Keep a close eye on it. You don't want clay and charcoal jello. That would probably taste disgusting. One way to test the temperature is to put a drop on your wrist. 
  • Fortunately, if the mixture gets too thick, it can be reheated. 
  • When it's thick enough to spread and cool enough to touch, use either your fingers or a liquid makeup foundation brush to spread it on your face. I got a spare one at Wal-Mart for a few dollars. It may be best to do this over a sink. It drips a little, even if it is thick.
Julia applying a charcoal mask.This is my sister Julia. I convinced her to do this with me and let me take photos.
  • Brush the mixture onto your face. It helps if the layer is pretty thick, so you can peel it off without it breaking into multiple pieces. 
  • Let it dry. (Once it's hard and no longer cold, it's ready.) The edges will dry and begin to peel back before the middle. Wait until the thick middle part is dry.
  • Once it's completely dry, use your fingernails to pull up the edge like a sticker. Take your time, since it can be painful. If you have any hair/fuzz on your face, it will be pulled out.
  • If it hurts too much, you can wash it off, but you won't have the same results in regards to cleaning out your pores.

A few tips:

This mask will likely pull out some hair on your face. You might want to spot check to make sure it doesn't hurt too bad. 

In that vein, avoid your eyebrows unless you want to accidentally pluck them out. Trust me, no one thinks that's attractive. Did you see the celebrities without eyebrows meme that circulated the internet last year? Don't let that be you.


I didn't have any blackheads to be pulled out, so I was slightly underwhelmed on that score. But it did pull some dirt and dead skin. My face was soft and clean after. I forgot to take a picture once the redness was gone, but I will upload one soon.


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