Glue + Charcoal Face Mask: Everything you need to know

Back in elementary school, there was nothing more satisfying than pouring Elmer's Glue all over your hands and peeling it off once it dried. Now, we have grown up and apparently, we still want to smear glue on ourselves!

Lately, all over the Internet, there are beauty YouTubers and bloggers posting instructional videos on a "Charcoal and Elmer's Glue blackhead mask." If you are familiar with pore strips, the concept is the same and this is the cheap alternative. The idea with this glue mask is to mix together Elmer's glue with activated charcoal powder to make a thick paste. It's applied to the skin, the charcoal will "draw out" impurities and it's peeled off once it's dried in hopes blackheads will be attached to the strip. But, is this good for your skin, effective and even safe? 

What is glue made out of?

There are two main ingredients in glue besides water. Glue is chemically produced and made of polymer vinyl which is also used to make latex paint and wallpaper adhesive. Glue also contains acetone, which is a volatile flammable compound that is used in you guessed it, nail polish remover. Sexy right?

What is glue doing to your skin?

The chemicals used in glue are not formulated for skin. That means this DIY may not even be effective and/or you could run into adverse skin reactions. In fact, on Elmer's own website it states, "if on skin, immediately wash with plenty of soap and water. Get medical attention if irritation develops." That leads me to think just maybe it should not be applied to the skin at all let alone the delicate skin on the face.

While the bottle says "non-toxic" that does not mean it's hypo-allergenic or non-comedogenic. Issues like allergic reactions, irritation, redness and even ripped off skin may occur.  Since it's not meant for the skin it won't be non-comedogenic, so glue may cause clogged pores leading to blemishes. Last but not least, the tugging on the skin to peel this mask off can cause broken capillaries. 

It's understandable the satisfaction of peeling off a mask and feeling like you removed a layer of skin and/or blackheads. There may be a mild exfoliation effect, but it's not really adding any benefits to the skin and it may be worse off than before this DIY.

Effectiveness + Pores

The key is first understanding how pores work and how blackheads occur. Blackheads are in the pore and not just on the surface. So adhering a sticky product like glue to the surface of the skin doesn't actually absorb into the pore and break down what is clogging it. If a pore has been clogged for quite some time, attempting to mechanically rip out the blackhead with something sticky or even a pore strip isn't effective. It's especially important to take the gradual breakdown approach. It is more effective and less damaging to the skin. 

Some of you may have already tried this DIY. When you pulled off the strip I am sure you saw all kinds of gunk sticking out and thought, "wow, this totally worked!" Well, it may not be exactly what you thought and most likely it was a combination of dead skin cells, tiny hairs and mostly sebaceous filaments.

What is a sebaceous filament you ask? They are tiny hairs that are basically a "bridge" for oil to reach the surface of the skin. This is how our skin produces its natural hydration and everyone has them. It is easy to confuse a blackhead from a sebaceous filament, as they do look similar especially on a pore strip or peel off mask. The main difference is blackheads are firm like a "plug" and have a gray/black tip because they are oxidized from being exposed the air. They are raised and not uniformed in location. Sebaceous filaments are usually tan or white and look for lack of a better word, creamy in texture when squeezed out and hair like when pulled out mechanically. They are also even in consistency so most people assume they are blackheads on the nose, but in reality, they are your normal pores and sebaceous filament!

Sabaceous filament on the nose

Sabaceous filament on the nose

Sebaceous filament on the chin

Sebaceous filament on the chin

Sebaceous filament on a pore strip

Sebaceous filament on a pore strip

So what should I be doing for my blackheads instead?

There are many ingredients and treatments that are simply better, more effective and less damaging to get rid of blackheads. 

Non-peeling charcoal products

The issue with the glue mask isn't the charcoal as it is a safe ingredient for the skin. It's highly absorbent and perfect for the oily congested areas like the nose, chin and forehead. Though it may be a bit drying for some skin types to be applied all over the entire face. I recommend NON-peeling charcoal masks because they are more gentle and it's actually not the peeling off process that is effective in breaking down clogged pores. It's the charcoal ingredient itself. 

Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding is the perfect blend of detoxification of the pores with charcoal and clay Plus, it's non-stripping and leaves some moisture on the skin.

Clay Masks

There are many different types of clay and there really is one for every skin type. They work wonders for detoxing the skin as well as keeping the pores clear. Plus, they are so much more gentle and natural. These are two of my favorite and both can be customized for your skin by what you decide to mix it with as they come in powder form. Rose hip oil is great for dry skin, organic aloe vera gel is cooling and soothing and plain old water is good too! 

Herbivore Pink Clay Mask is wonderful for dry, sensitive and combination skin types and may be used 1-2 times a week. 

Fig + Yarrow French Green Clay is perfect for acne, oily and combination skin types and especially effective around the oily areas like the nose, chin and forehead.

Alpha/Beta Hydroxy Acid Products

Salicylic acid products are great for absorbing into the skin and breaking down what is clogging the pore from the bottom up. It's a natural acid made from the bark of a willow tree. Though salicylic acid products come in many forms, I recommend a product that will stay on the skin and do the "dirty work" instead of washing it off like in cleanser form.

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum is a great product that is gentle enough to be used every evening on the clogged areas like the nose and chin.

EmerginC Facial Peel + Clarifying Kit is one of my new favorite at home exfoliation products. This is a 2-step peel process that may be used 1-3 times a week. The peel pad first exfoliates the skin then rinsed off then the clarifying pad leaves a treatment layer on the skin.

Get a professional facial with extractions

If you don't want to deal with blackheads yourself, book a facial. When you receive a facial your esthetician will properly prepare your skin for the extraction process. I would recommend getting a professional strength peel during your facial because it will really dissolve oil and dead skin cells that are clogging the pores. Often this minimizes the extraction process because the peel helps digest some of the surface clogged pores.

My last thoughts

While I think there are many amazingly talented beauty Youtubers and bloggers out there, be aware the majority of them are not licensed cosmetologists, estheticians, dermatologists or cosmetic chemists. This means they have zero actual training on the physiology and science of the skin or the chemistry of skin care ingredients. Or for that matter experience with anyone else's skin other than their own. They are recommending products based on their personal experience. Which is awesome and TOTALLY fine to give a review on an amazing lipstick,  favorite eye cream or the trendiest new way to contour. Rock on, do your thing. But this is when I have open my mouth as the opinioned feisty chick I am. It's totally different when a beauty blogger recommends using a potential damaging chemical meant for crafts on their skin because it's a current trend and they are unaware of the adverse effects due to lack of training/education.

When someone that is trained and it's their profession, we don't make recommendations based on just what works for ourselves. We think of factors like all skin types, all skin conditions, allergies and other things like the use of a topical medication or that your skin is super dry at the moment due to the current weather.

So out of a place of concern, love and great passion for the beauty industry and skin health, CHECK YOUR SOURCES!! Or better yet ask me, ask your esthetician, ask your friend that does hair or better yet your dermatologist!

Ultimately, the decision is yours on what you do with your skin. I wrote this blog post to give an education so you can make an informed decision on what is right for you. 

xo Dana

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