DIY Activated Charcoal + Clay Mask for Blackheads

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This DIY charcoal + clay face mask is a homemade remedy for acne and blackhead removal. Made with Bentonite clay, activated charcoal, tea tree oil, and apple cider vinegar, this recipe is detoxifying and purifying, and super easy to make!

A homemade Activated Charcoal and Clay Mask in a dish on a table with flowers.

UPDATE: This was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated to reflect new information and helpful content.

We’re back with another DIY homemade beauty recipe! I’m so excited to share one of my all-time favorite beauty products: a 4-ingredient DIY Face Mask for Acne and Blackheads!

The Truth About Toxic Store-Bought Face Masks

Like most store-bought skincare products, face masks are often riddled with toxic chemicals and harsh ingredients that can cause allergies, disrupt our hormones and irritate our skin.

In fact, many of the acne-clearing face masks on the market contain super harsh ingredients, like Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid, which are not only super expensive, but also break down and thin our skin, weakening it over time and causing dehydration, excessive oiliness, severe redness and irritation (source).

And other face masks, like Borghese Fango Delicato Active Mud, often contain parabens, which have been proven to mess with our hormones and cause reproductive and fertility issues.

Some face masks even contain toxic chemicals like triclosan, which was recently banned by the FDA in soaps (it's still allowed in other products!) because it has been linked to skin irritation, endocrine disruption, breast cancer, allergies in children, and weakened muscle function. You can find triclosan in Dead Sea Essentials by AHAVA Mud Mask.

Benzyl Benzoate is another toxin found in many face masks, including the super popular GLAMGLOW SUPERMUD™ Clearing Treatment Mask. This ingredient is on the EU's Banned and Restricted Fragrances List because it's a possible human immune system toxicant or allergen,  causes wildlife and environmental toxicity AND is associated with endocrine disruption.

RELATED:  105 Non-Toxic Natural Beauty Products That Really Work

What’s more? Almost all skincare products, including face masks like Freeman Feeling Beautiful Facial Polishing Mask with Charcoal & Black Sugar, contain fragrance, which (as we’ve talked about many times here before) are actually made up of hundreds of untested chemicals, including toxic ingredients like phthalates, parabens and synthetic musks, which are suspected hormone disruptors and are among the world’s top five allergens.

All this toxin talk isn't meant to scare you. Rather, I hope this sheds some light on why it’s so important to read your labels and lower your toxic chemical load.

To evoke real change, the best thing we can all do is to vote with our dollars and stop buying products from companies who knowingly include harmful ingredients. I recommend looking at EWG’s Skin Deep to learn more about what’s really in our products.

And the good news–there is a solution: this DIY Charcoal + Clay Face Mask!

A marble countertop with blush, tea tree oil, clay, activated charcoal, vinegar and flowers.

Why You Should Make Your Own Face Mask

If those toxic chemicals found in store-bought face masks weren't enough to convince you to make your own, consider the RIDICULOUS SAVINGS you'll find when you DIY! Take a look at how cheap this homemade acne and blackhead mask is to make:

  • bentonite clay (I paid $14.72 for 32 ounces, but I only used 0.17 ounces = $0.08)
  • activated charcoal (I paid $9.89 for 100 capsules, but I only used 1 capsule = $0.10)
  • apple cider vinegar (I paid $3.99 for 16 oz at Whole Foods, but I only used 0.17 ounces = $0.04)
  • tea tree oil (I paid $12.50 for 4 ounces, but I only used 0.01 ounces = $0.03)

TOTAL COST: $0.25 per use!!!

That is insane!! Even if you made this mask 50 times, you'd only be out $12.50.

If you've ever shopped for store-bought face masks, I think you know that you'd be hard pressed to find anything for $12.50, let alone a face mask that's as safe, natural AND effective as this one!

Another favorite brand of mine for Bentonite Clay is Redmond. You can order anything from their store and get 15% off with the code ROOT!

RELATED:  The Best Natural Acne Treatments + Products

For essential oils, I love Plant Therapy, whose oils are 100% pure, free from any additives, adulterants, or dilutions. Their facility is USDA Certified Organic, and their prices are also SUPER reasonable! Get 10% off your order of $50 or more sitewide with the coupon code ROOT10!

I also have to get on my soapbox to talk once more about how easy it is to make your own skincare products. This recipe is literally as simple as pouring four natural ingredients into a bowl, stirring and… THAT'S IT! You're done. It's been less than 30 seconds and you've made an awesome face mask!

Beautycounter Charcoal Mask in bowl with brush

BUT, if you're still not convinced you want to make your own face mask, I highly recommend this Beautycounter Purifying Charcoal Mask as a safe store-bought option. It's rated a 2 by the EWG.

By the way, if you're going to buy from Beautycounter, I highly recommend their loyalty program, Band of Beauty. It includes some awesome benefits like:

  • Every time you shop, you get a 10% off product credit that you can use on your next order, essentially saving you 10% on all future orders.
  • Get a FREE full-sized product as a complimentary gift for signing up when you spend $50.
  • Free shipping, always, when you spend over $100.
RELATED:  Beautycounter Review: The Best (And Worst) Skincare + Makeup Products

It’s only $29 to join, which you’ll make back with the free gift and future savings. If you’re going to spend more than $100 with Beautycounter each year, this is seriously a no-brainer!

Become a Beautycounter Band of Beauty Member today!

A Guide to Our Favorite Healthy Brands + Exclusive Discounts

What is Activated Charcoal and Bentonite Clay?

Notice that haunting color of this face mask? It gets its super dark and beautiful hue from the activated charcoal capsule we add to the mixture.

But what is activated charcoal? Unlike the charcoal you'd use on the BBQ, activated charcoal is made especially for use as a medicine, and is a potent natural treatment used to trap toxins and chemicals in the body, allowing them to be flushed out so the body doesn’t reabsorb them (source).

In fact, one of the most popular uses for activated charcoal is in emergency trauma centers to treat poisoning and drug overdoses.

People also take the charcoal orally to reduce bloating and gas, lower cholesterol, treat bile flow problems safely during pregnancy, and even prevent hangovers.

And it's amazing at treating acne–the activated charcoal binds with environmental toxins and dirt that contribute to acne. Just make sure to choose activated charcoal made from coconut shells or other natural sources.

RELATED:  Natural 3-Ingredient DIY Face Toner

Couple the charcoal with bentonite clay (a “healing clay” that cleanses and heals the body) and you've got a super purifying and detoxifying face mask. This DIY Blackhead mask will pull dirt away from your skin, while feeding it with nutrients and antioxidants.

And unlike those harsh acids we mentioned before, this homemade face mask won't rip your skin of moisture and cause irritation.

Instead, we rely on organic apple cider vinegar's powerful healing compounds (think acetic acid, potassium, magnesium, probiotics and enzymes) to kill “bad” bacteria, and tea tree oil for its powerful antiseptic properties and ability to treat skin issues.

In fact, one study found tea tree oil to be just as effective as benzoyl peroxide, but without the red, dried and peeling skin (source).

Tips About Applying This DIY Charcoal + Clay Face Mask

While this DIY Acne Mask is clearly safe, natural, healing, detoxifying and just freaking amazing for your skin, I do have a quick word of caution and some application tips.

First, I always recommend doing a test patch first, before you apply to your face, so you can see how it feels on your skin.

Also, be careful not to leave this mask on for too long, as the charcoal can actually temporarily stain your skin black.

If you do run into this problem, simply apply this DIY Makeup Remover to a cotton pad and swipe it over your skin until all residue of the mask is removed. It may take a few cotton pads, but rest assured, it will all come off.

And if you leave it on for only the recommended amount of time (10 minutes) you shouldn't have any issues. Definitely check out the comments below for helpful tips from other readers so you can adjust the mask as needed to suit your skin type and sensitivity.

How often can you use this mask? I'd say not more than once per week as a deep exfoliator.

Can you make a big batch of this at once? No! You need to make it one batch at a time as needed. The products interact and create a paste, which will dry out if made in advance.

If you try this face mask, let us know what you think! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag the recipe #rootandrevel/@rootandrevel on Instagram.

A homemade Activated Charcoal and Clay Mask in a dish on a table with flowers.
Print Recipe
4.60 from 22 votes

DIY Activated Charcoal + Clay Mask for Blackheads

This DIY charcoal and clay face mask is a homemade remedy for acne and blackheads. With just 4 ingredients, it takes 2 minutes to make!
Prep Time2 mins
Total Time2 mins
Course: DIY
Cuisine: Skincare
Keyword: activated charcoal mask diy, charcoal face mask diy, charcoal mask diy, charcoal mask recipe, diy charcoal mask, homemade charcoal mask
Servings: 1 mask
Author: Root + Revel Collective


  • 1 teaspoon bentonite clay
  • 1 capsule activated charcoal , powder removed
  • 1 teaspoon organic raw apple cider vinegar
  • 3 drops tea tree oil


  • In a small glass bowl, combine clay, charcoal powder, apple cider vinegar and tea tree oil. Stir to combine. If the mixture is too dry, add a few drops of water at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  • Apply mask to clean face, spreading in an even layer. Wash hands and rinse out glass bowl.
  • Leave mask on for 10 minutes. Rinse mask off with warm water and a washcloth. If you have trouble getting rid of the color, apply this DIY Makeup Remover with a cotton pad to stained spots.
  • Moisturize as normal.


DIY Charcoal + Clay face mask ingredients.

75 thoughts on “DIY Activated Charcoal + Clay Mask for Blackheads”

  1. 5 stars
    Finally, I can always do my skincare routine without having to spend more than I should! The information about how acids can mess with our hormones and thin our skin is also very helpful to avoid those expensive and dangerous products that are thought to be always safe as they are popular and very easily accessible in stores. I also love how you shared with us how to do the steps properly by adding an attached video along the way while we are reading! My only question is, how long is its shelf life? And does it need to be kept at a certain temperature? Also, should this be made only before using it?

    1. Hi Bionaze,
      I’m so glad this is helpful for you and I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the video. You will need to make this one batch at a time, as it will dry out if made in advance. Let me know what you think of it when you do try it out!

  2. I absolutely LOVE this. I’ve spent SO much money on skincare over the years so I love a good DIY mask!

  3. Make sure you spot test with this mask! It burned my face so badly that I had to ice it afterward. Hours later, my skin is still tender and blotchy.

    My skin is not sensitive, and this one really hurt me:( Test it first!

  4. 4 stars
    I’m not sure if this has already been asked, but how often would you recommend to use this mask? (I have combination skin)
    – Minimum/Maximum times per week?

  5. 4 stars
    Just an FYI: the beautycounter mask has salicylic acid in it. It may get a lower rating on EWG, but I always like to caution folks that the overall rating doesn’t mean NO bad ingredients- always look at the list of what the product actually contains.
    Thanks for the recipe, will definitely give it a try!

    1. Hey Karen! Yes, I talk a lot about how acids like that can be harsh on your skin, though effective at clearing up acne. But it’s not a toxic ingredient, per se. Also this post is for a homemade mask that does NOT contain salicylic acid, so hopefully after you try it you won’t dock us a star in your review 🙂

  6. 5 stars
    Can you make batches of this product? What is the shelf life? I love it and want to share with my family and friends????

    1. So great to hear that you love it, Kimberly! I’m really not sure about the make ahead shelf life – I always just make the one application right before I put it on. If you test it out, please report back! 😉

    2. 3 stars
      There are many natural preservatives that you can use for DIY products. If you add water then you should add 2 drops of coconut oil instead of thr tea tree oil and vitamin e which is an antioxidant to prevent bacteria. Apple cider vinegar is a perservative as well but not as strong as vitam e t-50. Then store in your refrigerator for a week.

  7. I used this face mask and found that it burned my face as well. I think it was the apple cider vinegar that caused the burn! I experienced severe redness and a burning hot sensation immediately after putting the mask on. If you have sensitive skin I highly recommend you replace the vinegar with water or proceed with caution! If you decide to do the mask and experience burning and read these comments to see if you’re not alone (just like I just did) I highly recommend you gently apply which hazel with a cotton ball and moisturize with a gentle, all natural moisturizer. I hope this was of good use to my fellow sensitive skin peeps out there!!

  8. 5 stars
    I made half the recipe (using 1/4 teaspoon charcoal) as I was only applying to nose and chin area. I added a few drops of water and it mixed well. My pores look so much better after one use. Blackheads are mostly gone. Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. 5 stars
    I just got done doing this face mask and as far as I can tell right now, I love it! My face feels so soft and looks pretty good. I have been breaking out terribly lately. Just had a baby 3 months ago and I think my hormones are whacked out. Hopefully doing this once a week will do the trick. Thanks for sharing!

    1. 5 stars

      Try washing your face with a mixture of honey and aloe (in equal portions). I have been using this face cleanser and there is nothing like it. Also, you could try just raw oatmeal on your face as well (I know this one sounds weird but it works). Either is awesome for acne breakouts.


      I have been looking for a homemade clay mask for sometime and this looks awesome. I just have to get a hold of some clay. 🙂

      Thank you!

        1. 5 stars
          I love this recipe! I mix in a little bit of honey too and I’m in love with it. My skin isn’t too sensitive, but can definitely get irritated from certain things and this actually didn’t irritate me at all and I’ve used it a few times now. Thank you!

    1. Sorry to hear that, MamaK. I did not have that experience. You could try using half the amount of vinegar or cutting it out altogether if you have super sensitive skin. I hope the redness went away quickly!

    2. Just an FYI, the redness is due to the bentonite clay, the charcoal and clay pull out toxins and leaves your skin red for a while after. The intensity of the redness usually depends on the the mount of toxins in your system and does not indicate a burn.

  10. 4 stars
    I’ve been using Bentonite Clay mask for almost a year already and I love how it sucks up all the excess oil in my face. You can immediately tell your pores gots shrunk. Love to try it now with Activated Charcoal. Thanks for sharing!

    – Novie

  11. 5 stars
    This is by far the BEST DIY charcoal mask I found. I have extremely oily acne prone skin (genetic, overactive sebaceous glands run in the family 😉 and this recipe removes blackheads, tightens pores, and diminishes blemishes like no other.
    Highly recommend!

    1. You could mix the dry ingredients separately and the wet, but you can’t combine and premix because the mixture will harden. I think if you add some kind of oil to the mix, it might preserve better, but I’ve never tried it personally. Hope that helps, Denise!

  12. A few things of note…

    Bentonite clay: it’s not to be in contact with any metal. My container has that information on the label.

    Activated charcoal: it’s less expensive to buy it ‘loose’ in a bulk container. (Amazon has many options.)

    Apple Cider Vinegar: it also leaves my face red, when mixed into a mask with clay. My skin eventually returned to normal, but it was still alarming to see that kind of reaction. (It wasn’t on my face for more than ten minutes.) After that, I just opted mix the clay with coconut oil or plain water.

    *Though I still use ACV (diluted by half, in water) as a facial toner or on my scalp and hair, without any problems.

    Tea Tree Oil: I’m cautious when using it as more than a spot treatment, particularly, in combination with ACV. If in doubt, I dilute.

    I’m still new to using activated charcoal in my DIY skincare, which is how I came across your blog.
    Thanks, for sharing your recipe and experiences.

  13. 5 stars
    Just wanted to say that I’m looking forward to trying this out as a back up to my Mary Kay charcoal mask. I use organic acv with the mother for EVERYTHING including tea and a toner so I know it’s awesome. Can’t wait to give it a go and thanks for this!!

  14. Jessica Morales

    I think it should be mentioned that the apple cider vinegar “neat” can burn your skin. I tried this mask today and when i washed it off, my skin was bright red and it has been about an hour now. A quick google search confirmed that it was the ACV as it is very acidic and not good for all skin types. Next time, I am going to try diluting it with a bit of water. (also, I used Rhassoul clay which is gentler on the skin than bentonite so i know it wasn’t the clay). I should also mention that I do not have very sensitive skin but it is on the dry side.

    1. The reason your skin reacted to this may be more likely because you used a different clay. The main point of the apple cider vinegar is to balance the ph of the bentonite clay. I would guess a different clay has a different ph but I dont know for sure.

  15. Can you use this mixture on your underarms? Do you recommend anything for blackhead removal in the underarm area?

    1. Hi, Crystal! I don’t see why not? I’ve never had blackheads around the underarm area, so I can’t say for certain, but these ingredients are all natural. Your underarm skin might just be more sensitive. Let me know how it goes!

    1. Hi, Maria: I recommend using the mask once a week, but it totally depends on your skin type. If you’re more sensitive, once a week is plenty. But if you can stand it, 2-3 times a week could work, too!

    1. Hi, Marsha: I recommend using the mask once a week, but it totally depends on your skin type. If you’re more sensitive, once a week is plenty. But if you can stand it, 2-3 times a week could work, too!

    1. Thanks, Ashlyn! Please share your results with me–if you want to post a pic on social media, you can tag @rootandrevel. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

    1. Kate, I tried this twice and both times it left me with red, hot to the touch skin for hours afterwards. Like a first degree burn. I’ve used vinegar and tea tree oil neat before…. would either bentonite clay or activated charcoal be responsible? Or somehow a combination of ingredients? Have you heard of this happening to anyone else?

      1. Hi Stephanie! Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that. How long did you leave the mask on for? You may just have really sensitive skin, or be sensitive to the ingredients. I always recommend doing a patch test on your arm first. I’ve never heard of this happening to anyone else, and it certainly doesn’t happen to me when I use the mask every week. But every one is different and reacts differently to ingredients. It sounds like this combo is just too strong for your skin. Have you tried the turmeric mask before? It’s a bit gentler.

        1. Alannah Jacques

          I was going to comment with the same. Both my partner and I couldn’t bare the burning after only a couple of minutes. After taking it off our skin was bright red., burning hot and sore for hours. I wondered if it was too much tea tree oil but I checked yours and you also use 100% pure. I just don’t know what else it could be.

      2. This happened to me too! I have super sensitive Scandinavian skin so I’m not surprised but I wonder what did it

        1. I’m so sorry to hear that, Danielle. Everybody’s skin reacts differently to different ingredients, and some people are just super sensitive. It’s hard to say what caused the reaction, but I’d recommend a gentler mask like our turmeric and honey mask 🙂

      3. Bentonite clay causes throbbing skin and redness. The brand I have has a warning in it that says this, its typical and shouldnt cause an alarm. However, if you are uncomfortable with the burning or the red skin I would avoid anything that uses bentonite clay. Or google a replacement clay.

      4. The same thing just happened to my skin. my entire face and neck is red and irritated, is there anything that can be used to sooth it? Thinking aloe, thought I haven’t any on hand. I hope goes away by morning without breakouts or other side affects. I left it on 15 minutes it wasn’t burning only tinging I thought due to the tee tree oil. Which I think might be the
        ingredient that caused the problem.

    1. Hi, Louise: This recipe is just for one batch of the mask that you would use immediately. It doesn’t keep once you add the liquid because it will harden, so I make it as needed. Hope that helps!

  16. Great ideea!
    I sometimes use charcoal in a facial mask, combined with coconut oil or clay and aloe gel. I tried different combinations, but these two are great for my skin.

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