Eczema describes a group of conditions that cause areas of skin to become red, itchy, and scaly. It can occur anywhere on your skin.

There are several types of eczema, including atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis. The condition is very common and can affect children, teens, and adults.

Though there is no cure, treatment can help control symptoms and prevent flares. Activated charcoal is not a medical treatment, and its safety and effectiveness is anecdotal.

If you’re interested in trying an activated charcoal mask for eczema, here is what you need to know.

Activated charcoal is a fine, super-absorbent black powder. Any carbon-based material, including mineral, plant, or animal substances, can be turned into activated charcoal.

Common materials used to make activated charcoal include:

  • wood
  • nut shells
  • charcoal
  • synthetic polymers like PVC
  • paper mill waste (lignin)
  • fruit pits
  • bone
  • brown and bituminous coals
  • lignite
  • peat

To create activated charcoal, a manufacturer needs to heat the material to a very high temperature. The resulting charcoal has a high surface area, is very porous, and can bind easily to pollutants.

Air and liquid filters, supplements, toothpastes, topical cosmetics, topical medications, and other products all use activated charcoal.

There is limited to no scientific evidence supporting the use of activated charcoal for eczema. The only information supporting the use of charcoal on eczema is anecdotal, and information about its effectiveness and safety is not widely accepted for treating eczema.

In fact, according to a 2019 study, the use of activated charcoal on the skin may be generally safe, but it also may not be effective in treatments such as anti-aging and exfoliation.

Some people claim that activated charcoal can have a healing, protective effect on skin affected by eczema. The general idea is that when applied to your skin, the activated charcoal can draw out toxins, bacteria, and other impurities.

If this is true, it may help reduce inflammation and prevent infections. People living with eczema have an increased risk of developing a skin infection, according to the National Eczema Association. This could mean that activated charcoal might help reduce the risk of this complication.

Activated charcoal is typically used as treatment for some poisons, and there is not much strong evidence for other uses. A healthcare professional will monitor the use of activated charcoal for poison treatment.

Evidence is mixed and generally lacking when it comes to how effective activated charcoal is for treating skin conditions or aiding your skin’s health.

However, researchers found in a 2015 study that activated charcoal can help absorb bacteria and other toxins. Activated charcoal may be able to draw out dirt, bacteria, poisons, and other substances, which some think could help improve a person’s complexion and help clear acne.

Again, use of activated charcoal is safe, but there is not enough scientific support for its exfoliative and anti-aging abilities.

Activated charcoal is not the same as the charcoal you use for backyard barbecues. Though they both may start from the same materials, like hard wood, regular charcoal does not go through the activation process. This process is where active charcoal gets its potential benefits from.

Additionally, the regular charcoal you use for a fire or grill often has chemicals added to it so it burns better. These added chemicals can be poisonous to people.

Even when used internally to treat poisoning, activated charcoal is generally well-tolerated, according to 2021 research.

However, people with eczema have sensitive skin, and charcoal is not clinically proven to treat it. Proceed with caution if you are thinking about trying charcoal for eczema.

Using charcoal on your skin may cause a reaction. Before applying a product with activated charcoal to large areas of your skin, you should dab a small amount to your inner forearm several times a day and see how your skin reacts.

If there is no reaction, you can likely apply it to the areas you need it on. Do not use it if a rash forms.

When selecting a product, make sure to read reviews. It may be helpful to shop for products that have testing done by a third party. This can help ensure the safety of the product.

Prior to using a product with activated charcoal on your skin or eczema, you should reach out to a doctor. They can help you determine if activated charcoal will work for you, if there are any better alternatives, and what products are safe.

You should also contact your doctor if you experience new or worsening symptoms after applying a product with activated charcoal to your skin.