Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Coal Miner Chic: Review of Freeman Feeling Beautiful Charcoal and Black Sugar Polishing Mask

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
The Charcoal and Black Sugar Mask is my second favorite of the impressively affordable masks from Freeman. It's not as miraculous as their Avocado and Oatmeal Clay Mask (reviewed here), which was the first one to show me that masks can actually do something. But this one is still great, especially since it does double duty as a mask and a scrub.

Exfoliation makes the skin feel softer and appear less dull. A lot of "experts" (I am not claiming to be one) argue that chemical exfoliation, using alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids, is preferable to manual exfoliation, using scrubs. The idea, as I understand it, is that chemical exfoliation is simultaneously gentler and more thorough. I do use a BHA product (Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid - reviewed here) several times a week, but I also find that using a scrub a couple of times a month makes a difference. I get a gradual buildup of crud on my skin that needs a little scrubbing to remove. It's possible that if I used a cloth to cleanse my face on a daily basis I wouldn't have that problem, but I don't.

One of the reasons people advise against manual exfoliation is that it can be potentially bad for your skin (or even the earth) if you choose the wrong product. If you use something that is very harsh or jagged, it can create micro-tears in the surface of your skin. You don't want to actually abrade your skin and require your body to heal it and fight off infection or anything like that. That means that you should not buy the shit with ground up apricot pits or walnut shell in it, because you're basically scratching up your face with tiny chunks of fucking wood. You should also avoid products with plastic microbeads (look for polyethylene in the ingredients list), because they are a terrible environmental pollutant.

Sugar, which is the first thing in the Freeman Charcoal and Sugar ingredients list, is a good option, because it's less abrasive than some other options, and it dissolves in water, which makes it gentler on your face and environmentally benign. If you just want a scrub, however, there's no need to buy this mask. You can mix a little sugar and honey or olive oil (your choice) in the palm of your hand and massage it gently into your skin. You can use it all over your body in the shower. It's nice, effective, and really fucking cheap.

The advantage of the Charcoal and Sugar Mask is that it is also, obviously, a mask. Let me show you the ingredients to explain.
Sucrose, Propylene Glycol, Carbon (Activated Charcoal), Kaolin, Musa Sapientum (Banana) Fruit Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Psidium Guajava Fruit Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Maranta Arundinacea Root Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Extract, Macrocystis Pyrifera Extract, Nasturtium Officinale Extract, Aleurites Moluccana Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Carbomer, Fragrance, Iron Oxide (CI 177491)
You can see that the first ingredient is sugar (sucrose). Third and fourth are charcoal and clay (kaolin). Those two are ingredients that absorb oil from your skin. Charcoal can also have antibacterial properties.

So you spread this stuff on your face and leave it for a few minutes, then wet your hands and gently (gently!) rub it around your skin to give it a little scrub, and then rinse it off. I recommend applying it before you get into the shower and rinsing it off in there, because it's pretty messy. In fact, because it's so chunky, it's a bit tricky to spread evenly on your skin. It still works, though. Don't worry too much if you look like this:

From my Instagram
I've found it effective both at absorbing oil (though it's not as absorbent as a mask with more clay in it) and at exfoliation. My face feels soft and not dried out when I'm finished.

I don't know what all those fruit/plant extracts are supposed to do, other than to provide a little fragrance, so I'm fine ignoring them. The scent, which is not too strong, is mostly sugary with a bit of floral-whatever. It feels a little warm on my skin after I apply it, but it's a subtle sensation. Nothing alarming. The most annoying thing about the product is that all the sugar in the nozzle makes the lid impossible to close. NBD though - I use a small piece of toilet paper to wipe it out and it's fine.

This is a good option if you want to combine your oil-absorbing mask and scrub into one, or if you want a mask that is a little less hardcore than one that is primarily clay or activated charcoal (or to get your clay and charcoal in one shot). You should be able to get it for $5 or less. has it for $4, which is the best I've found online (and Walgreens should have it in store for the same price). It's a big tube (6 oz.), which lasts forever.

Have you tried this one? Do you use scrubs and masks, or do you consider them superfluous? For masks: clay or charcoal?


  1. I like this a couple times a month too. I do wash my face with a linen cloth or Clarisonic (I alternate), but this really is gentle. I will put it on right when I get in the shower, do my thing, then scrub/rinse at the end.

    1. Yes, that's exactly what I do. Well no linen or Clarsonic. I used to use a muslin cloth sometimes, but I haven't recently. I should dig it out.

  2. I just keep this in the shower and use it a few times a week. I can leave it on as a mask while I shave my legs and then use enjoy the scrubby goodness before I wash it away and none of the scary dark color leaves my shower.


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