Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is a powder made when common charcoal is heated in such a way as to develop lots of internal spaces or ‘pores’ which help to trap chemicals.
This pure black powder – which is used in gas masks and water purifiers – is also sold in capsule form, and is a common additive in many skincare products.
You don’t need to spend money on expensive lotions and creams to take advantage of the detoxifying abilities of activated charcoal though – keep reading to find out how and why to use activated charcoal in your beauty regimen.
9 Reasons To Add Activated Charcoal To Your Beauty Regimen
1. An All-Natural Ingredient
Each day, the average woman uses twelve products, containing 168 different ingredients! So many of these chemical additives have a negative impact on the condition of our skin, and our overall health.
In fact, putting chemicals onto the skin or scalp may actually be worse than eating them! When toxins are ingested, enzymes in the saliva and stomach break them down so they can be flushed out of the body. Chemicals applied directly to the skin, however, are absorbed into the bloodstream without any filtering.
Activated charcoal is an all-natural product which won’t add to your body’s chemical load. It’s also less likely to cause adverse skin and body reactions than conventional beauty care products.
2. Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties
Activated charcoal has both antibacterial and antifungal properties, making it a fantastic addition to any skin or hair care routine.
Even pathogenic E. coli has been found in research to be destroyed by contact with activated carbon.
3. Unclogs Pores
This type of carbon works wonders to clear the pores of the organic impurities responsible for blackheads.
It works by absorbing oil, deep-seated debris and environmental pollutants in order to detoxify the skin.
After using, your skin should feel smooth and your pores should be visibly refined, with fewer blackheads. Some people may notice the charcoal lingers in the pores as black dots – this can easily be removed with a steam bowl or by gently rubbing with a warm wash cloth.
4. Balances Oily Skin
Those with greasy skin can use activated charcoal as a mask or facial wash to help draw the excess oil out.
For this reason, activated charcoal is best used once or twice a week, to avoid drying out the skin too much.
5. Gently Exfoliates
Many facial exfoliators contain tiny plastic pellets which wreak havoc on the environment and aquatic life (an estimated 19 tons of microbeads annually make their way into New York’s waterways alone).
The texture of charcoal makes for a gentle natural exfoliator which doesn’t impact on the environment. It helps to remove sebum and dead skin cells from the face, while its antimicrobial properties help prevent skin infections.
Activated charcoal can be mixed with a variety of liquids to make an exfoliator that’s right for your skin’s needs. Try using honey or jojoba oil for dry skin, or add a little sugar or salt for tougher scrubbing action. Essential oils further boost bactericidal properties.
6. Whitens Teeth
This detoxing powder can be used with toothpaste or on its own to naturally and gently whiten teeth.
It works by bonding to many of the organic substances that stain teeth – including coffee, red wine, nicotine, and plaque. Although it lifts stains, it cannot bleach naturally darker or yellow teeth.
While activated carbon is abrasive, it tends to be gentler than many other products used in store-bought toothpastes – but it is still an abrasive, so don’t overuse it or scrub too hard.
7. Soothes Bug Bites and Irritation
Irritated skin – whether caused by bee stings, poison ivy, or bug bites – can benefit from the application of activated charcoal.
If applied quickly, the charcoal can help draw out the toxin and reduces both pain and swelling.
8. Cleanses Hair
Charcoal helps to deep clean the hair, removing toxins and even unpleasant odors from the strands – and is especially useful for those with medium to oily hair.
Adding a capsule to your regular shampoo will leave your locks feeling squeaky clean. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of this dark powder.
9. Reduces Dandruff and Heals Scalp Conditions
Dandruff can be caused by fungal infections and irritated, oily skin – two conditions which activated charcoal can help with. Rub some charcoal into your scalp before shampooing, or mix it with your regular shampoo.
However, if your dandruff or scalp condition is caused by dry skin, you may want to give this treatment a miss
17 Activated Charcoal Recipes for Face, Skin, Teeth and Hair
Blackhead Busting Face Mask – in addition to the detoxing abilities of activated charcoal, this mask contains bentonite clay, which acts as a magnet to draw dirt and blackheads from the pores. It also helps to kill the bacteria which contribute to blemishes.
Pore Minimizing Mask – along with charcoal and bentonite clay, this recipe calls for Matcha green tea powder. This triad of super ingredients makes for an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory detoxing mask that reduces pore size and regenerates skin cells.
Homemade Facial Cleanser – a gently exfoliating cleanser that kills bacteria and removes impurities. Even better, it also doubles up as a moisturizer! Containing organic coconut oil, activated charcoal, baking soda, lavender oil and rosemary oil.
Foaming Facial Scrub – a natural toner, scrubber and grease fighter all in one, this recipe lathers up well and contains just five ingredients: rose water, activated charcoal, water, liquid castile soap, and lavender essential oil.
DIY Charcoal Pore Strips – a simple recipe to save you shelling out on expensive pore strips. Thanks to the combination of gelatin and activated charcoal, these really draw out impurities and blackheads. The 6-minute video gives a step-by-step demonstration.
Non-Toxic Eyeliner – frame your eyes without exposing them to harsh chemicals. This easy to make eyeliner doubles up as a cream eyeshadow too! You’ll need nourishing coconut oil, soothing aloe vera gel and activated charcoal.
Eye-Friendly Mascara – this all natural homemade mascara really makes your eyes pop by darkening, separating and conditioning the lashes. While it’s not waterproof, it stays put all day long and is easy to wipe off. With coconut oil, aloe vera gel, beeswax, and activated charcoal.
Teeth Whitener – this ‘recipe’ couldn’t be easier – just apply some activated charcoal to your toothbrush and dab it onto your teeth. Allow it to sit for three minutes before washing away. This simple trick works to strip away stains like coffee, tea, wine and plaque.
Cinnamon & Clove Tooth Powder – you can use this powder as you would a paste – just tip a little onto your toothbrush. Made with bentonite clay, calcium powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, cloves and activated charcoal. Both cloves and cinnamon are powerful antimicrobial agents with cinnamon shown to kill the bacteria that causes bad breath.
2-Ingredient Body Scrub – one of the simplest beauty products to make at home – and a great recipe for beginners – this involves blending activated charcoal with a liquid of your choice. Try orange blossom or rose water, an herbal infusion or, for very dry skin, olive or coconut oil.
Tinted Slick Eyebrow Gel – enhance your brows, and keep unruly hairs under control, with this simple and natural gel which contains aloe vera, Fair Trade cocoa powder, activated charcoal and some nourishing vitamin E oil.
Tea Tree Charcoal Soap – a detoxifying, exfoliating, clarifying and feel-good soap that can be used head to toe, without drying out the skin. It’s also incredibly simple to make – you’ll just need a shea butter soap base, activated charcoal and tea tree essential oil.
Charcoal and Rose Clay Spa Soap – this pretty two-tone soap will make every day a pamper day! Made with a shea melt-and-pour soap base, activated charcoal, and rose clay; and scented with sandalwood, rose, and mandarin essential oils.
Clarifying Shampoo – the perfect natural clarifying shampoo for those with product build-up. It’s also great for those with an itching, flaking, or sore scalp. Ingredients include baking soda, borax, activated charcoal powder, and water. This product can be used on wet or dry hair and even works for those who are no ‘poo!
Activated Charcoal and Salicylic Acid Dandruff / Acne Mask – homemade multi-purpose beauty products are fantastic for saving on space, time and money! This face mask for acne doubles up as a dandruff deterrent thanks to its versatile ingredients which include aspirin, organic raw honey, and witch hazel.
Black Salve for Bug Bites – a natural and time-honored remedy for drawing out stings and splinters, while soothing irritated skin. Ingredients include calendula-infused oil (learn how to make your own here), coconut oil, beeswax, bentonite clay, lavender oil and tea tree oil.
Black Detox Bath – purify your skin from head to toe with this black bath, comprising Epsom salts, sea salt, charcoal and a blend of essential oils.