Activated charcoal may sound like an ingredient you may want to stay away from, but in fact it’s a helpful tool you should consider adding to your beauty routine for several reasons. The toxin-absorbing qualities of activated charcoal make it a coveted ingredient in cosmetics and medicine. Below, we dive into the history of this jet-black substance, what makes it a health tool, and how to use it in your daily routine.
What is Activated Charcoal?
The fine, black powder is made by heating common charcoal, which can be made from petroleum, peat, coal, coconut shell, or wood. It is then activated with steam (or in some cases, chemicals) to further remove all elements except carbon. The end result is a porous carbon structure that can easily absorb toxins and chemicals — making it a great addition to any healthy beauty routine.
It is widely used for the emergency treatment of overdoses and poisonings; the carbon binds with the toxins and rids the body of unwanted substances. Patients have been treated orally with activated charcoal for more than 150 years, however, this approach only gained universal acceptance in the last 20 years.
More recently, activated charcoal has been used outside of medical applications. Because of its ability to draw out toxins, activated charcoal can be a powerful tool in green beauty routines. While it’s best to leave the poison treatment to the experts, you can safely try these activated charcoal tricks at home.
How to Use Activated Charcoal as a Beauty Tool
There are many face masks on the market which include activated charcoal as the main ingredient, but if you’re feeling like going the DIY route, you can easily make your own mask. Masks with activated charcoal can help remove dirt, toxins, and oils that can cause acne breakouts.
If you have oily skin, try a facial cleanser with activated charcoal, which can absorb excess sebum (the oil secreted by the sebaceous glands that is partly to blame for annoying breakouts) without over drying. Look for one with other nourishing ingredients such as coconut oil, green tea, and essential oils.
The grainy texture of activated charcoal is perfect for exfoliation. You can either buy one or add activated charcoal powder to any liquid (milk, honey, body wash, etc.) and scrub away. Use your scrub two or three times a week. (Too often can lead to red, irritated skin.)
If regular products haven’t eased scalp issues such as itchy, oily, or flaky skin, try an activated charcoal shampoo. It gently exfoliates the scalp to remove flakes.
Surprisingly, the black powder can whiten teeth by removing plaque and stains. It can also balance the pH levels of your mouth and fight against cavities, tooth decay, and gingivitis.
To try it, dip a dampened toothbrush with toothpaste into a small amount of powder, brush for two minutes, and rinse well. Charcoal powder can be harmful to lungs if you inhale it, so make sure to combine it with the water well to avoid breathing in any loose powder. The abrasiveness can damage enamel, so it’s best not to use your homemade paste on a daily basis.
Activated charcoal may be able to absorb smells and sweat (it can absorb 1,000 times its own weight in moisture!), making it an ideal deodorant ingredient. Antiperspirants can successfully combat sweating, but the usually aluminum-packed product is controversial (research is mixed on the possible cancer-causing ingredient) and is partly responsible for yellow pit stains on clothing. To avoid the cons of antiperspirants, swap your deodorant for a natural one made with activated charcoal, widely available on the market.
If an organic eyeliner appeals to you, it’s easy to DIY your own with activated charcoal. Just combine activated charcoal and melted coconut oil in a small glass jar with a lid. If your coconut oil stays in its liquid state, make sure to shake the container before use. Dip an eyeliner applicator brush and apply the mixture as normal. This DIY eyeliner can be store up to 30 days in a cool, dark place. Here are the proportions:
1 tsp activated charcoal powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil
Tips on Buying Activated Charcoal
If you want to try products which include activated charcoal, check the label for any ingredients that can potentially cause adverse effects, such as “fragrance” (a vague term that can encompass a long list of chemicals). To avoid questionable ingredients, consider DIY options and look for an activated charcoal powder that is made from a sustainable source, such as coconut shells or identifiable wood. Keep it sealed in a cool, dark place to prevent it from absorbing impurities in the air.