Ingredient Love: Activated Charcoal

There's no denying it: charcoal is having a moment right now in natural beauty. Let's talk about why and dispel a few charcoal myths too.

The Beauty Benefits of Charcoal

What is "activated" charcoal? Unlike the charcoal used for grilling (which emits carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), activated charcoal is created by slowly burning coconut shells, peat, or wood and then treating this ash with oxygen. This results in powder that is highly porous and adsorbent. Note: that's adsorbent, not absorbent. This means charcoal binds to other things — like dirt, poisons, and impurities, for example — rather than absorbing them. 

Activated charcoal works so well in clearing up acne because it holds hundreds of times its weight in impurities. It acts as a magnet, drawing dirt and impurities from deep into the dermis layer of your skin and bringing it up to the surface for you to clean away. Occasionally, people experience a breakout shortly after using a charcoal mask because you're pulling so much dirt to the surface, but this is rare, and if you have a solid daily cleansing routine, this shouldn't happen to you!

However, because activated charcoal can be a bit harsh, I recommend skipping a full facial mask if you have very sensitive, dry, or wind/sunburn skin. Use it as a spot treatment instead.

Charcoal myths: Yes, charcoal can help in detoxing and preventing certain drug overdoses (emergency rooms still use this method), but there is no scientific evidence to suggest activated charcoal does much in your body besides this. In fact, because it can bind to vitamins and medications (and remove them from your body when it goes), you may actually be doing more harm than good if you consume charcoal. There is also no scientific evidence that charcoal brightens teeth. Some dentists say it can lift surface stains like those left behind by coffee or wine, but the abrasiveness of charcoal can damage tooth enamel and gums. If you're going to try using charcoal to whiten your teeth, instead mix it with water to form a paste and dab it onto your teeth instead of brushing it. Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it off. Try not to swallow any.

Get some activated charcoal into your beauty routine by trying out our Charcoal Mask!