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  • Writer's pictureNicole Salter

Charcoal, the skin care ingredient on everyone's lips

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Judging by all the black smiles on Facebook, we're turning into a nation obsessed with...

a) Victorian England

b) Childish grafitti

c) Natural toothpaste

If you answered c), you are already aware that activated charcoal is a very effective, if unlikely, tooth-whitening agent. Did you know that this cool natural ingredient has about a zillion other cosmetic applications? Read on to find out what charcoal can do for your skin and body!

Charcoal: Not just for BBQs and filtration systems anymore

Before entering the beauty industry, the way I used activated charcoal was in a little mesh-wool bag. I'd pop this thing out of its plastic wrap, hold it under warm running water, and insert it directly turtle tank's filtration system. Even that seemed weird - how could this black substance actually clean the water?

Turns out it works in much the same way as the charcoal drink doctors use to treat poisoning victims: because the charcoal has been "activated" (heated until it becomes extremely porous) it binds to, and removes, unwanted and noxious chemicals. No wonder charcoal is now being used in so many products that involve detox. You can buy charcoal capsules that promise to carry toxins and even unwanted fats, right out of your body. Those filthy chimney sweeps in Victorian England must have been onto something; no wonder they were so skinny.

Victorian-era child chimney sweep

Benefits of charcoal as a deep cleanser and detoxifier

With so many potentially detoxifying ingredients out there, why use charcoal in your bath and body care products?

  • Let's face it, it's cool

  • It’s all-natural

  • Negative reactions to it are so rare, it can be considered hypoallergenic

  • Pulls dirt, excess oil and makeup out of your pores, helping to prevent breakouts

  • Gently exfoliates as it deep-cleans

  • Works well to treat minor skin ailments like bug bites, scrapes and infections when applied topically

  • Can be used on the hair to remove unwanted product buildup and dirt with no residues

  • Deodorizes

  • Reduces skin inflammation and helps eliminate boils

  • Great for oily skin and hair

Risks and downsides to using charcoal as a beauty product

We looked long and hard to bring you the dirty truth about activated charcoal in skin care products and the truth is...the major risks of using it are nothing more than what you would expect.

1. Staining - be careful if you have very light hair and/or skin - you'll need to rinse a LOT to get all the black stuff off. And, no matter what your complexion, for heaven's sake rinse the product out fully before using a nice white towel or hitting the sheets.

2. Abrasive - long term studies about the effects of charcoal on tooth enamel haven't been done, so see your dentist regularly to monitor any possible effect on your pearly whites.

Using charcoal as toothpaste

3. If you have very dry or sensitive skin, charcoal masks may be too aggressive of a product for you because while activated charcoal is great at sucking out impurities, it can be too harsh for repeated use on delicate skin. The same can be true of our ever-popular Dead Sea mud mask, which contains minerals and enzymes that deep clean, too. Always do a spot test on the inside of your wrist before slathering any product on your face!

4. Exercise caution when ingesting charcoal. It binds to toxins, but also to the beneficial substances in your gut; too much charcoal can lead to the kind of projectile vomiting usually reserved for poisoning victims and exorcisms.

5. Activated charcoal powder is messy; we're dealing with very fine particles here, so be careful not to inhale too much of it when making your own charcoal masks and products! I once spilled a canister of activated charcoal on a white tablecloth and was still finding particles on the floor after mopping for weeks.

In summary, charcoal cosmetic products are generally safe, but like all other cosmetic products, self-testing is recommended before you go overboard.

Looking for a really safe way to use charcoal in beauty products? Try our new and improved patchouli soap for men, aptly named Charcoal Lane. It contains sea salt on one side for a scrubby get-clean-now experience, while swirls of purifying charcoal throughout provide a refreshing, gentle lather that deep cleans.

Charcoal soap by SaltZ&Co

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