Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link.
Activated charcoal is an ingredient that has been getting a whole lot of buzz lately, but it has actually been around for a very long time!
This natural ingredient is getting more popular because of the focus on healthy, holistic skincare – and for a good reason.
Activated charcoal helps to detoxify from the inside out through a process in the body called “adsorption.” In elementary terms, activated charcoal creates a film that attracts the toxins from the body and carries them away. You can use activated charcoal to:
- Purify your drinking water.
- Whiten your teeth.
- Give yourself a facial.
- Exfoliate from head-to-toe.
- Get the gunk out of your hair.
It is important to note that activated charcoal is not the same kind of charcoal that you use in your BBQ grill. That type of charcoal is often full of chemicals and toxins that are not good to put on the skin or ingest.
Activated charcoal (sometimes called “activated carbon”) is a purified form of charcoal with added oxygen. The added oxygen increases the surface area of the charcoal, making it more effective at collecting and sweeping away toxins.
Activated charcoal has many applications beyond being used for skin care and beauty routines. You may have heard of doctors using charcoal in the ER for helping people who have swallowed poisonous substances. This because of its ability to block the body’s absorption of up to 60% of toxic chemicals!
Activated charcoal is powerful stuff with a long list of uses. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use activated charcoal.
1. Purifying drinking water
Anyone who is paying attention to their skincare knows that staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water is a must for healthy, supple skin. Chemicals like chlorine, sediment, and volatile organic compounds (also known as “VOC”s) are often found in drinking water and can negatively impact your skin care goals.
Using an activated charcoal filter can remove these impurities from your water (and your body!).
2. Whitening your teeth
Activated charcoal is an all-natural way to brighten your smile. It whitens by absorbing the plaque and tiny particles that can stain or yellow your teeth.
All you have to do is wet a toothbrush, dip it into activated charcoal powder, and gently brush.
Rinse well afterward and spit until the activated charcoal is gone and your spit is clear. You can repeat this maybe once or twice per week to maintain that beautiful smile.
As an added benefit, activated charcoal helps to balance the pH balance in the mouth. This can stave off bad breath and also help prevent cavities.
This is best for natural teeth. If you have dentures, caps, crowns, or veneers, the charcoal may react differently and stain the material. Talk to your dentist before using activated charcoal as a teeth whitener if you are not sure.
As with any whitening process, this can cause some sensitivity. If it is uncomfortable for you, then cut back to once a week or once every 2 weeks, and use toothpaste to help with the sensitivity.
3. Giving yourself a facial
Nothing beats a spa day, and you can get spa-like results yourself at home with an activated charcoal mask.
Activated charcoal creates a film on the top of the skin that draws impurities out of the pores and leaves skin soft and bright. It can also be used on most skin types from oily to sensitive.
After washing and drying the skin, apply an activated charcoal mask. Be careful not to get it close to your eyes and mouth.
There are two options when it comes to these masks. You can either make them at home on your own or purchase ready-made ones. The benefit of the DIYs is that they may be cheaper, but there may also be a learning curve to get the mix right.
On the other hand, the benefits of the ready-made ones are: they more convenient and the difference in cost is relatively negligible. Furthermore, some of the best charcoal masks on the market usually have other ingredients to help you with your skincare journey.
You can use a charcoal mask as often as 1-2 times per week for an at-home facial.
4. Exfoliating head-to-toe
Activated charcoal is an excellent detoxifying exfoliant for the face and the body. You can gently slough off dead skin cells, leftover makeup and skincare products, and dust and sediment that builds up on the skin’s surface with a gentle charcoal scrub.
In addition to softening the skin, this will help your skin care products like lotions and serums get deeper into pores for better results.
If you have dry skin, mix activated charcoal with a carrier oil like coconut oil or olive oil.
If you have oily skin, try combining activated charcoal with oil infused water like rosewater. Gently massage the scrub over your face, neck, and body, then rinse thoroughly.
You can do this a couple of times a week to exfoliate and detox the skin from your head to your toes.
5. Getting the gunk out of your hair
Just like activated charcoal draws impurities out of your pores, it does a great job as a clarifying rinse for your hair.
Our everyday shampoo, conditioner, styling products, natural oils, and environmental particles get into our hair. This can leave hair weighed down. It is also very good for our often-neglected scalp!
You can purchase activated charcoal shampoo or make your own. To make your own activated charcoal shampoo, simply add about a tablespoon to a gentle shampoo, take a little extra time massaging the formula in from the scalp to the tips of your hair, then rinse thoroughly. Finish with a natural conditioner.
Choosing the right charcoal
As you can see, there are many different ways that activated charcoal can – and should! – be incorporated into your beauty routine.
When choosing charcoal to use, make sure that you go to a pharmacy or a health foods store to purchase food-grade charcoal. This is the best quality for your skin and has been “activated” with the addition of oxygen to enhance its detoxifying benefits.
Whether you are working on detoxifying your beauty routine or just looking for the most effective ingredients, activated charcoal deserves a spot on your product shelf.
Furthermore, when stored properly, activated carbon can last for years, so don’t worry that you won’t use up all of what you bought. It will last a long time.
Another thing to remember – activated charcoal naturally absorbs impurities from the environment it’s in. That means that if you leave your activated charcoal uncapped it will absorb moisture and molecules from the air, making it less potent when you use it in your beauty routine.
Keep your activated charcoal in an air-tight container in a dry place.
Using activated charcoal
If the charcoal irritates your skin, you can cut back your usage or dilute your formulas, so they contain less charcoal. The beauty of this ingredient is that it can be combined with others and still be effective! You can use it just once a week or once every 2 weeks and still see results.
You may also notice that other active ingredients seem stronger because they are sinking deeper into the skin. If your go-to serums and treatments are causing irritation after a charcoal mask, for example, try using a little less than you usually would until your skin can adjust.
Trysh Sutton is a wife, mother, strategic leader and teacher. She runs a website called Pure Path Essential Oils, which is a naturopathic wellness site that promotes healthy living and healing through the use of essential oils and sustainable living.
You can follow her on social media to learn more about the benefits of essential oils, and healthy living practices.