Not all charcoal is created equal. Made from coconut shells or bamboo, activated charcoal is a fine, black powder that is odorless and tasteless. Quite different from ashes from burnt wood or the charcoal in a barbecue grill, charcoal becomes “activated” when high temperatures combine with a gas to expand its surface area, creating tiny pores that trap toxins and chemicals.
Activated charcoal has been used for centuries to speed healing from cuts and insect bites, and as an antidote for poisoning, which is probably one of its better-known uses. The first recorded use was in the 1500s by Egyptians. It was also used by Native Americans. Today, you’ll find activated charcoal in face washes, scrubs, masks, moisturizers, soaps, and shampoos.
Related: How to Add Activated Charcoal to Your Beauty Routine
The antibacterial properties of activated charcoal help reduce acne and improve overall skin health. Depending on your skin’s amount of oil, dryness, or sensitivity, you can use exfoliating products sparingly one to three times a week. Do not use daily as they can soak up too much of your skin’s natural oils. And be sure to moisturize when using activated charcoal masks or cleansers.
Activated charcoal is also turning up in toothpaste and dental floss because it has the ability to bind to plaque and absorb microscopic particles that stain teeth. It also changes the pH balance in the mouth, helping prevent cavities, bad breath, and gum disease. (Don’t be alarmed when your teeth turn black—it rinses away.)
Did you know… Activated charcoal works best when it sits on the skin for a full minute, which gives it time to pull out dirt and toxins.
1. Cleanse and clear congested pores with Reviva Labs Bamboo Charcoal Pore Minimizing Cleansing Gel. This gentle bamboo charcoal cleanser is infused with soothing rosehip seed and borage oils, calendula, burdock root, lavender, geranium, and aloe to protect your skin from dehydration and irritation.
2. Perk up dull, oily skin with Now Solutions Charcoal Detox Moisturizer. White charcoal powder from ubame oak bark absorbs excess oil, dirt, and impurities, while soothing aloe and superfruits goji and açai berry help rejuvenate your skin. This lightweight moisturizer will leave your skin feeling soft and smooth.
3. Make your grin sparkle with Dr. Tung’s Activated Charcoal Floss. Vegan floss is coated with activated charcoal from coconuts, antibacterial turmeric, natural licorice aroma, natural lemongrass oil, and vegetable wax to remove plaque and food debris and leave breath feeling fresh. It expands when moist into interdental spaces, so it’s gentler on gums and softer on fingers. The thick floss is ideal for braces and wide spaces, and is rolled in an eco-friendly cardboard dispenser.
4. Detox skin and refine pores with Juice Beauty Bamboo Pore Refining Mask. Activated bamboo charcoal made from renewable and sustainable bamboo plants, along with absorbent clay and a blend of alpha and polyhydroxy acids, unclogs pores and helps clear blemishes. Leaves oily and blemish-prone skin feeling softer and looking more even-toned.
5. Purify your skin as you lather with The Seaweed Bath Co. Purifying Detox Facial Bar. This unscented soap cleans with charcoal powder and exfoliating volcanic ash, and moisturizes with sustainably harvested bladderwrack seaweed, shea butter, and green tea. Bladderwrack seaweed is also a natural detoxifier that promotes skin elasticity. Use as a face and body cleanser, and your skin will feel clean and clear.