Turns out, charcoal isn’t just for the barbecue. In fact, at this point, it’s made its way into almost every personal care regimen and spa menu. From charcoal masks and cleansers to soaps, scrubs, deodorant, and even toothpaste, charcoal is one skincare trend that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. As such, we figure it’s time to do a deep dive into what charcoal is in the skincare world and what it can offer our skin.  

What is Charcoal? 

For anyone familiar with charcoal, you’ll know that it’s a sooty, chalk-like substance, usually black in colour. It’s a lightweight residue that is produced when carbon-based materials are heated slowly, removing the water they contain. For example, when wood is burned it will eventually turn to charcoal (even coconut shells and sugar can be heated to make charcoal). However, not all charcoal is created equal. On skincare product labels, you’ll often see the term “activated charcoal.” Activated charcoal is most commonly used in skincare and what it means is that the charcoal has been treated with gases or other chemicals to create a larger surface area for absorption. This translates to an ingredient that can open up and remove your pores of unwanted dirt. In short, activated charcoal is excellent at removing substances it comes into contact with, which is why it’s known as a detoxifying ingredient.  

What are the Benefits of Charcoal? 

  • Detoxes the Skin: Activated charcoal is known for its detoxifying properties. It detoxes the skin thanks to its ability to absorb bacteria and toxins in the body, drawing impurities like dirt and oil from the skin. In turn, this results in a more even skin tone and helps both fight and prevent acne (more on that below).
  • Fights Acne: Charcoal-based skincare products are often hailed as acne saviours. This is due to the antibacterial properties that charcoal contains. Owing to the major absorption power of charcoal, it can help lift bacteria from the skin, unclogging pores, and helping to fight acne.
  • Exfoliation: Exfoliation is yet another benefit to be derived from charcoal-infused skincare products. The ingredient’s naturally gritty texture serves as a gentle exfoliant, sloughing off dead skin cells and leaving you with healthy, glowing skin.

  • How to Use Charcoal

    Charcoal is completely safe for topical use, so now’s the time to invest in a product containing the carbon-based residue. As mentioned, face masks are one of the most popular charcoal-infused skincare products. If you're using charcoal to fight acne, ideally look for a product that contains other acne-fighting ingredients too, like salicylic acid, kaolin, or fruit extracts. Other options include charcoal cleansers and bar soap. 

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