Is Charcoal Good For Your Skin?

The skincare industry traditionally focused on women’s skin and came out with all types of products to make them look amazing, young and overall presentable. But as the focus shifted to men, researchers worked on the new imperative, which would be more suitable for MEN’S skin. And that’s when we heard about activated charcoal. It’s a close cousin of the charcoal chunks in your barbeque, but has a proven track record of removing toxins and impurities from ANYWHERE. But before we delve into that… let’s first brush up the basics!

List of Content:

1. What is Activated Charcoal?

2. Benefits of Activated Charcoal

3. Benefits of Activated Charcoal in Skincare

4. Is Activated Charcoal Safe?


What is Activated Charcoal?

We referred to ‘close cousins’, but that’s that. Activated Charcoal is NOT like the regular BBQ coal - neither in the way it’s created nor in the way it behaves. 

It is both tasteless and odourless and doesn’t react with most things it comes in contact with. It is made in two stages - first, coal and then activated charcoal. 

For the first step, a piece of wood is subjected to a very high temperature, close to 1200 degrees. This removes hydrogen, tar and methane from its composition. The coal thus created burns much cleaner than regular charcoal. But we have bigger goals for it than to burn in a petty fireplace. 

The second step is the activation stage. Here it is once again subjected to very high temperature, in order to remove all remaining non-carbon substances from inside. This makes the charcoal very porous, increasing its surface area multifold, and gives it a superpower of attraction.

Benefits of Activated Charcoal

With its newfound superpower, activated charcoal can easily fetch out toxins, chemicals and all types of impurities through a process called adsorption. For those who don’t want to go back to their chemistry class in school, ‘adsorption’ is not a misspelled ‘absorption’. In easy words, it is the process by which things (molecules and ions) stick to the surface of an adsorbing agent (here, charcoal), rather than be absorbed by it. And the best part is that charcoal doesn’t react with any of these, so there’s no fear of unwanted surprises.

Used for Water Treatment. Activated Charcoal has been traditionally used in water treatment plants, so all impurities and chemicals get stuck to the charcoal filters and clean water is passed on. Even the portable water purifiers at home have these charcoal filters to make the water fit for drinking.

Used in Healthcare Facilities. The non-reactive nature of activated charcoal makes it fit to be introduced inside the human body (under strict clinical supervision) for removal of toxins. For example, people with chronic kidney disorders who can’t eliminate waste products like urea as effectively can get rid of them with activated charcoal over a period of time. It is also used in the healthcare system during emergency situations like drug overdose or poisoning, where activated charcoal prevents these toxins from being absorbed by your body and flushes them out with itself. 

Benefits of Activated Charcoal in Skincare

Activated Charcoal works beautifully as a topical cleansing agent that takes away impurities from the skin and flushes them out with just a splash of water. And it’s very interesting to see how it all works out. 

Our skin has millions of pores in it, which collectively act as a permeable sheet to allow things to travel out of the pores (sweat, oil) and also go inside (moisturisers, serums). But among the things that actually make their way inside these pores are dust, pollution, toxins, impurities and PM2.5 particles, which are very harmful - not just for the skin but for your overall health as well. So, when you wash your face, the expectation is that the cleanser will flush all these things out, so that your pores become clean. But most ingredients don’t have a very strong penetration power to reach the spots where these toxins are seated, nor are they trained in binding them on their surface with as much alacrity as we’d wish.

Bang, comes Activated Charcoal - which has 5X penetration and 10X cleansing (adsorption) power, thus going way deeper into the skin and fetching our larger chunks of these toxins. Here’s how different charcoal products can benefit you:

1. Detox Your Skin.

Charcoal Face Wash

Charcoal Face Scrub

By going deeper into the pores of the skin and attracting all the toxins and foreign particles on its surface, activated charcoal keeps your skin squeaky clean. This also leads to better skin health and prevents all future skin complications. In short this is the easiest detox for your skin.

2. Soak up excess oil.

Charcoal Face Wash

Charcoal Face Pack

Your skin produces sebum in order to keep itself hydrated and maintain a protective layer on the surface. But too much sebum can clog your pores and cause problems like breakouts and blackheads. Activated charcoal soaks up all the excess oil and clears the pores of dead cells and bacteria to allow your skin to breathe better and stay healthy.

3. Clear & Prevent Acne.

Charcoal Face Wash

Charcoal Sheet Mask

Activated charcoal supports the action of antibacterial agents towards bacterial growth reduction [Source: Antibacterial Agents Adsorbed on Active Carbon: A New Approach for S. aureus and E. coli Pathogen Elimination]. It helps lift acne-causing bacteria from the pores, leaving behind skin that’s unclogged and recovers faster.

4. Exfoliate Your Skin.

Charcoal Pre-Shave Scrub

Charcoal Face Scrub

Charcoal Shaving Foam

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead cells from the surface of your skin, so that it gets free of all deposits and avoid any complication that may arise from such clogging. Activated charcoal excels in attracting impurities like these and particularly works well after skin’s long exposures to pollution and toxins. 

Is Activated Charcoal Safe?

First things first, activated charcoal is made of organic substances like coconut shells, bamboo wood, or the likes of the same. And along the process there is no mixing of any external substance in it, so it is pure carbon and nothing else. While carbon can be absorbed by our body in some forms, activated charcoal is absolutely non-reactive and does not affect any natural process going inside the body. Not only does it not get absorbed by the body, it prevents other toxins to be absorbed as well - if administered soon enough.

Similarly, on the surface of the skin, it is one of the safest ingredients to be used for removal of toxins and impurities. But make sure the skincare products you use are free of sulphates and parabens, so that your skin doesn’t have to go through any adverse effects. 

IN SHORT…

Unlike many other ingredients that react with the skin in order to bring about superficial changes in your appearance, activated charcoal is capable of a natural detox. In the process of effective removal of dead skin cells from the pores, it even reduces the appearance of dark spots and balances excessive oil production on the skin while keeping it hydrated.