The Health and Beauty Benefits of Activated Charcoal
With its striking obsidian-black hue, smooth powdery texture, and amazing ability to draw out impurities and toxins, activated charcoal has earned its place as the new go-to for cleansing, brightening, and detoxifying. If you’ve been wondering what all the hype is about—and how activated charcoal can help bring out your most beautiful self—here’s what you need to know.
Activated Charcoal 101
While activated charcoal is a pure, natural product, you can’t just harvest it walking through the woods. This rich black powder is the result of a multi-step process that begins by burning a substance (such as coconut shells, bamboo, or wood) without oxygen, in order to create char. Next, this char is heated at high temperatures along with steam or certain gasses to “activate” it, creating its signature porous quality. This porousness allows activated charcoal to bind with substances (including toxins) that it comes in contact with through the process of adsorption (not to be confused with absorption).
The ability to draw in toxins is the reason activated charcoal is so often utilized by emergency trauma centers for detoxification after drug overdoses and accidental poisoning.1,2
Activated Charcoal Can Help You Look and Feel Wonderful
Thankfully, you don’t need to be having any sort of health crisis to benefit from activated charcoal. Its unique detoxifying properties make it a perfect addition to most health and beauty regimens as well!
Here are six great ways activated charcoal helps boost your head turning potential:
1. Supports Glowing Clear Skin
Living in the real world is tough on skin! Between exposure to dirt and environmental pollutants—and pore-clogging buildup from cosmetics and lotions—skin may start to look dull and pasty, or become prone to occasional breakouts and irritation.
Using an activated charcoal mask or cleansing scrub draws impurities from the skin, exfoliates gently to lift away dead cells, removes excess oils, unclogs pores, and leaves your skin looking bright—with a dewy, ageless glow. Recent research shows that activated charcoal even has a calming effect on the skin to support a healthy, clear complexion.3
2. Helps Skin Recover from Life’s Hard Knocks
It’s impossible to get through life without at least some minor bumps and band-aid worthy events—so when the inevitable happens, it’s nice to know that activated charcoal will come to the rescue by protecting skin while encouraging healing.4 The fact that it draws out toxins so efficiently makes it an excellent choice when insects sting or bite, as well as for minor cuts and irritations. You might want to try a pre-made salve or simply mix some activated charcoal with coconut oil and apply to soothe discomfort and reduce any urges to scratch.
3. Reveals Glamorous White Teeth
Brushing gently with a natural probiotic activated charcoal toothpaste supports your oral microbiome and freshens breath—while also removing impurities, old stains, and discoloration from teeth—without the use of harsh bleaches, irritating detergents, and dangerous chemical additives. It may feel a little strange at first using a black toothpaste, but rest assured it will all rinse away completely with plain water, so all anyone will notice is your dazzling white, healthy smile.
4. Refreshes and Alkalizes Hair and Scalp
If your hair has lost its perky bounce or has gotten bogged down with oiliness, restore its former glory by periodically washing with an activated charcoal shampoo. Or, just add some activated charcoal powder to your favorite shampoo every now and then.
Activated charcoal draws out dirt, impurities, excess oils, and product buildup for a conditioned, alkalized scalp, clean hair follicles, and soft, voluminous, manageable tresses.
5. Keeps Skin, Shoes, and Clothing Smelling Their Best
Smelling nice and fresh is a vital part of feeling beautiful! And since it turns out that one of activated charcoal’s often overlooked properties is neutralizing odors, it makes sense to choose a gentle underarm deodorant that relies on this natural, safe ingredient rather than slathering on irritating antiperspirants that contain aluminum, parabens, triclosan, or other chemical additives that could negatively affect your skin microbiome and overall health.5
Activated charcoal is also an easy way to keep feet, shoes, and sweaty workout clothes from getting stinky. Whether you opt for activated charcoal shoe inserts, or convenient deodorizing pouches to drop in your sneakers, locker, gym bag, or hamper, you’ll never have to worry about being the source of embarrassing sweat-related odors again.
6. Cleanses and Detoxifies the Body
Drinking an activated charcoal-infused juice, or taking ready made capsules, can flush toxins from your body to improve overall well-being, comfort a touchy tummy, flatten your belly, or even help counteract the effects of raising a few too many glasses at your last party. It’s also been shown to encourage healthy cholesterol levels and kidney function.6,7,8
Because activated charcoal is such a powerful detoxifier, it’s really important to drink plenty of water when you’re using it internally, so you stay well hydrated, and flush out all the impurities that bind to the charcoal as quickly as possible. It’s also wise to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to maintain electrolyte levels and give your body the nutritional support it needs during the cleansing process.
Get the Most from Your Activated Charcoal Experience
Activated charcoal should never be confused with the stuff you throw on the grill at barbeques, and unfortunately, not even all activated charcoal beauty products are of equal quality. Read labels carefully to be sure you’re choosing an ultra-fine grain powder sourced from coconut shells or identifiable wood/bamboo species, with no harmful additives.
Additionally, keep in mind that activated charcoal can be really messy if you spill it. It should wash clean from your sink and tub with no problem, but it can stain exposed clothing and grout. Be sure to protect your clothes and bathroom surfaces when using activated charcoal to keep your wardrobe and bathroom looking as great as you do.
It’s amazing how a jet black powder can clean, brighten, and whiten to bring out your natural beauty so effectively. Once you begin to notice how great activated charcoal can help you look and feel, you’ll wonder how you ever got by so long without it.
1. Wang, X., Mondal, S., Wang, J., Tirucherai, G., Zhang, D., Boyd, R. A., & Frost, C. (2013). Effect of Activated Charcoal on Apixaban Pharmacokinetics in Healthy Subjects. American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, 14(2), 147-154. doi:10.1007/s40256-013-0055-y
2. Guss, D. A. (1989). Emergency Medicine: Activated Charcoal—The First-Line Agent in Cases of Overdose. Western Journal of Medicine, 151(1), 63.
3. Chun, S. I., & Calderhead, R. G. (2011). Carbon Assisted Q-Switched Nd:YAG Laser Treatment with Two Different Sets of Pulse Width Parameters Offers a Useful Treatment Modality for Severe Inflammatory Acne: A Case Report. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, 29(2), 131-135. doi:10.1089/pho.2010.2786
4. Verdú Soriano J, Rueda López J, Martínez Cuervo F, Soldevilla Agreda J. (2004). Effects of an activated charcoal silver dressing on chronic wounds with no clinical signs of infection. Journal of Wound Care, 13(10):419, 421-3.
5. Urban, J., Fergus, D. J., Savage, A. M., Ehlers, M., Menninger, H. L., Dunn, R. R., & Horvath, J. E. (2016). The effect of habitual and experimental antiperspirant and deodorant product use on the armpit microbiome. PeerJ, 4, e1605. doi:10.7717/peerj.1605
6. Hoekstra, J., & Erkelens, D. (1987). Effect Of Activated Charcoal On Hypercholesterolaemia. The Lancet, 330(8556), 455. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(87)90990-1
7. Musso CG, Michelangelo H, Reynaldi J, et al. (2010). Combination of oral activated charcoal plus low protein diet as a new alternative for handling in the old end-stage renal disease patients. Saudi Journal of Kidney Diseases and Transplantation, 21(1):102-4.
8. Schulman, G. (2006). A Nexus of Progression of Chronic Kidney Disease: Charcoal, Tryptophan and Profibrotic Cytokines. Blood Purification, 24(1), 143-148. doi:10.1159/000089451
Roberta Pescow is a writer and the proud mom of two amazing and unique young men. As someone who’s been passionate about holistic wellness most of her life, she understands that the skin is the body’s largest organ—and its first line of defense. That’s why she knows how important it is to use only the purest, natural skincare ingredients. Roberta loves sharing all she’s learned over the years to help others reveal their healthiest, most beautiful skin ever.