The benefits of activated charcoal

Skincare 411

Today we are talking about one of my  favorite materials to work with: Activated Charcoal. 

First, a disclaimer. I'm a soap maker and natural product formulator, but I'm also a researcher (day job). I have access to a full range of scientific journals and I read them. I don't make claims about ingredients or products I offer on my site because that's a no-no, but I also like to let you know the truth about my research findings.

First....let's chat.

What is activated charcoal and how in the heck do we use it in beauty products?

You may have heard about activated charcoal's uses in emergency rooms for pumping someone's stomach if they accidentally consumed something they weren't supposed to. It's the stuff of nightmares for moms everywhere in that regard. Hopefully you haven't had an experience with it, but it has been used for ages in order to help patients who have been poisoned or overdosed and need to get the toxins out. Basically, it binds to the toxins and works its magic by flushing it out of the system.

What makes it different than the charcoal we use on the grill, though? 

Well, charcoal is made of a variety of things, including wood, coal or even coconut shells (my favorite). It doesn't become activated, however, until it is burned without oxygen and then heated to a high temp and combined with certain gases. It turns into a lovely, dark powdery substance at that point, which is when we can do all of the fun things with it.

What are some of the ways we can use activated charcoal for health, beauty and wellness?

I like to think of that 'absorbing toxins' theme to understand the uses here. I'll list just a few:

  • Activated charcoal is often used in oral care for toothpaste as it is believed that while it can remove bacterial from the mouth, it might also remove stains from the teeth. One of my sons uses this and loves it.
  • It has been used forever and a day in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for a variety of ailments, including digestive issues. If we go back to the stomach pumping/toxic binding properties, this makes sense, right?
  • It can be used as a face mask by combining a teaspoon each of activated charcoal and bentonite clay and then adding equal parts of water.
  • You can add it to whatever your favorite cleanser or scrub happens to be and give it a boost.
  • It is even used in water and air filtration.
  • Finally, you can use it to cleanse your body in a bar of soap, my personal favorite use. 

Now for the real results of the research. I was not able to find any scientific evidence that activated charcoal will remove toxins from your skin. So, adding it a product that does? Maybe that's the best bet for now. I'll keep doing my research and let you know of any new findings. In the meantime, don't believe everything you hear online if there aren't real sources to back it up.



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