Activated charcoal has become a popular trend in the health and skin care scenes over the past few years. Unlike regular charcoal, which is commonly used for barbequing or creating art, activated charcoal is oxidized and has an increased surface area and porosity — basically, it’s great at absorbing the gunk that can build up on your skin.
Understandably, there are many questions surrounding activated charcoal. Does it live up to the hype? What are the benefits? Are there risks to know about? How should you be using activated charcoal?
Here at WOW Skin Science, we will be answering all of your activated charcoal questions and breaking down some of the most surprising benefits.
Table of contents:
- What Is Activated Charcoal?
- Activated Charcoal vs. Regular Charcoal
- How Do Charcoal Face Masks Work?
- How Do You Use a Charcoal Face Mask?
- What Are Other Benefits of Activated Charcoal?
- What Should I Know About Using Activated Charcoal?
What Is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is a compound made by burning natural, carbon-rich materials such as bamboo, wood, coconut shells, olive pits, or coal in low oxygen concentrations. This process extracts hydrogen, methane, and tar, leaving behind a black, mostly carbon substance that gets activated by steaming it at high temperatures to remove any remaining non-carbon elements.
Activated charcoal has many uses, from supporting digestion to easing hangovers, but it is also a powerful cosmetic ingredient. This compound is incredibly porous, which makes it a powerful tool for absorbing toxins.
The reason why activated charcoal is such a hot name in the skin care industry right now is that it may act like a magnet that draws impurities out of your skin, lifting out breakout-causing substances like excess oil and dead skin cell buildup.
Skin care and blemish management are among the most popular uses of activated charcoal. Commonly, you will find cleansers and face masks featuring activated charcoal as their primary ingredient — but does it really work? Read on to find out.
Activated Charcoal vs. Regular Charcoal
Let’s take a quick moment to make a very important distinction: what’s the difference between activated charcoal and regular charcoal? There are a few key differences to note. First, activated charcoal is more porous than regular charcoal, which increases its absorbency.
Activated charcoal also has a higher surface area than regular charcoal.
Another key difference between regular charcoal and active charcoal is that activated charcoal is a purer form of the substance. Regular charcoal, like the kind you might use at a summer barbeque, still contains toxins like smoke and other chemicals. Activated charcoal is much safer for cosmetic use.
How Do Charcoal Face Masks Work?
Charcoal face masks are amongst the most sought-after face masks on the market, and for a good reason. These beauty products can act as a natural filter for unwanted impurities and pollutants. This is only one of the many diverse benefits that activated charcoal has to offer.
Here are a few more reasons why activated charcoal skincare products deserve a spot in your skincare routine:
1. Minimize the Appearance of Pores
One of the benefits of charcoal face masks is the ability to reduce the visibility of pores on your skin. There are three main factors that can cause large pores: excess production of sebum, increase in hair follicles, and loss of skin elasticity.
Activated charcoal works to eliminate both internal and external damage by drawing out impurities lodged in your glands and hair follicles. It can also remove leftover debris like makeup, sweat, dirt, and bacteria that collect on the surface of your skin throughout the day. This acts as a deep cleaning for your pores and can help reduce their appearance over time.
2. Help Brighten the Appearance of Skin
Another benefit offered to you by charcoal face masks is that they can help brighten the appearance of your skin. Dull skin can be caused by dry skin, dehydrated skin, and the buildup of dead skin cells.
Activated charcoal is a powerful tool for helping combat the appearance of dull skin. This is in large part due to the exfoliating qualities of activated charcoal. When resting on your skin, the activated charcoal can buff away dead skin cells, promoting uniformity. Along with brightening the appearance of the skin, activated charcoal can also help support an even skin tone.
3. Reduce the Appearance of Blemish Scars
In addition to supporting an even skin tone, another benefit of charcoal face masks is that they can help reduce the appearance of blemish-related scars.
When you have breakouts, swelling can occur beneath the surface. This swelling can sometimes cause damage to your skin tissue, resulting in blemish scarring.
When it comes to combating acne scars, charcoal’s exfoliating properties are once again the star of the show. The texture of a charcoal face mask can help to remove dead and scarred skin and reveal smoother, more even skin underneath.
4. Support Your Natural Oils
Activated charcoal masks can also help manage excess sebum on the skin. If you have an oily skin type, then you know that excessive oil on the skin can lead to several issues — not to mention that oily mid-day shine.
Too much oil on your skin can impact both its quality and appearance and can even lead to breakouts and clogged pores. If you do not remove the extra sebum from your face, your skin might look oily and greasy, and you might develop pimples from your pores getting clogged.
Thankfully, activated charcoal can help. Charcoal clay masks are extremely absorbent and, in addition to drawing out impurities, can wick extra oil away from your acne-prone skin.
How Do You Use a Charcoal Face Mask?
If you would like to try your hand at a charcoal face mask, we recommend trying WOW Skin Science’s Activated Charcoal Face Mask. Along with activated charcoal, our face mask consists of several other organic ingredients like licorice extract, mulberry extract, and shea butter to help remove impurities from your skin and leave you looking glowy and moisturized.
To use the mask, simply scoop out a dollop of product and apply a thin layer over your cleansed, dry face, making sure to keep the mask away from your eye area.
Allow the product to dry for 10-15 minutes, then rinse your face with warm water, completely remove the product, and pat your skin dry.
What Are Other Benefits of Activated Charcoal?
Soothes Dry Skin
Another benefit of using products like activated charcoal face wash is that it can help soothe some common skin symptoms like dryness. This is because activated charcoal helps clean your skin without employing any harmful and drying chemicals.
By detoxifying and wicking away extra oil, it can help soothe dry or itchy skin. Just remember to always follow your charcoal face mask with a moisturizer, especially if you have dry skin.
Activated charcoal’s purifying properties also make it a powerful and effective option for supporting your skin’s natural resistance to blemish-causing bacteria. Since many chronic breakouts can be traced back to pesky bacteria, it’s worth asking your dermatologist whether activated charcoal could be helpful for you.
Because activated charcoal has soothing properties, it is generally safe to use on sensitive skin. However, you should only use a clay or peel-off mask once or twice a week.
Helps Reduce the Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Using an activated charcoal face wash can also reduce the visible effects of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles. As you age, your skin will begin to lose elasticity, which usually results in your facial skin appearing loose. This is why aging skin can look like it sags.
When applied to your skin, activated charcoal can help your skin feel firmer, which in turn, helps your face look more youthful. This is due to activated charcoal’s ability to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
In addition to supporting your skin’s structure and visibly plumping the skin, activated charcoal can also help reduce the appearance of redness and dryness and can help soothe visible irritation. The result? Refreshed, youthful-looking skin that glows from within.
Perhaps the most popular benefit of charcoal cleanser is its ability to deeply purify your skin. Charcoal face washes can remove excess oils and unwanted dirt and bacteria from your skin. This typically leaves your complexion looking smooth, clean, and oil-free.
Activated charcoal can clean out even the innermost layer of your skin, absorbing trapped pollutants and clearing out layers of buildup. This process purifies your pores and, in turn, helps to keep future blackheads at bay, especially when used in conjunction with other clarifying skincare ingredients like salicylic acid, kaolin clay, and bentonite clay.
If you would like to try your hand at a charcoal face wash, we recommend trying WOW Skin Science’s Activated Charcoal Foaming Face Wash. Along with activated charcoal, our foaming face wash combines tea tree essential oil, aloe vera extract, and vitamin E to provide you with a natural deep cleaning that won’t leave your skin feeling dry.
May Support Dental Health
In addition to skin benefits, your teeth can also benefit from a little activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is commonly known as an all-natural teeth whitener. Some people even like to brush their teeth with a wet toothbrush dipped in activated charcoal powder to whiten their teeth and support their oral health.
It’s important to note that there are no definitive studies proving this claim and that overusing charcoal on your teeth can lead to increased tooth sensitivity.
May Support Hair Strength
Activated charcoal can also help your hair feel strong and look healthy. Charcoal shampoos can take your haircare routine to new heights due to their detoxifying properties, which can help remove impurities and oil buildup stuck on your scalp.
This alone can positively influence the health of your hair in more ways than one. For instance, using activated charcoal on your hair can support volume and keep your hair from looking greasy.
What Should I Know About Using Activated Charcoal?
Remember, activated charcoal functions as a sort of filter. Whether you are using it to improve your skin, teeth, or hair, the product will soak up and trap any compounds it comes in contact with.
While this makes it incredibly effective at cleaning out your system, it simultaneously poses the risk of removing positive nutrients – especially if you’re taking oral-activated charcoal. Calcium, thiamin, vitamin C, and iron are all examples of beneficial nutrients that activated charcoal may accidentally remove from your body if you ingest it. Essentially, this filter has no filter.
Luckily, you shouldn’t see these side effects if you use your skincare products safely. To safely reap all the benefits that activated charcoal has to offer without losing micronutrients in the process, we encourage you to follow the instructions labeled on charcoal products closely.
Activated charcoal has a lot of benefits to offer. It can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, soothe dry skin, cleanse the skin, and help support the skin’s ability to fight blemish-causing bacteria.
We encourage you to try using charcoal face wash and even the occasional charcoal face mask for an extra dose of deep cleaning. With our selection of activated charcoal products, we can help you find a place for this ingredient in your skincare routine.
No recommended products
What Are the Benefits of Activated Charcoal in Soap?
Hyaluronic Acid: 8 Skin & Health Benefits
4 Vitamin C Facial Benefits