As an aesthetician, over the years I have been exposed to a number natural beauty products, all of which consist of many different ingredients. A collection of minerals, essential oils, vitamins and herbs are considered staples in my arsenal to help clients achieve healthy skin. I am always happily surprised when they finally find the “ it “ ingredient that really makes a difference for their skin.
This past year, Charcoal has begun to make an appearance as an active ingredient in masks, cleansers and exfoliators. I, for one, am an advocate for the positive effects charcoal has on achieving beautiful skin.
When we think of charcoal, most of us immediately visualize the black stuff on the bottom of our family grill, used only to make delicious hotdogs and hamburgers. The charcoal I’m referring to, activated charcoal, is a little bit different.
This one little powder of an ingredient is a magic bullet in reducing acne, healing surface wounds and properly cleansing the skin without stripping it of its natural sebum.
Typically, this type of charcoal is made from burnt coconut shells, rye starch, or wood. The material is heated with gas in the absence of air, until the charcoal expands, creating a very porous surface. This porous quality allows the activated charcoal to adsorb substances thousands of times its own weight. One cubic inch has the surface area absorbance equal to about 3 football fields!
So, how does this benefit your skin? First, it’s important to understand the definition of Adsorption, the process through which activated charcoal works. Through Adsorption, the charcoal is able to electrically attract or pull molecules, atoms and ions to the skin’s surface. From here, it has the power to draw out and adsorb bacteria, poisons, chemicals, dirt, impurities and make- up. Charcoal does all this without threatening to be metabolized or absorbed by your body. This one little powder of an ingredient is a magic bullet in reducing acne, healing surface wounds and properly cleansing the skin without stripping it of its natural sebum.
There are many different ways to manipulate activated charcoal, and you can easily experiment in your own home! You can buy it in capsule form and simply open the capsule to pour the powder into a small mixing bowl. A more cost effective alternative would be buying it in its loose powdered form.
Here is a recipe for a do-it-yourself mask. This is great for acne or deep cleansing and healing.
Note: as with any new ingredient or product, always do a patch test to ensure you are not allergic…
1- Mix in a small glass or ceramic bowl:
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered activated charcoal
- 1/2 teaspoon of bentonite clay
- 1 1/2 teaspoon of rose water
- Aloe vera gel
- 1/2 teaspoon tea tree oil
- Add more or less rose water to achieve a paste
2- Apply on clean damp skin for 10 minutes and rinse well.
A warning, friends: this is messy. Charcoal will not stain your skin but it will get all over your sink, clothes, etc.
For whiter teeth, apply toothpaste to your toothbrush as you normally would, then pat your toothbrush in the charcoal powder, covering all sides of the toothpaste, and brush normally. Please do not be shocked when you look in the mirror; it can be a bit scary seeing an all black mouth. Rest assured that after you have rinsed well, your teeth will be noticeably brighter and feel fresher than ever.
It’s a great substance to have in your own skin care arsenal and first aid kit.
Activated charcoal is even great for bee stings, poison ivy and some spider bits. Just mix it with a bit of water and flaxseed powder. In my opinion, it works better than most over-the counter-cures.
For those of you looking for the ease of a ready-made skin care product, here are few personal favorites:
- The Problem Solver by May Lindstrom is a great corrective mask that features bamboo activated charcoal and raw cacao. It is only activated when you mix it with water, allowing you to benefit from its true healing powers every time you use it.
- Dark Angels & Coal Face Cleanser by Lush are 2 great cleansing options. Dark Angels combines avocado oil and black sugar to the charcoal. Coal Face Cleanser incorporates sandlewood and rosewood and is great for combination and oily skin.
- Sea Salt Solutions by Clarisea makes a convenient Skin Detox Set , which includes an exfoliant, mask and cleansing bar, all featuring activated charcoal and sea salt.
I think my favorite characteristic of activated charcoal is its vast versatility and ease in application. It’s a great substance to have in your own skin care arsenal and first aid kit. It’s time we congratulate this new, trendy “it” ingredient and wish it a long existence in the skin care industry.