There are a lot of opinions revolving around activated charcoal benefits for skin. People with oily skin swear by it while some others believe it has little effect on their skin. This mostly has to do with the fact that there is little scientific evidence (but that doesn’t mean there isn’t) to back up its miraculous effect on the skin.
There are studies to support its ability to keep the toxins out though. However, today, I am going to look on the bright side and break down the main benefits of activated charcoal for skin. I would say that the benefits of activated charcoal for skin outweigh the drawbacks.
But first, what is activated charcoal?
The name “coal” can be confusing to many at first. But fear not, activated charcoal (aka activated carbon) is not the kind of coal that you use on your barbecue grill. Activated charcoal is oxygen-treated charcoal that has all of its water content extracted and is made by burning carbon-rich materials like wood, peat, or bones.
This burning causes little that makes the coal more absorbent – which is the main function of activated charcoal. What does activated charcoal do when we drink it for stomach upset? – it acts like a “sponge”, which draws in impurities, toxins, and pollution. That’s why activated charcoal helps even with chemical and food poisoning. More on that, later.
Activated charcoal benefits for skin
Activated charcoal benefits for skin #1: It is great for oily skin and treating acne
Acne is mainly caused by clogged pores that are home to excess oil, daily pollutants, and dirt. Skin that is acne-prone is mostly oily too. Remember the “sponge” effect we talked about? Enter activated charcoal. It draws out and absorbs those impurities on the surface of the skin and clears the pores. You might as well call its effect skin detox because this is exactly what activated charcoal does. As a result, you get clear pores that prevent your skin from breaking out.
Activated charcoal benefits for skin #2: Antibacterial effect on the skin
Activated charcoal has the natural ability to remove all the bacteria from the pores. This includes acne-causing bacteria as well. Not only do they lead to acne breakouts, but they also bring about skin irritation and redness. Research shows that by pulling out toxins, pollutants from the skin, activated charcoal proves to be antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.
Activated charcoal benefits for skin #3: Reduces the appearance of pores
When your pores are clean and happy, there is no reason left for them to enlarge. Large pores are indicative of oily skin, as they are the main culprits behind the production of excess oil. Thanks to its outstanding cleansing ability, activated charcoal leaves the pores clean and unclogged. Which means, bye-bye blackheads and whiteheads. By detoxifying the pores, you make sure you keep them happy, and over time they tend to be less visible, resulting in less oil production.
Activated charcoal masks: Is it safe to use them?
I mean we have listed a few activated charcoal benefits for skin. So, yes, it is safe to use charcoal masks. It would probably be the fastest way to test out activated charcoal skin benefits. Even though I am not huge on DIY face masks, some people may find them useful. According to some DIY recipes, you will need these ingredients to make your own DIY activated charcoal mask:
- 2 tsp of water;
- 1 tsp of bentonite clay; (according to research, clay will help with absorbing excess oil)
- 1 tsp of activated charcoal powder;
- ½ tsp of honey
- tiny drop of oil (lavender oil, tea tree oil)
Follow these easy steps:
Step 1: Take a mixing bowl
Step 2: Combine oil and water
Step 3: Add bentonite clay and mix.
Step 4: Finally, add activated charcoal powder and mix till it forms a paste.
How to apply a DIY activated charcoal mask on your face?
Gently cleanse your face before putting on the mask. Otherwise, you might mess up the skin with all the dirt and excess oil trapped in it.
Start massaging the mask into your face. Don’t press it hard, be gentle with it. You want to make sure that it covers all over your face but avoid around the eye area.
You can use your fingers or a makeup brush to apply the mask. Allow it to dry for about 15 minutes. You will notice it will have a tightening effect on the skin, that’s completely normal. Rinse off your face with lukewarm water and pat dry. Apply your go-to moisturizer as the last step. Congratulations, you have made it!
IMPORTANT: Please consider some possible risks with DIY masks. Some ingredients may not be the same on every skin. Always do a patch test before applying the whole thing on your face.
How often should you use a DIY activated charcoal mask?
Generally speaking, in order to avoid overusing, applying it once a week will do. If you are really oily and you feel like using an activated charcoal mask controls the oil better, maybe you can take it up a notch and use it twice a week. But don’t go overboard with it. Overusing a DIY activated charcoal mask can lead to dryness or sometimes redness.
Other health benefits of activated charcoal
Aside from skincare, activated charcoal has a number of health benefits.
Treating food poisoning, overdoses is one of the most common uses of activated charcoal in medicine. Because activated charcoal tends to adhere other substances to its surface like a magnet, it acts as a shield. So, when harmful components (like drugs, during overdose) are consumed, activated charcoal absorbs those in the gut before they enter the body.
Improving gut problems
Common stomach issues like excess gas, bloating are things that activated charcoal can help you with. It has been proven that activated charcoal helps kill endotoxins that are made by gut bacteria. These endotoxins are responsible for improper food indigestion, especially when your diet predominantly includes carbs.
Great hangover remedy
If you had partied hard last night and can’t seem to get the booze out of your system in the morning, try mixing activated charcoal in the water. It will help with nausea and upset stomach.
Treats insect bites
Insect bites cause the skin to swell and itch. Applying charcoal topically may help with the itchiness, redness that causes the skin to sting.
What are the side effects of activated charcoal for skin?
Activated charcoal isn’t considered the harshest ingredient for skin out there. However, it can lead to dryness, itchiness if you overuse it.
So, technically, there are some side effects of activated charcoal for skin. Do the old but good patch test just to make sure your skin doesn’t react to it. If you don’t see any skin reaction for 2 or 3 hours, go ahead and use it.
Skincare products with activated charcoal
You can come across activated charcoal in different products: face masks that we talked about, cleansers, face washes, and so on.
Activated Charcoal masks: Our top picks
Best activated charcoal masks for dry skin:
Why we love it: Made with bamboo charcoal, it is purifying the skin while not letting it dry out. It is formulated with nourishing ingredients like fermented honey to help smooth out the skin while cleaning out the pores. It is also great for sensitive skin as it is fragrance and paraben-free. Using maks is probably one of the best ways to reap the benefits of activated charcoal for skin.
Why we love it: If your skin is on the dry side, but has some oiliness to it, this one’s for you. It can also be swapped for combination skin. Volcanic ash and activated charcoal make sure you remove all the bad guys out of your pores. At the same time, it is made with soothing ingredients like Hijiki seaweed that nourish the skin. It truly is the best of both worlds!
IMPORTANT: Choose masks with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, shea butter, Vitamin E, jojoba oil.
Best activated charcoal masks for oily/acne-prone skin:
Why we love it: When looking for an activated charcoal mask for oily skin, you need to find one that absorbs excess moisture and moisturizes the skin. Because oily skin needs moisturizing too!
It is made with tea tree oil (the holy grail for oily skin, esp with acne), green tea leaves, clay which makes the A team when combating oily skin. It might be tingling at first when you apply it, don’t freak out. It will go away in 5 minutes or so 🙂
Why we love it: This is a peel-off mask for the oily T zone and nose area where most blackheads and acne break out. It has salicylic acid which is a powerhouse BHA for treating oily skin + charcoal. It is a paraben-free, oil-free mask that reduces the visibility of pores over time.
IMPORTANT: Oily skin needs skincare products with oil-absorbing ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil, bentonite clay. Read the product label and look for those next time you shop for an activated charcoal mask.
Activated charcoal cleansers: Our top picks
Having activated charcoal in your cleansing routine can be a lifesaver. Especially if you are prone to acne and have excess oil on your skin daily.
Why we love it: It is packed with antioxidants like vitamin A, E, aloe vera, and chamomile extract. It is also a fragrance-free, sulfate-free formula that reduces the chance of irritation and promotes skin health. It is not going to leave your skin dry, hyaluronic acid will hydrate the skin and charcoal will remove all the impurities.
Why we love it: Even though it is labeled as men’s face wash, we believe skincare doesn’t have any gender. There are a number of positive reviews from women, so again, no such thing as gender in skincare. For the price point, it is a great substitute for high-end products out there. And it is very versatile, you can choose to use it as a face wash or a mask. It is suitable for all skin types, especially oily/acne-prone skin.
Again, the use of clay – kaolin clay in this Garnier charcoal face wash specifically will target oily skin better and provide anti-bacterial support. Don’t forget to moisturize your skin after removing all the excess dirt and daily pollutant from the surface of your skin.
Despite limited research on the activated charcoal benefits for skin, it is still one of the powerhouse ingredients in skincare regimens of many, particularly oily prone skin. Activated charcoal benefits for skin are definitely a great addition to the skincare market.
Whether you are into DIY activated charcoal masks or store-bought ones, make sure they have the ingredients that agree with your skin. Read the product label and look for the ones we have listed above.
If your skin is super sensitive and you are not sure which product to use, it never hurts to consult with a professional like your dermatologist.