Breaking down the latest beauty trend: charcoal

Santa is going to have to learn how to share coal. It's not just for the naughty list any more. 

Charcoal is being brought home for more than just BBQing nowadays; it's popping up in all kinds of products, in both low and high-end brands. I've seen activated charcoal in cold-pressed juice form, face cleansers and teeth whitening products. Although I am sure this just scratches the surface.  

Have you ever been tempted to try it? Have you ever wondered the age old question when it comes to beauty products: DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK? Not to worry friends, we're about to get nerdy in here and break it all down. 


First things first, a little history... 

MEDICAL USES OF CHARCOAL:  Long before it became a fad in everyone's personal bathrooms, hospitals used it to treat drug overdose victims, alcohol poisoning, and snake bites.


  • What is it?! In simple terms means that oxygen is added to the charcoal, making it much more porous and have greater surface area. More porous = more spots to snag the bad stuff. 

  •  It's not absorbed by the body, so when taken orally it passes through the stomach, the gut and comes out the other end (I had to use a lot of willpower not to add a poop joke in here...)

  • None of it actually enters your bloodstream or organs. On it's glorious journey through the human body it binds to pretty much anything it can, including toxins, preventing them from being absorbed and causing harm. Voila!

In order for anything to be used in a hospital setting it has to be scientifically proven to be both effective and safe. It's not quite as stringent in the beauty department... I had a difficult time finding hard scientific conclusions on the benefits of activated charcoal in face cleansers. BUT, if activated charcoal has these properties when taken orally, it makes sense that it would also have similar effects when applied topically to the skin. The concept is similar: charcoal has the ability to bind to ickyness on the skin and therefore remove it when you wash off the cleanser. 


At the end of the day: I'm a fan of the cleansers I've tried with activated charcoal! No significant difference in the quality of my skin but no breakouts either.