Sometimes a certain beauty ingredient will start getting a ton of buzz. All of a sudden, every product will be infused with this much-heralded extract, oil or essence. Existing products will start advertising that they include this magical ingredient, and new versions of products will pop up to capitalize on all of that ingredient attention. This new little series I’m doing aims to demystify buzzed-about beauty ingredients so you will KNOW if you need to try these products or not, instead of getting caught up in unnecessary hype! This is Beauty Ingredient Breakdown.
First up, CHARCOAL.
We’re not talking about the briquettes that you may use on the grill, exactly. Charcoal can be used in SO many ways! Let’s get all the way into it, shall we?
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What is charcoal, exactly?
“Charcoal is a light, black residue, consisting of carbon and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen,” via Wikipedia.
The kind that’s used on the grill is typically made from sawdust from wood mills. Food grade and skincare grade charcoal is most often activated charcoal. Activated charcoal has been heated or treated to increase its adsorptive power, and the most popular varieties are often made from bamboo or coconut — both varieties claim to have specific health and beauty benefits, in terms of adsorbing toxins and impurities.
How can you use charcoal for beauty and health at home?
I just bought some coconut activated charcoal powder via Amazon, and I’m about to experiment. The plan is to incorporate it into tooth-brushing, and to use it for DIY masks. The brand I linked to actually sends their customers a really helpful e-book with recipes and tips for use for your teeth or on your skin — click to buy via Amazon. So far I tried it out as a simple mask and tooth-brushing solution, and it is MESSY y’all. If you’re using this for all-over body, you may want to lay down some newspaper on your bathroom floor first. Know that a pure charcoal powder mask will linger on your skin, and you really have to rub it off. Know that your teeth will look scary in the tooth-brushing process. But afterwards, your mouth will feel fresh and clean and there really isn’t any flavor to complain about. And your skin will be so soft!
I reached out to a selection of beauty and health experts for their top tips regarding this particular beauty ingredient – here they are!
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Manjula Jegasothy, MD, dermatologist and founder of Miami Skin Institute: “Charcoal is a great detoxifier when you eat or drink it because food particles bind to it. That’s why hospitals use it for alcohol poisoning and why it’s great as part of a cleanse. Try mixing coconut water with charcoal for that cleansing benefit that also results in clearer skin.
I do a charcoal mask before I perform chemical peels with glycolic acid as charcoal particles prevent glycolic components from going too deep into the skin, particularly for darker skin types that don’t generally tolerate glycolic acid. This way the skin still benefits from the hydrating effects of glycolic acid, but prevents the acid from penetrating too deeply to cause pigmentation issues. It can either cause inflammation, in which hyperpigmentation results as the skin heals itself, or a loss of pigmentation.
A thin layer of charcoal can also be applied on the face before applying thick stage or clown makeup as it adds a nice barrier to the skin, preventing irritation. I also like charcoal as an ingredient in eye makeup as it’s very inert compared to other stones like mica or quartz. Those are more irritating and can cause eyelid dermatitis. In Indian culture, we’ve used charcoal eyeliner for centuries, even to rim the waterline as it’s very safe. However, there is no solid clinical data supporting its claims in detoxifying masks or cleansers. On the skin, charcoal sits on top of the stratum corneum, the outer barrier to the skin.”
Yoli Ouliya, Founder & Chief Eco Officer at YolisGreenLiving.com: “When using activated charcoal for internal use, its benefits are most certainly noticed when experiencing issues dealing with the ingestion of toxins such as poisoning. The charcoal works as an absorbent of many organic and inorganic chemicals and removes them. So in the case of food poisoning, the charcoal will absorb the bacteria. Activated charcoal is beneficial with digestive disorders ranging from gas and bloating to dealing with bacteria that creates diarrhea. New studies have also shown activated charcoal to help reduced bad cholesterol LDL and an increase in good cholesterol, HDL over a period of 4 weeks.
It should not be taken within 2 hours of taking medication or vitamins as it will prevent the body from absorbing. When taking the charcoal, it is important that you also flush the body with water between 14-16 cups of water otherwise it could lead to dehydration.
For external use, it can be used to remove the toxins of an insect bite. Charcoal works as a natural teeth whitener as it binds to plaque…For an overall cleansing and to support low energy/fatigue, I’d recommend starting with 250mg with a large glass of water for a general “sweeping” of bacteria. If you plan to eat at 9 am, take by 7 am. Best practice if to have a glass of water and one capsule on your night table and take it upon rising. Again, do not mix, take with medications or vitamins.”
Sarah Ribner, co-founder of PiperWai, a natural deodorant that incorporates activated charcoal: “Our charcoal creme deodorant runs in clear for all skin tones. Also, darker skin sometimes experiences hyperpigmentation from acne scars or razor cuts, and PiperWai is very conditioning. Especially the vitamin E helps with scar reduction, and I’ve noticed my razor bumps/scars minimized after using PiperWai for several months. In general, activated charcoal is super absorbent and our formulation is incredibly effective at minimizing wetness and odor.”
Indie Lee, Beauty Expert & founder of eponymous skincare line: “Charcoal has been used for its medicinal benefits for thousands of years, as far back as the ancient Egyptian and Roman empires, especially for its effective and safe treatment of poisoning and drug overdoses. Over the past few years, it has cropped up in beauty products and has recently become the new IT beauty ingredient. Its results have been proven with respect to its ability to bind to toxins for intestinal health.
Detoxification is a huge goal of the beauty and wellness industries in 2016 and charcoal is well known for acting like a magnet to help trap chemicals and prevent absorption of toxins. It seems like new charcoal beauty offerings are appearing almost weekly – be it soaps, sponges or masks. Since beauty is not just skin deep, it is also no surprise to be seeing detoxification capsules and tooth whiteners with charcoal lining shelves at spas, health food stores and even some supermarkets.”
Indie also shared a REALLY easy and helpful mask recipe — you can also substitute jojoba for yogurt or even honey!
Indie Lee‘s DIY Charcoal Mask
½ tsp activated charcoal
½ tsp Bentonite clay
1 Tsp Jojoba Oil
1 drop tea tree oil
‘Mix charcoal and clay in small mixing bowl. Add jojoba and tea tree oil and mix thoroughly. Apply to cleansed face. Let dry for 15 minutes and rinse.’ -Indie Lee
Thanks, Indie! And thanks to all of the other experts.
Lately I’ve been trying out a variety of charcoal-infused beauty ingredients – even charcoal matcha tea, made by The Republic of Tea. These are a few of my favorites in charcoal beauty. Please tell me yours!
If you use charcoal in your beauty or health and wellness regimen, share your tips and recipes with me in the comments!