Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Aheli Sen (Fashion & Beauty Expert)  on 29th Sep 2020

Benefits of Using Activated Charcoal for Skin 

Using Activated Charcoal for Skin

Here is the thing. People often use charcoal and activated charcoal in their vocabulary as part of their skincare regime, thinking they are synonyms. They are not. They are two very different compounds and so, before we jump into the benefits of active charcoal on the skin, let us first understand our options. Let us discuss what charcoal and active charcoal are. 

So, What is Charcoal? 

The carbon residue left behind from the partial burning of wood and other organic materials in limited air supply is called charcoal.

Charcoal is a dehydrated element that is mostly used for metallurgy as it enables higher temperatures faster than normal wood. The dehydrated characteristic provides no wastage of energy to first burn out the water present like that in wood. Charcoal has been in use for thousands of years, as a form of paint used first around 30000 BC. 

And so how is activated charcoal different? 

how is activated charcoal different

Activated charcoal is only formed when charcoal is made to heat up to extremely high temperatures. Under such conditions, the compounds and elements with the atoms of carbon are removed, and the binding sites for carbon become free to bind with other incoming molecules and atoms. 

Interesting Fact:

This makes activated charcoal more porous than normal charcoal. The surface area that a spoonful of activated charcoal can cover is about the size of an entire football field because of its porosity. 

To sum up:

  • Activated charcoal is produced at a temperature higher than that to make charcoal.
  • Activated charcoal is more porous than regular charcoal. 
  • Activated charcoal filters material better than charcoal by leaps and bounds.
  • Activated charcoal is used in the medical industry; charcoal more for metallurgy.

Therefore, we come to the point where we can understand the benefits of active charcoal for the skin.

Activated charcoal is such a clickbait these days. And no, we are not just talking about its presence on the internet. Activated charcoal is everywhere. It is in beauty products, toothpaste, to the extent that we even have charcoal ice-cream now. Its reputation precedes itself. Apparently, its detoxifying powers are too good to be not used in just about anything. 

How true is that? 

Activated charcoal is porous enough to bind and absorb chemicals, toxins, and heavy metals due to its large surface area. Due to its binding capacity, it can be used externally on the skin and ingested to remove toxins from the body. It is thus, often used by doctors to treat drug overdose and poisoning.

Okay, now imagine if it can bind to heavy metals and remove heavy drug dosage or poisoning, what it must be doing for the skin! 

Activated Charcoal and its benefits on the skin: 

The thing with activated charcoal is that it works wonders for all skin types. It has something to give to make any skin type looking and feeling even better. Let’s see what these benefits are: 

1. Oily Skin – Skin looks shiny and is acne-prone as the skin cells produce too much sebum (oil)

Activated charcoal’s ability to bind and absorb makes it highly beneficial to people with oily skin as it absorbs the excess oil/sebum that the skin produces.

It also removes any impurities that the excess oil has grasped from the skin, reducing blackheads and stopping new acne formation. This is why many facial cleansers, nose strips, and masks for oily skin now come with activated charcoal in them. 

2. Sensitive Skin – Skin feels irritated at ease; people with such skin type usually have rosacea, eczema and other skin diseases

Activated charcoal does not irritate the skin and has never been found to be an allergen. It thus makes it the perfect compound to use to get rid of impurities from sensitive skin. 

3. Combination Skin – Skin has both oily and dry patches. The t-zone is usually oily, and the cheek region tends to be the rough patch for people with such skin types

Just as activated charcoal works on oily skin, it works on the oily parts of combination skin. It helps reduce the secretion of sebum through absorption and helps reduce blackheads and any upcoming acne on the skin. The usage of charcoal face wash and strips can be helpful.

However, one with such skin type should be careful about applying activated charcoal masks only to their t-zone and not the rough, dry patches. Masks stay on the face for longer than face washes and strips and hence, have the time to remove more oil and grit from the face; long exposure of activated charcoal on dry patches would further dry them out and make the region feel irritated. 

4. Normal Skin – Skin is the perfect balance of being less dry and not too oily; it is soft and supple to the touch

The usage of activated charcoal products in this skin type is for some good TLC. The product can be used all over the face to remove any impurities on the skin from external environmental factors like pollution. Activated charcoal wipes on the go would be a great way to make the skin feeling fresh. 

5. Dry Skin – Skin is the exact opposite of oily skin; it produces less sebum or oil than required, making the skin rough and dry and prone to faster aging

Activated charcoal has an anti-aging property that uses products with the same extremely beneficial for the skin. It enhances collagen and elastin production, helps in the reduction of wrinkles and discoloration.

Thus, it helps in slowing down premature aging. As mentioned before, products without any other component to balance out the extreme binding effect, and have to be on the skin for too long, like face masks, are not recommended for dry skin. These products would soak the little oil that the skin has and make it more dry, patchy, and more irritated. 

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6. Mature Skin – Skin is usually quite dry as it has aged and, thus, does not produce the right amount of oil, collagen, or elastin that results in wrinkle formation and discoloration

Activated charcoal is rich in minerals; it helps tighten pores and enhances the skin’s production of collagen and elastin. This reaction helps the skin to reduce lines, wrinkles, and discoloration. It slows down further aging and rejuvenates the skin. 

Other benefits of activated charcoal:

1. Lowering levels of bad cholesterol

A published paper, The Lancet in 1989, said that people who took 8g of activated charcoal three times a day for four weeks, experience a 41% reduction in LDL cholesterol. Later, the University of Helsinki produced a document that stated that different patients taking different dosages for three weeks every day could reduce 29-41% of their LDL cholesterol. 

2. Relieving symptoms of bloating

Activated charcoal relieves bloating from gas. Several flatus/gas events could be reduced by activated charcoal; a study showed in 1981.

3. Soothes and heals bites

Activated charcoal paste helps absorb venom and infection. How? That’s right. The binding effect that it has! The paste can be applied topically on cuts, scars, bee stings, scabs and minor infections. It helps relieve pain and brings down minor swelling. 

4. Rids hair of toxins

Often, shampoos and conditioners contain activated charcoal to eliminate toxins and layers on the scalp formed from using the same products on the hair for long. It is very gentle for the hair and usually never strips the hair down. 

5. Scalp remedy

activated charcoal shampoos and hair masks help remove oil and dirt from the scalp the same way it does on the face. Hence, it also absorbs away any dandruff-causing bacteria, helping to heal the scalp from redness, blotchiness, itchiness, and flaky skin. 

6. Addition of volume to hair

Oil, and dirt makes hair flat and greasy to look at. As activated charcoal brilliantly removes both oil and dirt, it helps hair go back to its bouncy format as it rids the hair of impurities that weighs it down. This is why dry shampoos often contain activated charcoal, makes the dry shampoos more potent and efficient.

The potency of activated charcoal is extreme. Its usage both topically and through ingestion has proved to help eliminate toxins, impurities, and basically, all things bad for the body. Incorporating the same for skin, hair, and body benefits is thus, recommended. Ingestion dosage should, however, be regulated per prescription and not taken per will.