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Activated Charcoal: Everything You Need To Know

Becky De Graaf activated charcoal facial wash skincare

activated charcoal on white background

You may have noticed products containing activated charcoal popping up on shelves more often these days. Maybe you're wondering if it's just a passing fad, or if there really are some serious benefits to using it. If you're curious about what activated charcoal is, and how it can be a great thing to add to your skincare routine, read on to learn more!

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Activated charcoal has been touted as a cure-all and has been used for medicinal purposes for hundreds of years. It's made by using carbon (from natural sources), combining it with different gases, and exposing it to very high temperatures, which "activates" it. Therefore, this process is called activation. Through this, the carbon develops pores on its surface, which increase the surface area of the carbon. This large increase in surface area is what gives activated charcoal it's beneficial properties. Carbon has a negative electrical charge, which makes it attract positively charged molecules, like harmful toxins and gases. All the little pores help it trap toxins very effectively.

Because of this, activated charcoal has long been used as a treatment when humans or pets ingest poisons or other harmful substances, like alcohol. Because toxins are ever present in nearly everything around us, using activated charcoal begins to make sense. Taking it internally can reduce the toxins in our bodies, and using it in body washes, soaps and face makes can eliminate toxins on the surface of our skin. When you see activated charcoal in food or beauty products, it is most often made of organic sources that have high carbon contents, like coconut husks or hardwood. On it's own, it is a black powder, but it can be taken internally in capsules, or can be added to products like toothpaste, face wash, face masks, or soaps.

It may sound slightly odd to you to use or ingest something that contains charcoal, as charcoal is usually thought of as a fuel source for grills. The charcoal used for briquettes, however, have additional chemicals added to them, and are not heated or treated to become activated. Never confuse charcoal for grills and fire pits with the activated charcoal that is safe for consumption. As long as you're well aware of what's in the activated carbon you're using, it's perfectly fine to use on your face and in your body.

How Does Activated Charcoal Work For Skin?

Now that you know what activated charcoal is, what it's made of, and how it works, you may be wondering how to incorporate it into your daily routine. The great news is that there are tons of fantastic ways to improve your skin using activated charcoal. In fact, it's a beauty secret that many people swear by! Activated charcoal can be used to:

  • Treat acne - depending on the severity of the acne you have, and what it's caused by, activated charcoal can bring you some relief. When used in soaps, it adds a gentle grit that can help exfoliate, and whisk away dirt and oils.
  • Improve oily skin - when you use activated charcoal in a mask or face wash, it can bind to the oils on your skin and harmlessly wash them away.
  • Shrink pores - when used in a face mask, activated charcoal can help to pull toxins out of your pores. It's the oil and dirt that makes its home in your pores that make them appear huge, so when activated charcoal does it's job, your pores will appear smaller.
  • Clean your skin deeply - activated charcoal's exfoliating properties, along with its ability to bind with toxins, will leave your face feeling fresh and brand new!
  • Relieve painful cuts, scrapes, and insect bites - bee stings, bug bites, or scrapes can be painful and annoying. When applied as a paste, activated charcoal can promote healing, relieve minor pain, and bring down areas of swelling, as it removes any venom or bacteria from the wound.

becky's activated charcoal soap

If you're interested in using activated charcoal as part of your skincare routine, but are wary of the commercial products available, you're in good company! You can find plenty of recipes to make charcoal masks at home. At one time it was hard to find activated charcoal except in health food stores, but now it's becoming more common in other stores, or you can buy it over the internet. Make sure you read up on the source of the charcoal, though, as you want to make sure it's as natural as possible. Here's a great recipe for a simple charcoal mask.

You'll need:

  • 1 teaspoon activated charcoal
  • ½ teaspoon bentonite clay (like activated charcoal, bentonite clay is great at removing toxins and impurities from your skin)
  • 1 tablespoon gelatin (gelatin is loaded with collagen, which is a key ingredient to healthy, young-looking skin)
  • 2 tablespoons water

Once you have your ingredients, combine the water and gelatin together in a small microwave safe container or dish. After that, mix in the activated charcoal and bentonite clay WITHOUT using a metal spoon or utensil of any kind. Stir everything together until it's smooth, and then microwave in ten second intervals until the mixture is thick enough to apply like a paste to your face.

Once the mixture has cooled, apply it to your clean, dry face, staying away from especially sensitive areas. The mask can hurt or pull a little when you're removing it, so put it only on areas where you will see a lot of benefit. As the mask dries, it will start to feel tight on your skin. A thin layer of the mask can dry in just a few minutes, but a thicker layer may take an hour, so keep this in mind if your time is limited. Once the mask is dry, starting with your forehead, carefully peel or roll away the mask. If any part is painful, simply wash it away with warm water. The mask will pull out impurities, toxins, and blackheads with ease!

If you're looking for a great pre-made soap try this Activated Charcoal Facial Soap. It's loaded with tons of beneficial ingredients that will leave you clean, free of toxins, and feeling fresh!

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