Say what? Charcoal? The black stuff? Yes, I know, it sounds a bit bizarre but activated charcoal is NOT the same as the stuff you use for a BBQ! Activated charcoal is a very fine black powder that you can usually buy from health stores or pharmacies. There are also many beauty products that contain activated charcoal as a purifying and cleansing agent.
Please don’t use charcoal briquettes as a beauty product. It’s not the same thing and is full of chemicals that are harmful.
Activated charcoal is usually made of bamboo, coconut shell or wood among other things. It is burned at very high temperatures and low oxygen levels until it is reduced to a black powder that is mostly carbon. It is then treated with chemicals or steam to further purify it and to change its molecular structure. It becomes very porous which allows it to absorb other substances so effectively.
It is commonly used to treat drug overdoses or poisonings because it bonds with the foreign substance and allows it to be expelled. It can also be used to help draw out the venom from a snake or spider bite to delay symptoms until a doctor can be reached.
You can buy activated charcoal capsules to help with excess gas, flatulence and stomach bugs as well. Be careful when taking it however because it can bond with vitamins and mineral supplements and expel them as well. It also helps to take the itch out of insect bites.
You can buy the activated charcoal powder from many pharmacies and health food stores as well as tablets and capsules. Activated charcoal is mostly tasteless, odourless and safe to consume in small quantities for stomach ailments.
Here are a few ways that you can use activated charcoal powder in your skincare routine:
BIG PLEASE NOTE: Activated charcoal will stain light colored clothing, wash cloths and towels. You also want to wipe it away if you spill it on any surfaces. It’s also not good to inhale activated charcoal so don’t use the dry powder around your face. Always use it as part of a mixture.
You can add half a teaspoon of activated charcoal to your facial cleanser. Splash your skin with warm water and apply. Leave your cleansing mixture to work for a few minutes longer to allow the charcoal to bond with any impurities or oils on your skin.
You can also make your own cleanser:
1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal
1 tablespoon aloe vera gel
2 drops tea tree oil
Mix all the ingredients together. Splash your face with warm water and apply the mixture to your skin in gentle circular motions. Avoid the eye area. Leave it to work for two minutes and rinse with warm water.
A drug store option is Creighton’s Charcoal Purifying Facial Cleanser which is cheap and cheerful at around £2 online.
For oily skin
Because activated charcoal bonds with oils and impurities it will absorb excess oil on the skin surface. Don’t overdo it though, you can dry out your skin if you use this treatment more than twice a week.
You can make a paste out of a tablespoon of activated charcoal and a little water and apply it to your skin for 5 – 10 minutes but there is a more nourishing way too:
1 tablespoon activated charcoal
1 teaspoon coconut oil
2 drops rose essential oil
1 teaspoon rice flour – (simply grind a tablespoon of rice in a coffee grinder until it forms a fine powder)
Water to form a paste
Mix your ingredients together and apply it to your skin. Leave it to work until it dries slightly. The mixture won’t dry all the way so don’t leave it on for hours. 20 – 30 minutes is usually enough. Rinse with warm water and use a wash cloth to help take it off. This mixture does stain though, so use an old one or something in a dark color.
If you find that you have clogged pores and whiteheads you might need a good cleanse to draw out impurities and clear up your skin.
1 teaspoon activated charcoal
1 teaspoon Witchazel
2 drops tea tree oil
1 teaspoon honey
If it’s too runny you can add rice flour or oatmeal to make a paste. Apply the mixture to your skin and allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse away with warm water and then splash with cool. You can gently remove the mask with a washcloth but don’t over exfoliate your skin. This can just cause more infection.
Another alternative is a activated charcoal and Bentonite clay mask. Mix 1 teaspoon activated charcoal with 2 teaspoons of Bentonite clay. Add a teaspoon of honey and a little water to form a paste. Apply it to your skin and leave on until it becomes tacky. Don’t leave it on until it is bone dry because the clay will start to draw moisture out of your skin. This goes for all clay masks.
This one is really easy. Simply add a small amount of activated charcoal to your toothpaste and use it to brush your teeth in gentle circular motions. Make sure that the charcoal is properly mixed with your toothpaste so you don’t breathe it in and don’t scrub your teeth with the mixture because it is quite abrasive and can damage your teeth if you are too rough.
For a more intensive treatment, you can mix a teaspoon of activated charcoal powder with a little water to form a paste. Gently dab it onto your teeth with your finger and spread it around. Leave it on for 3 minutes or so then rinse your mouth thoroughly before you brush your teeth. Do not scrub your teeth with this mixture, you will damage the enamel. The paste will absorb and lift away particles that stain the teeth. No need to scrub.
This will look pretty horrible while you are doing it but the activated charcoal will help to remove plaque and stains from coffee, food and red wine.
As we get older our bodies produce less collagen and elastin which is why we get wrinkles. We lose firmness and volume in our skin because we have fewer of these elastic fibres to preserve the texture.
Then there are all the outside factors like environmental damage due to sun, chemicals and our diet.
Activated charcoal, when applied to the skin will bind with damaging toxins or draw them out of our pores so that they can be washed away.
Green Tea and Activated Charcoal Mask
1 teaspoon activated charcoal
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil (substitute coconut or olive oil)
1 green tea bag or a teaspoon of green tea leaves
2 tablespoons hot water
Remove the tea leaves from the tea bag and place them in a small glass bowl. Add enough hot water to cover the leaves and allow them to expand. When the water has cooled and you have strong tea mixture, add the activated charcoal and the teaspoon of grapeseed oil. Use a small wooden spoon or the handle of a wooden spoon to mash the ingredients together to form a paste. Apply the mask to your face and neck and leave on for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse the mask away with warm water and gently pat dry.
Try to use wooden or glass implements when mixing your ingredients as metal ones can interact with the charge of the activated charcoal molecules. It’s not harmful to you but it makes it less effective at trapping other substances.