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You might know some of the tried-and-true plant-based ingredients as skincare favorites — tea tree oil for acne, witch hazel as a toner, lavender to heal cuts and scrapes — but what about activated charcoal? 

Activated charcoal is a fine black powder that’s made from a variety of ingredients, which can include bamboo or coconut shells, peat, coal, or even olive pits. Dr. Keira Barr, Founder and Chief Wellness Officer of the Resilient Health Institute, specializes in holistic skincare. She says that the substances in activated charcoal are heated to very high temperatures with very low oxygen concentrations, which makes it extremely porous at the cellular level. That is what allows the charcoal to absorb toxins and carry them out of the body.”

Although you can purchase activated charcoal in powdered form on its own, many products, like deodorant, soap, and toothpaste, already have it included among its other ingredients. Dr. Barr explains that for skincare, activated charcoal can used for exfoliation, absorbing odors, mattifying the skin, and soaking up impurities. 

She shares four ways that activated charcoal can be beneficial to the skin. Incorporate it into your routine and you could have healthy, glowing skin before you know it. 

1. Reduce Odor

If you aren’t feeling so fresh, products with activated charcoal can be applied to the skin to help adsorb those odors (yep, with a d, known as the process where the ingredient binds to contaminents in your body and draws them out). Dr. Barr notes, Activated charcoal’s porous surface may help bind small odorous compounds, which is why it’s added to products like deodorants and foot powders.” 

2. Clarify Skin 

Many acne sufferers swear by activated charcoal to clear and brighten skin. Dr. Barr explains that more studies need to be done in this area, and says, While there may not be hard evidence to support charcoal’s use in acne, it likely won’t hurt it either.” 

This is especially true for people who deal with acne and sensitive skin. Dr. Barr says, Charcoal is inert, so it shouldn’t irritate sensitive skin even more. I know this to be true from my own experience using it.” 

Dr. Barr adds that masks made with charcoal also typically include a clay like kaolin or French red or green clay, which has been shown to bind to sebum.

3. Exfoliate

Activated charcoal can be a good exfoliator choice if you have delicate skin. Dr. Barr explains, Even with a lack of published research, anecdotal evidence plays a role, and if people are experiencing a skin benefit without irritation or adverse effects, they can give it a try.” 

She goes on to say, Activated charcoal powder is slightly gritty and can be used as a gentle skin exfoliant. Exfoliation gets rid of the dead skin cells that make your skin appear dull and helps your skin appear refreshed and renewed.” 

4. Bust Bacteria

Dr. Barr shares that activated charcoal has antifungal and antibacterial” properties. 

Activated charcoal is used especially for gut issues to influence the gut microbiome and help get rid of toxins,” she says. This ingredient is used on the skin with a similar intention, to help absorb environmental toxin exposure and help influence the skin microbiome.” 

If you’re facing a breakout, activated charcoal could be helpful in eliminating the bacteria from those blemishes. 

The bottom line? Activated charcoal is known to be a transformative part of your skincare routine, and it can be an effective way to improve your skin.


Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.