What You Need to Know About Using Activated Charcoal on Your Skin


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Upon hearing the word charcoal, one might think of a summer barbecue or even a cozy fireplace during the coldest winters. Charcoal is used in both scenarios, cooking up your delicious cheeseburger or keeping that flame burning and alive all night. But did you ever think of using it for your skincare routine?

Charcoal is a form of carbon that has small, low-volume pores with increased surface area for absorption and chemical reactions. It can be derived from a variety of substances, including coal, coconut shells, bamboo, olive pits, and sawdust.

Benefits of Activated Charcoal on Your Skin


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Lately, it seems to be a craze in beauty products, so we asked dermatologists how it could make your skin glow. Erin Gilbert, MD, Ph.D., FAAD, a Vichy celebrity dermatologist, explains the science behind activated charcoal: "Its ability to bind impurities that are found on the skin surface and in blackheads such as dirt, toxins, and heavy metals is due to charcoal's negative charge and large surface area."

When charcoal is "activated" at high temperatures, its porousness is increased significantly. Because of this, it increases the use cases of this ingredient in a variety of fields including as a medical treatment for poisoning in humans, water filtration, air purification, and many others, shares Gilbert.


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Who would benefit from charcoal? Gilbert recommends charcoal for people with blackheads, those who live in areas with a lot of pollution like big cities, or those with oily skin who tend to pick up a lot of residue on their skin. Before you start using the products, you might want to check with your doctor or dermatologist about any side effects, like irritation.

Using a charcoal beauty product helps your complexion by removing impurities. However, don't think that this will just strip your skin desert-dry. Gilbert shares, "The best products actually leave your skin feeling smoother, softer, and reduce the appearance of pores by cleaning out blackheads." Other products may have textured charcoal granules that work as a scrub and exfoliator.

How to Use It in Your Skincare Routine


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As far as a beauty skincare routine goes, activated charcoal masks are best after cleansing your skin and before you apply the rest of your skincare products such as serums, moisturizers, and oils. Gilbert recommends this cadence of use: "Masks or products that contain activated charcoal without other drying ingredients like clay or alpha hydroxy acids can be used every day if desired. However, since the masking ritual usually takes a bit of time, it tends to be more practical to use them several times a week. They are best used in the evening when you have a bit more time to let them sit."

Activated Charcoal Products

If you want to try out some products, take a look at some of our recommendations below.


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions.