10 Benefits of Charcoal For Skin

Wondering about the benefits of charcoal for skin? Hint: the jury is still out.

One of the trendiest ingredients in skincare lately has been charcoal. Activated charcoal has been popping up in everything from cleansers to face masks to acne treatments to pore strips. If you suspend just a little bit of belief there are a whole slew of different benefits of charcoal for your skin.
The benefits of charcoal for the skin

Charcoal in skincare isn’t anything like the stuff you would use to light a grill. That’s just plain old charcoal which is made by essentially cooking wood. To make activated charcoal you need to literally activate it either physically or chemically. Or, you know, you can just buy activated charcoal from the store like the rest of us.

The benefits of charcoal for the skin

Activated charcoal has been used for medical purposes for years, so it makes sense that it would work its way into commercial skincare. The medical benefits of charcoal mostly boil down to it’s ability to absorb toxins. This works for certain ingested toxins like alcohol poisoning or some drug overdoses.

The benefits of charcoal for the skin

As for topical skincare, you’ll find many experts are split on the subject. Some think highly of the many different benefits of charcoal for skin and beauty, and some don’t agree that it’s helpful at all.

In fact, Dr. Craig Kraffert, a board certified dermatologist and president of Amarte shares that, “activated charcoal is typically added to skin care products as a natural way to rid toxins like dirt and oil.”

But there are also experts that are totally behind using charcoal to benefit the skin. Board Certified NYC dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman gave us a whole host of reasons to try charcoal in skincare. She said “Activated charcoal has both antibacterial and antifungal properties. It helps unclog pores; it absorbs environmental pollutants, oil and dirt off the skin and detoxifies it.” So let’s get into it, here are the top ten benefits of charcoal for skin you need to know about.

1. Anti-Bacterial

For acne sufferers, particularly for younger people, bacteria can have a large role in causing pimples. As we age it can change from simple bacteria and oil production to hormonal causes of acne. Although charcoal can’t do anything to help out hormonal causes it can help for surface bacteria like the p acnes bacterium. Dr. Jaliman suggests using a charcoal infused face mask saying, “it’s best used as a mask to draw out impurities from your pores.” We’re big fans of the Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask for just this purpose.

2. Anti-Fungal

The anti-fungal properties of activated charcoal are extremely useful for some, but not necessarily for all of us. Fungal infections of the skin are usually the product of yeast (candidiasis), and other issues like ringworm (not caused by actual worms, FYI) and the ever so fun Jock Itch. Most of the time these issues need to be diagnosed by a doctor that can help to get you a topical treatment plan.

3. Helps Unclog Pores

Clogged pores and skin congestion can be another issue that prevents you from having clear, glowing skin. Using a clay based face mask with charcoal, like that Origins mask or a peel off mask like the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask can help. The clay or the action of peeling off the mask alongside the activated charcoal helps to unclog pores.

4. Absorbs Environmental Pollutants

If you live in a bustling city, environmental pollutants may become an issue you need to address with skincare. In fact, in a study found in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, women living in urban environments had more wrinkles and dark spots compared to women in rural areas. Activated charcoal is well known for it’s ability to absorb toxins.

5. Absorbs Oil

Dr. Jaliman said that “charcoal is good when used for oily skin since it helps get rid of the excess oil which can reduce acne.” This is another one of those times that a face mask with activated charcoal is going to be your BFF. Charcoal along with clay can help to absorb oil in your skin. You know those dark spots on your nose that pop up when doing a face mask? Yeah, that’s oil.

6. Detoxify Skin

If you are concerned about toxins in your skin (it is your largest organ after all) an activated charcoal mask can’t hurt. This can go back not only to environmental pollutants but a little excess partying too. Certainly a face mask can’t cure your hangover but a charcoal sheet mask can help make you look a little more alive!

7. Exfoliation

Did you know that activated charcoal has a much larger surface area than regular charcoal? That surface area helps in all sorts of things from absorbing toxins and could even aid in exfoliation.  Dr. Jaliman says “its antimicrobial properties aid in removing the dead skin cells off your face.” This helps cell turnover and gives you a clearer complexion.

8. Soothe Bug Bite/Irritation

Heading into the less preventative skincare arena, let’s chat about using charcoal on bug bites. If you are bit by a bug that leaves you itching and scratching, a charcoal poultice may help. Because it can draw out toxins, it can help you out in itchy situations.

9. Whiten Teeth 

Sure, tooth care isn’t skincare, but charcoal definitely can help you in the toothy arena. According to Patrice Le Maire, president of CURAPROX, “Charcoal acts as a magnet by ‘pulling’ stains off teeth to restore a natural white smile.” Black tooth paste may seem counterintuitive but it can help for more than just stain removal.

10. Strengthen Teeth and Fill Cavities

Le Maire also said, “It’s safe to replace with your regular toothpaste as it contains many of the same effective ingredients such as sodium fluoride and non-hydroxyapatite, which helps strengthen teeth, decrease the effects of acid, bacteria and plaque buildup, and can also even fill in incipient cavities.” No cavities and whiter teeth? Sign us right up.

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Bio: She’s a New Orleans based beauty writer, nail polish hoarder, and doughnut enthusiast. When she isn’t camping out in her local coffee shop for hours on end, you’ll probably find her taking selfies in front of every colorful wall she’s ever seen. Follow along on Twitter and Instagram @themercuteify.