If you’ve spent any time on social media in the past year, chances are you’ve seen something about charcoal. Now personally, our first thought on charcoal is a flash to a yummy burger grilling up on a charcoal grill, but this is a whole new beast entirely! Charcoal is fastly becoming part of beauty regimens everywhere. Take a quick stroll down the beauty aisle in most stores and you’ll likely see a charcoal product related to skincare or other various beauty products. So what is it about charcoal that’s so great, and where can you find it in stores?
What is it
The general gist of charcoal is quite simple: It absorbs. If you’ve had a sick pup who’s eaten too much chocolate by accident, your vet probably prescribed activated charcoal to soak up the toxins. In humans, charcoal has been used to soak up and absorb other toxins as well, like alcohol and drugs.
This means that when applied to health and beauty products, the idea of soaking up the bad stuff applies as well. Activated charcoal is essentially just charcoal treated at a high temperature, and also removes any substance that can be toxic to humans.
Ways to use it
Using activated charcoal for teeth whitening looks a bit counterproductive. The dark, almost black colour on your pearly whites needs to sit there for a couple of minutes before it starts working its magic, so just try not to look at the scary sight in the mirror until you rinse! The most effective way to use it for whitening is to mix the charcoal powder with a bit of water until it forms a paste. Brush or dab onto your teeth and leave on for at least of a couple of minutes.
You can also find some toothpastes that have charcoal already included in it, which can be an easier way to include charcoal into your beauty routine. Please be aware that some sources warn of the abrasiveness of charcoal, and advise that only very fine powder versions of charcoal should be used on your teeth. A more coarse powder can damage the enamel on your teeth, which is irreversible. There also have not been any formal studies done on the effectiveness of charcoal, which should be kept in mind as well.
If you spend any time on Instagram you’ve likely seen the famous Blaq mask or one just like it being trialed by celebrities and bloggers. The thick, black paste is smeared onto your face and left for several minutes to harden onto your face. Peeling back the mask will often show the blackheads and other skin fragments that stick to the mask, supposedly revealing clearer skin. Again, the idea here is that the charcoal in the mask will help uproot any clogged pores and bind to anything else that you don’t want in or on your skin. Try one of these highly rated charcoal masks for a fairly affordable option.
Activated charcoal body wash or body soap is a great way to reduce pore sizes, clean them out, and slough off dead skin with an exfoliating agent. The same effect that charcoal has on your face will be for your body as well, and help with any acne on the body.
Charcoal capsules are often used to help treat low grade overdoses, and you can get them over the counter at your chemist. Some people swear by them as a hangover pill, and others swear by their cholesterol reducing affect. The main point here is that if you are concerned you’ve overdosed on any substance, do not rely on charcoal capsules to fix it, and get yourself to your nearest emergency room as soon as possible. There may be a few side effects to ingesting charcoal capsules, as well as interference with other drugs you may take, so make sure to consult your doctor prior to taking them.
Charcoal can also help out your hair with detoxifying benefits. When it comes to your hair, our biggest problem points tend to be extra oily skin and build up from shampoos and other hair products. Charcoal hair products will help cut through these things and detox your scalp and hair. While charcoal won’t necessarily be found in things like products for thinning hair, take a look at these great hair charcoal products to start with that can help with that detox and oil reduction.
Besides beauty, activated charcoal is taking the rest of the body by storm as well. We’ve already mentioned the drug and alcohol poisoning treatment, but charcoal has also been reportedly used for hangover prevention and bodily gas reduction. The jury is still out on if they’re actually effective in these treatments, as again no formal study has been conducted.
Some patients have tried using activated charcoal as a way to help promote kidney function, as the charcoal binds to the toxins and exits your body safely with the toxins. Healthy kidneys will be able to filter toxins out themselves, however with low kidney function, using charcoal to supplement could be extremely beneficial if eventually studied and proven effective.
Essentially, all of the above treatments and beauty products have not been proven effective with any formal scientific studies to date. There have been low scale studies on most, if not all of them, however it is too early to know if there are other effects on the body, or if they’re actually effective at all.
Charcoal is unlikely to have negative properties when used topically, versus ingesting it, so use your own discretion when it comes to topical beauty products like face masks and teeth whitening. When it comes to effectiveness, you’ll just have to try it out for yourself! Everybody is different, and just like all beauty products, be prepared to try multiple products and see what works best for you.