Charcoal, the new beauty must-have

16 June 2017 by
First published: 26 June 2017

WHL investigates the beauty ingredient on everyone’s lips – charcoal, the new beauty must-have

We all watched the strangely compelling videos on Facebook and Instagram that saw beauty lovers peeling a thick, black mask from their faces, blackheads and skin gunk effortlessly going with it. But what started as a social media craze has since created a market to be reckoned with. Today, countless masks, cleansers, facial scrubs, and even toothpastes boast charcoal as their magic ingredient. ‘When you think of charcoal your mind immediately goes to burnt toast or BBQs, not skincare,’ admits Lisa de-la-Plain, professional beauty therapist and co-founder of the online beauty site, Beauty Flash. ‘However, the use of charcoal for skin beautifying purposes is the latest skincare breakthrough.’

How does it work?

Is it a fad? Far from, it turns out. ‘The variety that is used in products is known as activated charcoal, which is very absorbent,’ explains Lisa. Activated charcoal is simply carbon that has been treated to increase its absorbency – and it’s this that holds the secret to its effectiveness. ‘The key to its efficacy lies in its ability to attach itself to toxins. Because toxins stick to the activated charcoal, it makes a good candidate for a deep cleanser and detoxifier,’ says Lisa. Proof of its abilities, charcoal has long been used in hospitals for this same reason. ‘Activated charcoal is administered in hospitals as emergency treatment for poisoning; as toxins bind to it, it can help remove them from the body before they reach the blood stream,’ says Lisa.

What are the benefits?

The Facebook videos didn’t lie – deep cleansing and detoxifying is indeed charcoal’s primary beauty benefit. Peeling masks usually have the best results, but if you prefer something slightly less harsh, opt for a clay formula. Charcoal can also be found in daily cleansers and facial scrubs for similar results. Because its efficacy relies on it sticking to toxins, the longer it’s on the skin, the better the results.

The ingredient can also be used to help ease spots, pores and acne-prone skin. ‘If you’re dealing with acne-prone skin, charcoal can effectively cleanse it of excess sebum, dirt, and bacteria, crushing the likelihood of future spots,’ says Lisa. ‘If large and obvious pores are getting you down, it can tighten them and reduce their visibility.’ Live in a city? Charcoal can tackle pollution-ridden skin, too. ‘For those of you who are panicking about what living in big cities is doing to your skin and health, then charcoal can swoop in, detoxifying and rejuvenating a lacklustre complexion.’

But its abilities don’t stop there. Charcoal can also be used as a great natural teeth whitener, as it can work to remove surface stains and whiten teeth. Don’t expect dramatic results, but as a natural alternative to bleach, charcoal does the job.

A natural choice

The best bit? Whether you suffer from sensitive skin or are simply becoming more aware of what you’re putting on your skin, charcoal makes for a great natural choice. ‘It’s all natural and won’t add new chemicals to your skin when you use it,’ explains Lisa. ‘Simply, this means less [sic] negative reactions for your skin and less risk of your pores being clogged with a new ingredient.’

And so the charcoal love affair continues…