Charcoal isn’t only for barbecues, nor is it a toothpaste-only ingredient designed to make those pearly whites sparkle. Activated charcoal is a popular ingredient found in most skin care products and grooming goods you spot on the drug store shelves. And you’ve probably heard of it (we’d put money on it that you have), but what’s the deal with it?
Activated charcoal deserves to be named one of the MVPs of skincare, and we’re here to tell you why.
What is Charcoal?
Charcoal is the byproduct of burning a carbon source, like wood or coconut shells. The substance then becomes “activated” by high temperatures. When combined with gas and said-high temperatures, the surface area expands— resulting in a material with millions of tiny pores (imagine a microscopic sponge) that capture, bind, and remove toxins, excessive dirt, and oil. Thus, activated charcoal is born.
In its most common form, charcoal powder is categorized as an absorbent ingredient type, and you’ll see why as you continue reading below.
What does activated charcoal do for your skin?
Activated charcoal has been around for centuries, but you may know it best for its gained popularity in consumer markets like personal care, health, and beauty.
Remember how we just mentioned the charcoal has an expanded surface area? That increased surface area really gets its time to shine when it comes to your skin.
The purifying naturally derived ingredient acts like a magnet— picking up and pulling out dirt, oil, and impurities from your skin. It even gently exfoliates away dry, dead skin cells without irritating or over-drying. Activated charcoal helps absorb toxins and excess dirt, which helps mattify oily skin and leave behind a smooth, shine-free appearance.
The ingredient even goes all Star Wars on us by using its molecular dispersion force to double as a stickiness. What sounds like something intense that would happen on the Millennium Falcon is actually pretty simple. Basically, activated charcoal uses its negative charge to attract positively charged molecules (aka toxins), creating this “stickiness” that is able to cling to these substances and draw them out of the skin and body. Even modern medicine gets in on the activated charcoal action.
5 skin benefits of activated charcoal
So, we get that activated charcoal can draw out all the gunk in our skin (and that’s especially helpful for the guys who like to stay active and spend as much time as possible outside) but, how else is it beneficial?
Here are four things activated charcoal could help you (and your skin) with.
Fun(ish?) fact: The ingredient is commonly used to manage overdoses and poisoning. Drugs and toxins can bind to it, therefore ridding the body of these unwanted substances. Pretty cool, huh?
Helps Clear Up Acne
Need we say more?
We will anyway. Activated charcoal is most well-known for its potential to improve acne-prone skin when combined with salicylic acid. These ingredients work together to suck out all the excess oil, dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells just chillin’ in our pores.
Think back to that increased surface area we already mentioned. Remember the million tiny pores like a sponge? Yeah, those qualities are what help improve your skin and clear it up by absorbing all that acne-causing bacteria that often triggers pimples, redness, and irritation
Activated charcoal is great for removing impurities from your skin and hair, like trapped dirt and the oil and acne-causing bacteria we just touched on.
Think of it as a detox for your face and hair.
Helps Reduce Pore Size
This is an easy one. The fewer toxins clogging the pores, the less visible they’ll be. And blackheads? They’re no match for a little activated charcoal.
Because of the porous, sponge-like characteristic of activated charcoal, you can expect your face to feel baby-butt smooth after rinsing away a mask, facial wash, or scrub.
The purifying ingredient works to gently remove dry, dead skin cells without damaging or over-drying your skin. It’s a classic one-two punch: first, the oils, dirt, and toxins get sucked out of pores, then they’re exfoliated away. Count us in.
What skin type is charcoal good for?
Because of its absorbent nature, activated charcoal is ideal for oily, acne-prone skin— but really, it’s good for many skin types. It’s not only great for removing excess dirt, oil, and toxins, but it doubles as an oil defense to prevent that unwanted shine from returning.
Don’t be alarmed by the exfoliating properties of activated charcoal, though— the ingredient is gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin.
Do charcoal masks actually work?
We know you’ve seen those satisfying videos where a black charcoal mask gets slowly pulled off a face (Patrick Bateman vibes). But do those masks actually work?
Plenty of users have had incredible results with the absorbent properties of activated charcoal, so our answer is yes— they work!
Charcoal masks draw out bacteria and toxins from deep within pores, leaving behind a clearer, softer complexion. You’ll feel like a brand new dude once you wash or peel away that mask—we guarantee.
Best activated charcoal products
For oily, acne-prone skin types, you need products that are a bit more powerful than average facial soaps. With ingredient lists free of any scientific-sounding formulations or harsh chemicals, you can treat your skin to the naturally derived goodness it deserves.
Check out the best activated charcoal products that will get you breakout-free as early as after the first use.
Every Man Jack Activated Charcoal Face Scrub: Get smoother, softer skin with our face scrub. Jojoba beads gently exfoliate away dry, dead skin cells while the powerful, absorbent properties of activated charcoal remove dirt and oil from pores.
Every Man Jack Activated Charcoal Face Wash: Our skin-clearing, deep pore cleansing facial wash uses 2% salicylic acid alongside activated charcoal to penetrate pores and rid them of excess oil and dirt.
Every Man Jack Activated Charcoal Body Wash: Acne and bacne are no match for the powerful properties of activated charcoal in our body wash. Activated charcoal draws out dirt and oil from your skin while salicylic acid helps control current acne and prevent future breakouts.
Every Man Jack Activated Charcoal 2-in-1 Scrub+Mask: This 2-in-1 combines the power of a deep-penetrating facial scrub with a purifying mask to draw out impurities while eliminating blackheads and reducing the appearance of pores.
Every Man Jack Activated Charcoal Facial Wipes: Gentle yet effective, our face wipes are perfect for acne-prone skin, using activated charcoal and salicylic acid to control acne breakouts and prevent future ones.
What about charcoal deodorant?
Because of its absorbent properties, activated charcoal works like a charm in deodorant. The charcoal can absorb odors and excess moisture, and none of us are strangers to either.
If you’re like us, you probably prefer to stay active outside and enjoy nature while keeping things simple, which is why you should consider a charcoal deodorant to draw in moisture, humidity, and odors that are normal and natural for your lifestyle.
Here’s our favorite kind: Every Man Jack Activated Charcoal Deodorant.
Can I use activated charcoal on my hair?
Yep, you sure can. We told you, it’s an MVP of grooming products for a reason.
The same dirt-and-oil-absorption that happens on your skin is exactly what goes on in your hair. Activated charcoal works as a cleanser on your hair follicles. It washes away the built-up oil, dirt, and impurities from your hair and scalp without damaging or disrupting natural moisture levels. The result? A clean, healthy head of locks. Try the Every Man Jack Activated Charcoal 2-in-1 Shampoo + Conditioner to see for yourself.
What's the difference between charcoal and volcanic clay?
Volcanic clay, also known as bentonite clay, is another awesome natural detoxifier provided to us via Mother Nature. It’s a naturally occurring clay developed from weathering rocks.
Clay is packed with minerals that help detoxify and nourish the skin, working similarly to activated charcoal to draw out excess dirt and oil and absorb toxins for a clearer complexion.
The difference? Where volcanic takes, it also gives. Clay differs from its fellow naturally derived ingredient by how it releases minerals for the body to use after it removes the toxins; minerals like silica, magnesium, and calcium, to name a few.
Volcanic clay stands alone from charcoal because it also helps get oxygen into the cells— the more oxygen, the more energized and refreshed your skin may feel after you wash off a clay mask.
And that's that...
The world of skin care products and grooming care isn’t as intimidating as you may think. With a little bit of knowledge and a whole lot of naturally derived ingredients, you can combat your acne-prone and oily skin, one activated charcoal product at a time.