How to Use Activated Charcoal in Your Beauty Routine

Rachel Krause
Ken Brown/E+/Getty Images

Ken Brown/E+/Getty Images

Of all the strange materials one can put on their face, activated charcoal ranks somewhere toward the least alarming side of the spectrum. It’s not quite up there with placenta (or, ahem, foreskin), but it’s no coconut oil, either. There’s a certain intimidation factor to integrating something into your beauty routine that you last saw being used for grilling.

Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been treated with heat or oxygen to increase its ability to absorb, so it’s not quite the same substance you use to cook burgers—in fact, it has countless uses, and many of them can be hugely beneficial to your beauty routine. From skin care to detox, teeth whitening and beyond, activated charcoal is a star player.

Use a mask, or make your own.
You can DIY your own ridiculously simple face mask using nothing but activated charcoal and water (or honey, yogurt, or oil, depending on your skin type and what you like) for a detoxifying treatment that gently rids the pores of impurities. If you’re not the kitchen scientist type, fear not—there are plenty of great masks that use activated charcoal as one of their main ingredients, and you can find them all in a store. The new Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud Purifying Black Mask is our top pick, but we also love the long-standing favorite Origins Clear Improvement.

Use it as a cleanser.
In the same way that you can use pure coconut oil with a damp cloth as a double-duty cleanser and makeup remover, adding charcoal to the mix means you’ll get extra purification properties as well as lightweight hydration from the oil. Blend the coconut oil (room temp, so it’s soft) with the charcoal until it’s blended into a paste, then store for later use. Apply by scooping out a small amount of the formula from the jar and rubbing in circular motions all over your face, then use a muslin cloth dampened with warm water to scrub it off for smooth, clarified skin. Charcoal is also one of the featured ingredients in Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser, a super refreshing self-warming formula.

Whiten your teeth.
Counterintuitively, activated charcoal stains everything… except for your teeth. The powder will turn your mouth black while you’re using it, but just as it draws toxins out of the body when ingested, it does the same for your mouth and the plaque on your teeth. Better still, the charcoal balances the pH of the mouth, which makes it a formidable fighter of cavities, tooth decay, and gingivitis—and, on a more vain note, it’ll make your teeth really, really white as it cleans up stains. Just dip your dampened toothbrush into the powder, then brush for around two minutes before rinsing well.

Reduce bloating.
Activated charcoal is a serious detoxifier, regardless of whether it comes to skin or your digestive system. In fact, one of its primary medical uses is as an emergency treatment for certain types of poisoning, so its ability to purge the body of less serious toxins makes total sense. Charcoal also helps to neutralize digestion problems like gas and cramps, which is useful if you often suffer from stomach ailments. It’s available in a convenient pill form as well as powder, so you can keep it on hand and utilize it before a big meal, or just when you’re feeling bloated. Wash a capsule down with a few glasses of water, or if you’re on the juice beat, give the three Activated beverages from Juice Generation a try.

Do a DIY body scrub.
Charcoal powder’s slightly grainy texture makes for a great exfoliating agent, and you can mix it with pretty much anything to suit your skin’s needs. Try mixing it with your liquid of choice, like milk or honey, and a secondary ingredient, like oats or sugar, for extra scrubbing powder. Add essential oils or flower waters for a more luxurious treatment—you can get as creative with it as you like.

Read more from Daily Makeover: 10 Surprising Foods That Detox Without the Diet