Charcoal Is Having a Major Beauty Moment--Here's Why

June 18, 2015 by Lisa Fogarty
shefinds | beauty

Pop quiz: what’s black, responsible for making the best hamburgers and hot dogs of your summer life, and is the single worst Christmas gift Santa can bring a child? Answer: one of the hottest ingredients popping up in new beauty and skincare products. Yup, charcoal is the beauty ingredient du jour.

Now before you balk at the idea of smearing carbon and ash on your ksin, remember: (almost) anything for the sake of beauty, right? (And hey, at least it isn’t snail slime or bird poop.) Like it or not, charcoal beauty products can be found everywhere from your corner drugstore to department stores and Sephora. One SHEfinds editor says Biore’s Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser is the best thing she’s ever used to wash her face. Similarly, I’ve been stocking up on Glamglow’s Supermud Clearing Treatment since coming across several disturbing, yet utterly fascinating photos that show exactly what can be extracted from your skin in 20 short minutes (seriously, look it up).

And charcoal madness doesn’t even stop there. It seems you can even drink the stuff–albeit a version called Activated Charcoal–which is featured in a lemonade drink offered by Juice Generation.

Is the hype surrounding charcoal legit? Just what beauty benefits, if any, does it have? We’re letting our beauty experts weigh in on the new “It” ingredient.

“I started using charcoal in facial treatments at my skin center in Santa Monica and the results were astonishing,” says skin specialist Diana Ralys, who created Moisture-Detox Mask and Blemish Cleanser, both of which contain charcoal. “Charcoal provides excellent detoxification, cleansing, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits without over-drying the skin. Most skin care products that have these anti-blemish, acne-fighting benefits are too drying. When skin gets too dry, acne gets worse, because toxins are getting trapped under the dry skin layers.”

Dr. David E. Bank, author and founder and director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery, adds that though charcoal may seem of the times, people have long credited it for its cleansing properties. “Activated charcoal has been used for many years as a detoxifying agent,” Bank says. “When applied to the skin it may draw out impurities in the superficial layers. Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores and Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser are both good options.”

To be fair, the charcoal movement also has its share of skeptics.

“There is no scientific proof that charcoal does anything in skin care products,” says New York State Licensed Esthetician Rachelle Rosenthal. “There are those that feel that the charcoal acts like a magnet to draw out dirt and oil from pores. Again, there is no scientific data on this claim.”

As for the health benefits of drinking charcoal?

“Activated charcoal draws toxins, gases, and impurities out of the body due to the millions of micro pores that bind to and remove them,” says a spokesperson for Juice Generation. “This amplifies the detox function, as charcoal is one of nature’s most trusted and potent detoxifiers.”

The upside of trying charcoal in your products and juices? More beautiful skin and a cleaner system. The downside? Visions of summer BBQs dancing in your head–which overall, totally makes it worth the risk.

For more beauty tips, check out 4 tips for dyeing your hair in the summer without destroying it and 7 drugstore skincare products with really good reputations.


Lisa Fogarty is a lifestyle writer and reporter based in New York who covers health, wellness, relationships, sex, beauty, and parenting.

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