Yep, You Can Detox and Purify Your Skin and Hair with Activated Charcoal

How activated charcoal went from a detox ingredient in your diet to the beauty aisle at drugstores.

activated charcoal for skin and hair face mask spaphoto credit: shutterstock

An unlikely ingredient: Activated charcoal for skin and hair

Putting charcoal in your hair and on your face might not seem glamorous, but it’s proven to have many health and beauty benefits when used safely and properly.

These days, people are using food grade activated charcoal internally to detox, in supplements and juices (like this activated charcoal lemonade), and it’s even being used to whiten teeth. But what does this have to do with your hair and skin? Read on and find out.

Introducing the gritty black ingredient that will purify your skin and hair

It’s true: we’re suggesting you use black charcoal on your precious skin and hair. But we’re giving you this advice for good reason, as more and more people are finding themselves thrilled with the results of adding activated charcoal to their beauty routine. This is how it works: because toxins stick to the activated charcoal, it makes a good deep cleanser and detoxifier. It’s all-natural and won’t add new chemicals to your skin and hair when you use it.

Here are the best ways to use activated charcoal for your skin and hair:

1. Smaller pores

Throughout the day, toxins from the world around us clog our pores. (You won’t believe the damage that air pollution is doing to your skin!) When your pores aren’t clear, neither is your complexion. Activated charcoal–when used in a face maskbinds to dirt and helps pull it out of your pores, making them less visible (it’s the oil and dirt that makes them appear bigger). This leaves your face feeling fresh. (Use it with an exfoliating scrub to get the dead skin off and experience an even deeper clean.)

2. Balances oily skin

Oily skin? Activated charcoal may be just the ingredient you need to balance things out. Used in a cleanser or mask, activated charcoal can pull the unwanted excess oils from your skin, leaving it smooth. You’ll want to do this sparingly–once or twice per week at the most–so that you don’t dry out your skin. If you already have dry skin, you’re best to steer clear of it for this use.

3. Treat acne

Depending on the specifics of your acne–how severe it is, what’s causing it and what else is going on–activated charcoal may be able to help. In soap form, it’s slightly gritty, which might provide the gentle exfoliating you need. It will also absorb oils and toxins on and below the skin. You can use it as a spot treatment if you don’t want to use it on your whole face–just think of it as a mini mask for your blemish.

4. Deep cleanse your skin

You can find cleansers that contain activated charcoal in pretty much every drug store these days. Some may be a little more powerful than others; don’t use these ones daily, as you don’t want to soak up the healthy oils and moisture your skin needs. Check out the other ingredients if you’re buying a liquid cleanser–some are designed to neutralize the acidity in your skin, others have deodorizing properties; some can even double as shaving cream. Buy the product that best suits your personal combination of needs and follow the directions on the bottle. Follow your cleanser with this super hydrating homemade oat flour face mask.

5. Soothe and heal bites, cuts and skin irritations

Whether you  were stung by a bee or had a cut from the kitchen that’s become infected, activated charcoal can help speed the healing and relieve the symptoms. For minor skin ailments–including insect bites, stings, cuts, scrapes and minor infections–activated charcoal can be applied topically. The activated charcoal, when applied as a paste, helps absorb venom and infection. It will also bring down swelling and lessen pain. To make the paste: slowly add water to a bit of activated charcoal powder and mix until it is a spreadable consistency.

6. Rid your hair of toxins

A shampoo with activated charcoal can gently detox by attracting dirt and oil which is then washed away. And because it’s gentle, it won’t disrupt your hair’s natural moisture levels. Try Herbal Essences Detox Shampoo with Black Charcoal and Herbal Essences Replenish Conditioner with White Charcoal, $8 each at mass retailers. (White charcoal is derived from Binocotan Oak Trees, known for its soothing properties.)

7. Add volume to your hair

If you’re carrying around enough dirt and oil, your hair will start to sag and regular shampooing may not be getting it all out. In fact, hair can gain roughly 4 percent of its own weight in build-up from scalp oils, pollution and dry shampoo. Regular shampoos remove surface dirt, but activated charcoal will pull out even more. The other difference, and this is big, is that activated charcoal isn’t going to leave the residue some shampoos do, so your hair will feel lighter and have more volume.

8. Remedy scalp conditions

Dandruff, redness, oily and itchy scalps may be relieved with activated charcoal. You can use it as a scalp treatment before you shampoo or can be mixed in with your shampoo. The activated charcoal will work on your scalp the way it does on your skin and hair: pulling out toxins and purifying. It’s unclear how deep into the hair follicle is being cleaned, but the results should be noticeable.

Next, you’ll want to find out 21 reasons why your scalp might be itchy. Plus, what collagen supplements can do for your skin and hair.