Ten Reasons You Should Be Using Activated Charcoal For Beauty And Health
Let’s face it—there’s a charcoal craze happening right now.
And no, we’re not talking about dads micro managing summer barbecues with a rack of ribs and six pack. All over television and the Internet you’d be hard-pressed to overlook the vast variety of products advertising the wonders of charcoal for your health and wellbeing. More than likely, this has taken some readjustment in your mind, as charcoal is not exactly the magic pill that’s traditionally been sought for beauty and longevity. (Hey, it’s never been in the same category as tea tree oil or plush facial cleansers.) But what are the uses of this product? Can it be that something so seemingly dark and ominous is a centerpiece to vivacity and an enhanced physical aesthetic?
Before we take a look at ten uses for this newfound elemental wonder, let’s first review a brief history of what charcoal technically is. It’s important to note that when we’re talking about charcoal for health-related purposes, we are referring to “activated charcoal,” which is an age-old material with an array of uses. “Activated charcoal” is not the charcoal you’re using to grill veggie burgers on Sunday afternoons; it’s actually made from coconut shells, olive pits, sawdust, bone char, as well as other similar materials and processed over an extreme heat that, well, “activates” it.
“Activated” charcoal has an electrical charge, which ultimately attracts positively charged molecules. For example, gases and toxins have a positive charge, so the “activated charcoal” in essence absorbs them. It technically can trap these unwanted toxins or free radicals in the body and push them through with excretions. Pretty incredible given our conventional understanding of charcoal for summer kebabs in backyards and rooftops, no?
We’ll come back to the history of charcoal later, but let’s initially dive into some of the more popular uses that we’re seeing pop up in beauty stores and online shopping carts all around the country.
This is perhaps one of the most well known uses for activated charcoal with a variety of how-to videos all over people’s social media feeds. Charcoal can actually remove plaque and stains when applied directly to teeth, making it a great tool for teeth whitening. Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe something so black and seemingly icky can actually turn your teeth whiter, but if you do so for three minutes, the charcoal can “bind” to these stains and remove them when you rinse. Usually, we’re talking about 1-2 teaspoons of ground up charcoal, so rest assured no one’s expected to apply boatloads. It’s important to note here that charcoal technically doesn’t neutralize the toxins in your teeth, but just binds them, which is where the whiteness comes into play. Hence—don’t substitute charcoal for quality toothpaste and mouthwash!
Who doesn’t love a good face mask? They’re relaxing, calming, even indulgent, leaving your skin feeling great. Well, charcoal face masks are becoming the next big thing, as they can clear up blemishes, acne and even scars through extracting impurities while cleaning pores thoroughly. A charcoal face mask offers a deep cleaning that can remove toxins and even heavy metals from your face, and even take off dead, unwanted skin since it’s slightly abrasive. Furthermore, charcoal face masks can aid those with oily skin since it extracts excess oils without drying it out. And did I forget to mention they get rid of blackheads? When doing so, make sure you’re using a washcloth of a darker color, since the substance can be slightly, well, “messy.”
Thankfully, when applied to your hair, activated charcoal doesn’t add new chemicals, but simply helps you get rid of the chemicals that are already present. Shampoos with charcoal attract dirt and oil, which is then washed away, returning your hair back to its natural moisture levels. For this use, white charcoal is sometimes incorporated into shampoos, which is originally derived from binocotan oak trees, known for its soothing effects, particularly in the shower!
Similar to the advantages with hair health, charcoal can also greatly benefit your scalp, either applied through shampoo or prior to washing your hair by allowing it to sit for several minutes. Ultimately, it helps with scalp itchiness and redness, providing a comforting relief.
Who doesn’t love a bubble bath? Well, if you don’t mind the color of the water being slightly black—or, like, really black—then a charcoal bath may be just the thing for you. People suffering from skin afflictions such as eczema, infections, irritations or even inflammations can greatly benefit from a bath in charcoal salt. There are also a variety of deodorizing and purifying benefits, particularly perfect for removing impurities and relieving fatigue. If you’re wanting to incorporate charcoal into your bath routine, thankfully there are “charcoal bath bombs” as well as “charcoal bath bags” for sale. Think of it as a salt bath, just way darker!
Now this one’s a bit more controversial, so we’ll proceed with caution since it’s not widely accepted in the health community, but there are some weight loss effects that have been reported from consuming charcoal through powder or pill form. Technically, the “charcoal diet” requires juice fasting for up to three days while supplementing with charcoal, so the effects of weight loss may be attributed more to the fasting, but some reports have shown that it can remove toxins while also removing a few pounds. Consuming charcoal, however, must be done so carefully, as it can cause an upset stomach.
Well, this one is certainly a nice surprise! Charcoal is reported to lower cholesterol in patients through binding cholesterol acids in the gut, restricting the actual amount the body can absorb. Some studies show that patients have been successful in reducing their cholesterol by 20-25% this way through careful monitoring.
People who suffer from renal failure may want to look into the benefits of charcoal. In several studies, it’s been revealed that older patients—over 80, in fact—who are in the final stages of renal failure can reduce their dialysis if they adhere to a low-protein diet and consume 30 grams of charcoal a day. The science is still out, but it’s nice to know charcoal might be providing a healthy alternative to dialysis, given its side effects.
With a wide variety of “clean” and “healthy” deodorants saturating the marketplace these days, it’s nice to know that activated charcoal can also be considered a safe deodorizing alternative. Thankfully, charcoal is so carbon-rich that it can technically extract dirt, oil, and toxins from clogged pores. Furthermore, it can absorb up to 1,000 times its own weight in moisture, which can absolutely aid in underarm wetness. There’s an array of charcoal-based deodorants for sale nowadays, all of which are aluminum-free, which can put your mind at ease.
If all of these other highly beneficial uses for charcoal wasn’t enough, there’s also one more—and that’s for bloating and gas. Activated charcoal has proven to significantly reduce gas problems while removing harmful toxins from the digestive tract. This process is really twofold: absorption, which is when atoms and molecules link themselves to a solid or liquid surface—as well as absorption, when the substance passes into another, like a sponge. Ultimately, what happens is the charcoal absorbs gas in the digestive tract, getting rid of it from the system when you use the toilet. Many recommend taking charcoal on an empty stomach with a large glass of water to help it work its magic. (Note: Charcoal supplements are widely available with specific dosage instructions, depending on need, health, and age.)
With all of these health advantages, it kind of begs the question: How come this wasn’t more popular sooner? Well, dating back to our charcoal history lesson here, it first hit the scene in France in the year 1834 when a doctor saved the life of a man who accidentally consumed mercury bichloride. Since then, it’s been statistically proven that activated charcoal can cut drug absorption by up to 74% in adults, making it ideal for overdose or poison treatments. Charcoal is no stranger to emergency rooms, where its use is debated but still applied, particularly in cases of gastric emptying. Who knew something like this could be such a lifesaver with such a variety of uses?
Well, it seems that something so seemingly ugly can actually work miracles, given the right circumstances and applications, so the science will have to continue to play out as more and more is discovered. With its early beginnings in emergency rooms to its modern day trending beautification properties, what else is in store for the future of activated charcoal? What more can we learn about its uses and health benefits that could not only save lives, but enhance physical aesthetics and overall wellbeing? While there may not be answers for that quite yet, one thing is clear—charcoal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And thank goodness, because it’s exciting to think of what could be next.
Looking to get started on your charcoal detox? Pure Green offers an active charcoal cold pressed juice with ingredients including filtered water, agave, ginger, lemon and activated charcoal. This also comes in a concentrated shot form called Dirty Ginger.