Visit just about any drug or department store and you’re likely to come across charcoal skincare products. From black body sponges infused with it to face masks containing the ingredient, this intriguing beauty item seems to be turning heads. After all, activated charcoal has been said to do wonders for other parts of our body, cleansing the stomach and flushing toxins from the digestive system. And if it’s good for us internally, then it must be amazing for our skin—right?
Not so fast. There are pros and cons to the charcoal skincare trend. As with anything else that falls outside the usual routine (e.g.. diets and exercise regimens), it’s important to understand the full picture. Charcoal products may be the best things you’ve ever tried, or they might be part of a silly fad worth skipping. Here’s the low-down.
Charcoal skincare pros
This active ingredient can come in the form of soaps, scrubs, masks and foaming cleansers. Several experts tout the benefits of using activated charcoal (i.e. oxygen that’s been added to charcoal) on skin. In fact, so popular is this trend that numerous spas have such treatments on their list of services, some charging upwards of $260 dollars for a charcoal facial. Many who have had one say they’re likely to do it again; they say their mood and appearance improved significantly afterwards.
Even if they haven’t indulged in such a costly facial, a lot of people say that more affordable department store purchases have given them more glowing, acne-free skin. Many people also suggest using activated charcoal products to help diminish cellulite from stubborn areas such as the belly, buttocks or thighs.
Indeed, science does show that activated charcoal draws impurities out of the body, allowing them to exit through the skin. Chemicals, toxins and poisonous micro-particles that build up in our bodies due to environmental and personal stress (along with improper eating and exercise habits), are said to be extracted and vastly eliminated by turning to activated charcoal. Applying it on the skin therefore acts as a magnet, sucking out harmful toxins and resulting in a healthier system and unclogged pores.
Spa professionals, major beauty brands and tons of consumers are advocates of using this method to treat skin. For example, Wendy Brooks, director of global product development at mega beauty brand Origins, explains that charcoal absorbs upwards of 200 times its weight in impurities. She believes it’s an ideal way to purify skin naturally and effectively.
There are even suggestions for homemade skin products involving mixing some of the powder from an activated charcoal supplement capsule with various oils and sea salt, then applying topically. Browse the internet and you’re bound to find tons of articles and videos about how to combine certain ingredients with this powder in an effort to achieve gorgeous skin.
Is it worth it, though? Some people aren’t feeling the trend and have no qualms about explaining why.
Reasons to shun the charcoal skincare trend
While a number of consumers have noted improvements in their skin, others aren’t so quick to recommend jumping on the charcoal skincare bandwagon.
In fact, Dr. Craig Kraffert is a dermatologist who says that just about the only interesting aspect of this trend is its unusual appearance. Using a very dark black product stands out from the typical, creamier and lighter colors and is therefore appealing to many individuals. Otherwise, he says this is more hype than help. “Truthfully,” Kraffert says, “there isn’t solid clinical data one way or the other… the uniqueness of the ingredient itself, especially its color, is likely the main driver behind the recent surge in popularity of activated charcoal facial cleansers and masks.”
Furthermore, many people who have used products containing activated charcoal note that their face was left slightly blackened. Clearly, this isn’t ideal if you’re heading out on a date or to a family gathering, and it certainly defeats the purpose if you have to cover up the darkened skin with tons of pore-clogging makeup. Still, plenty of users maintain that it’s worth the temporary darkening, saying that it has worked wonders for their skin.
A look at similar skincare trends
In addition to the activated charcoal skincare trend, several others exist. Between celebrities who swear by certain routines, DIY creams found on social media, and clever product marketing strategies, the popularity of various trends ebb and flow. For example, several people (myself included) enjoy occasionally putting coconut oil on their face s, saying it hydrates their skin and leaves it supple. Others, frankly, don’t like walking around smelling like a coconut with legs.
Another popular natural skincare method involves applying olive oil like moisturizer. It’s also not uncommon for people to turn to homemade mixtures involving sugar scrubs, uncooked oatmeal and honey, or to apply an egg white face mask or essential oils.
As always, it’s best to find what works for you. If your skin appears to be improved by using activated charcoal products, then go for it. But be aware that everyone’s skin reacts differently and that you may be buying more into hype than anything else.