Complementing Charcoal: What to Use and How to Use It

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If you're going to incorporate charcoal in your clients' skincare routines, it's important to use it properly.

“Charcoal’s ability to bind is strong, and it can pull some good things from the skin while it is removing toxins and buildup, so it’s crucial for healthy skin to use a formula that combines charcoal with the right replenishing ingredients," says Suzanne LeRoux, president of One Love Organics. “I would not use just any old charcoal mask on the market. Read the labels, and choose a company you trust.”

According to CBI Skincare’s Melanie Timms, you should avoid using charcoal-based products on broken, damaged, or inflamed skin, as charcoal’s abrasive qualities could serve to further irritate skin. However, for most others, especially those with oily or acne-prone skin, Skin Authority’s Celeste Hilling says, “If you have done the right research and utilize the right source of charcoal, it can be game changing.” 

Getting a lot of buzz these days is the use of activated charcoal to whiten the teeth. Although the American Dental Association has not approved any activated charcoal products for dentistry, that hasn’t stopped people from believing the anecdotal evidence, which suggests that it is effective in absorbing plaque and other ingredients that stain teeth. Some dentists caution, however, that some charcoal toothpastes can be too abrasive. As a result, it’s important to look for those that won’t wear down enamel.


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Because charcoal’s primary role is to detoxify the skin, most products contain other beneficial ingredients to either help in that endeavor or address other skin concerns.  Here, our experts share some of the other ingredients that complement activated charcoal:

“We love it with red Hawaiian alaea clay, as the extra grit really helps compound the effectiveness of the activated bamboo charcoal.”—Holly Harding, founder, O’O Hawaii 

“Pevonia uses a white clay from volcanic ash, and kaolin, a white clay native to China for its absorbent properties to deliver maximum results.”—Kim Lee, ND, director of education-U.S. Midwest, Pevonia 

“In general, charcoal works well with other pulling ingredients, such as montmorillonite clay and kaolin clays, as they can work together with the charcoal, like ‘velcro,’ adhering to toxins, bacteria, and pollutants, drawing them out of the skin’s pores. Incorporating other powerful antioxidants, such as vitamin C, ferulic acid, and vitamin E, after charcoal treatments will neutralize the effects of the pollutants the charcoal removed.”—Brian Goodwin, international trainer, Eminence Organic Skin Care


Choosing Your Charcoal of Choice

Charcoal Curiosities: The Benefits—and Risks—of Activated Charcoal

Five Reasons to Add Activated Charcoal to Your Facial Offerings