Is activated charcoal good for skin?

Charcoal is the new big thing in beauty products at the moment, but does anyone know what the benefits are?

Or do they just like it because Activated charcoal skincare products are pretty cool and every “insta famous” person is getting paid to endorse a charcoal product. They’re black, messy and they’re marketed to suck dirt out of your pores like a magnet – what’s not to like?

The reality is a little more complex than that…

Activated charcoal boasts beauty benefits for skin by drawing oil, dirt and other harmful substances from clogged pores due to its adsorption powers so there’s been an influx of beauty products that contain this all natural ingredient.

Often marketed as a acne miracle treatment since it absorbs oil and dirt.

Beauty brands are jumping on the band wagon with charcoal cleansers, charcoal masks, and even charcoal pore strips…

But do they actually work?

Jessica Wu, M.D., a Los Angeles dermatologist says there aren’t any scientific studies on the effects of charcoal in skin-care products. “There are some acne products containing charcoal because the idea is that the charcoal will bind to toxins, dirt, and oil and lift them out of the pores,” she says. “However, I haven’t seen any research to back up these claims.”

Think of it this way:

If it binds oil this means it can potentially clean deeper inside the pore, yes? However, I’m not sure a short amount of time that these products stay on your skin is enough, in studies on activated charcoal, it typically takes a few hours for it to take full effect. In these studies it’s added alone, in powdered form, to a water based solution and stirred, which results in much faster absorption than in a mask, where it’s suspended in a gloop. In beauty products charcoal is a very little percentage of the ingredient, not 100% like the studies. 

When i look at the ingredients of most charcoal skin care products, they contain other ingredients that have been proven to help oily and acne prone skins.

Like: salicylic acid, for example, and many charcoal masks contain kaolin or bentonite, a clay that actually has been shown to bind to sebum (skin oil).

I see a lot of charcoal blemish soaps on the market where the main ingredient is coconut oil, a very pore clogging oil to be using on acne &/or congested skin that already have this problem, please stay away from these soaps on your face. (A block of soap should never be used on a face no matter what the claims are).

The good news: Charcoal won’t causes reactions or irritate sensitive skin, so even if your charcoal-enhanced product isn’t actually doing much, it won’t make anything worse (if the product doesn’t contain other ingredients that will)!

The bottom line: There’s no concrete evidence that charcoal is an effective acne treatment, especially in products where it’s only a very little % of actual activated charcoal. Charcoal products just look pretty freakin’ cool.

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