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What Is Activated Charcoal and How Does It Benefit Your Skin?

charcoal skin care products I Dermstore Blog

If we had to pick the skin care ingredient that surpasses all the rest in popularity these days, it’d have to be charcoal. You can’t log onto Instagram without seeing someone you follow with a black mask on—and it turns out there’s good reason to make this ingredient a part of your skin care routine, especially if you have oily skin or acne.

Skin benefits of charcoal

According to research published in the Western Journal of Medicine, charcoal comes from materials that contain carbon, such as wood pulp. The material is treated with chemicals to remove any impurities and turn it into small granules that can then be used in different ways. It becomes “activated charcoal” when high temperatures combine with a gas or activating agent to expand its surface area, making it more porous than regular charcoal. Because of its ability to trap toxins and chemicals in pores, activated charcoal has been used to treat overdoses and poisonings, improve kidney functions, reduce cholesterol levels and even detoxify skin and scalp. It is for this reason that it’s now found in skin care products like cleansers, masks and even shampoos.

“Charcoal draws out oil and debris from the skin and also exfoliates, so think of it like a deep detoxifying cleanse,” says Sejal Shal, MD, founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology. “It can help reduce oily skin, improve acne and make pores appear smaller,” she adds. While anyone can try charcoal skin care products, they’re better for people with combination, oily or acne-prone skin because charcoal can be drying, explains Shal.

How to use beauty products with charcoal

“Of the charcoal-containing products, I like charcoal-infused masks the most because adsorption depends on physical contact, so charcoal needs to sit on the skin to be effective,” says Shal. She suggests trying a charcoal mask once or twice a week. “If your skin is extremely oily you may be able to use it more often,” she notes.

Ready for a skin detox? Try these five charcoal-infused products to reap the benefits for your complexion.

  1. 1. First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Acne Clearing Charcoal Cleanser With Probiotics
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    1. First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Acne Clearing Charcoal Cleanser With Probiotics

    Pimples don’t stand a chance against this acne facial cleanser. It’s formulated with active charcoal to draw out toxins, salicylic acid to unclog pores, clay to absorb impurities, vitamin E to strengthen skin and yogurt extract to fight breakout-causing bacteria.

    Buy now with free delivery
  2. 2. One Love Organics Love + Charcoal Masque
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    2. One Love Organics Love + Charcoal Masque

    Sit back, relax and purify your combo, oily or acne-prone skin with this powerful face mask. Activated charcoal draws out dirt from your pores, rose clay absorbs excess oil, alpine rose ups your complexion’s natural defenses and aloe vera and cupuacu butter smooth lines. Bonus: You can also use this mask as a spot treatment overnight.

    Buy now with free delivery
  3. 3. Eminence Organic Skin Care Balancing Masque Duo
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    3. Eminence Organic Skin Care Balancing Masque Duo

    If you have combination skin, then you know how tricky it is to care for. How the heck are you supposed to handle the oily and dry parts of your face at the same time? Enter this 2-in-1 face mask. Apply the charcoal mask to your T-zone to control oil production and the pomelo juice and shea butter mask to deeply nourish dry skin.

    Buy now with free delivery
  4. 4. Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant
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    4. Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant

    Key to keeping your skin clear is a good exfoliant. Dermalogica’s Daily Superfoliant – which contains active charcoal – is gentle yet effective enough to be used every day. This product is formulated with charcoal to draw out impurities, revealing clean and refreshed skin after every use.

    Buy now with free delivery
  5. 5. Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud
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    5. Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud

    This face mask contains Moor mud from Ireland, which combats damage caused by environmental stress and pollution and banishes dirt and excess oil from your skin. Of course, it also features charcoal to draw out toxins and leave your skin with a brighter, cleaner look.

    Buy now with free delivery

Beauty Reporter

Christina Heiser

By day, Christina Heiser is a senior editor for L’Oréal Paris. By night, she’s a freelance beauty, health, and wellness writer for a variety of online publications like NBC News Better and What’s Good by The Vitamin Shoppe. Outside of the office, you can find Christina hitting up boutique spin and yoga classes in NYC, cheering on her college basketball team (go Red Storm!), and watching as many Broadway plays as she can possibly fit into her schedule. Her biggest beauty obsession: Hot pink lipstick. Follow her on Twitter.