TREND REPORT: Why Charcoal Is Having a Moment in Skin Care

BY Fil Kabigting, M.D. · February 25, 2016

Charcoal in Skin Care - DermStore


Charcoal is having a moment. Lately it’s been appearing in everything from cleansers to masks to facial exfoliating puffs to toothbrushes. Its coolness factor is partially driven by its peculiar appearance. After all, an ashen face isn’t exactly what most people have in mind when imagining their beauty routine. It seems crazy and even downright counterintuitive.

In reality, charcoal has many therapeutic properties that have been known for centuries. This natural product was used in ancient cultures for its purifying and detoxifying effects. The Japanese use charcoal to filter drinking water and as a key ingredient in cleansers, while in India and the Middle East it’s been used to control infection and promote wound healing.

So what exactly is it? Activated charcoal is created when regular charcoal (or carbon) is reheated and oxidized to make it more porous. This produces a highly absorbent natural agent capable of removing harmful toxins and chemicals. Medically, activated charcoal is used to rid the body of ingested toxins in cases of drug overdose or alcohol poisoning. This same purifying effect occurs on the skin as in the gut. Activated charcoal essentially acts like a sponge for surface oil and debris. Once attached, impurities are washed away. Even deeply seated debris is drawn out from the skin and banished, leaving skin cleaner and brighter.

Interested in activating a new beauty routine that incorporates charcoal? Below are my favorites.

1. For Purifying Oily or Acne-Prone Skin: GlamGlow SUPERMUD Clearing Treatment (1.2 fl oz.)

This mask works wonders on oily and acne-prone skin. It has a fresh scent and slightly tingles when applied to let you know it’s working. A thin layer and a few minutes is enough to suction dirt and oil from pores. Skin is rapidly refreshed, appearing brighter and smoother. Over time it reduces the appearance of pores without causing excessively dry or irritated skin.

2. A Balancing Treatment for Combination Skin: Eminence Balancing Masque Duo (2 fl oz.)

A versatile product that is great for combination skin. This masque contains two distinct treatments: the Charcoal T-Zone Purifier to address oily skin along the T-Zone, and the Pomelo Cheek Treatment better suited for dryer areas on the cheeks. Both masks feel cool, refreshing and luxurious on the skin. Use the charcoal mask for the T-Zone where kaolin clay, charcoal and buchu leaf extract can draw out oil and reduce excess sebum. It will leave your T-Zone instantly mattified and smooth. Over time, it can also refine and minimize the appearance of pores. The pomelo treatment on the cheeks quenches dryness. It also contains bamboo leaf extract, a potent antioxidant that reduces damage from free radicals.

3. A Gentle, Blemish-Fighting Exfoliant: Dew Puff Bamboo Charcoal Konjac Sponge (1 piece)

Gently exfoliates, refreshes and soothes. And it’s mild enough to use daily, either alone or with a favorite cleanser. It may actually enhance the performance of any cleanser used along with it. This charcoal puff contains activated carbon and minerals to help prevent breakouts, plus antioxidants to fight acne-causing bacteria. It’s made from 100% natural konjac root, a plant native to Asia. Although it’s hard and porous when dry, the puff becomes soft and spongy when soaked in water. Use small, circular buffing motions to exfoliate and remove impurities, revealing a soft layer of skin underneath.

4. A Light, Antioxidant-Rich Moisturizer: Derma e Purifying Oil-Free Moisturizer (1.7 oz.) 

This lightweight and oil-free moisturizer has a gel-like texture that glides on to skin. Activated charcoal gives it a gray color, but don’t worry! This moisturizer blends in nicely and won’t leave your skin discolored. It’s perfect as a light morning moisturizer to keep oil in check throughout the day. While activated charcoal removes impurities, several seaweed-derived antioxidants (kimarine wakame and bladderwrack) and green tea defend against free radical damage to keep skin youthful-looking.

Fil Kabigting, M.D.

Dr. Fil Kabigting is a Manhattan-based dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Columbia University Medical Center / New York-Presbyterian.  As a double board-certified dermatologist and dermato... Read More >

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