By: Joanna Njama
From Pinterest posts to YouTube videos, activated charcoal is one of the current beauty obsessions overflowing our feeds. But utilizing activated charcoal is definitely not a new practice! Historically, it has mostly been used to counteract chemical and food poisoning. But now the charcoal's detoxifying properties are seen being used in toothpaste, masks, and even setting sprays!
What is Activated Charcoal?
Ok sis, let's start with the basics - Activated charcoal is not the same type of charcoal used in a cookout. The term activated is referring to the process of heating materials rich in carbon at high temperatures to strip them of toxic chemicals. This process leaves the molecules in the charcoal without anything to bind to and is therefore activated. And the holes in the molecules resulting from heating work to amplify their ability to absorb what's around them.
If this process worries you, rest assured that these are natural materials such as wood and sawdust. What's left over is that fine, black powder (that for some reason gets absolutely everywhere). And the holes in the molecules formed after heating actually helps the charcoal absorb even more toxins from your skin and body.
Don't let the process turn you off! Activated charcoal powder is completely organic and safe for human use, just make sure to follow the directions carefully.
Ok Ok... But How Does It Work?
Since heating the charcoal helps to activate its detoxifying properties, toxins in the body are easily absorbed. And because nature is truly a perfect system, the activated charcoal isn't absorbed by the body at all. Instead it passes through your digestive system and is then expelled as waste. So in the case of teeth whitening, you don't have to worry if some is swallowed accidentally.
In fact, it can actually improve mouth health. Although inconclusive, some studies indicate that using activated charcoal is helpful for cavity prevention and killing bacteria that may lead to gingivitis.
Other Uses for Activated Charcoal
An activated charcoal paste can even help you tackle smells and stains in your home! Place in your refrigerator to absorb those nasty food odors or even in your closet or shoes for the same effect. When you're giving a wall a fresh coat of paint, keep a jar of activated charcoal paste to capture any volatile chemicals released into the air. It even helps get rid of mold and prevents it from growing in your home.
Used on your body, activated charcoal works in the same way, fighting off bacteria and chemicals. It even comes in a deodorant! If activated charcoal wasn't powerful enough, it also can help detoxify your skin with a quick mask! Every week, I try to pamper myself by turning my bathroom into my own in-home spa.
Who says you have to spend a ton of time and money to feel pampered every week? Check out my charcoal mask recipe you can make yourself!
DIY Detoxifying Charcoal Mask
1 tsp activated charcoal
1 tsp benzonite clay
2 tsps freshly-brewed green tea
1/2 tsp aloe vera gel
A few drops of your favorite essential oil (I use Rosehip for even more moisture)
Activated charcoal helps to detoxify the skin, in the same way it can remove stains from your teeth. As part of my no-miss, self-care routine, I can say that it helps me have something to look forward to every week that takes care of me.
Risks of Using Activated Charcoal
Make sure that you only use food or supplement grade activated charcoal. Real activated charcoal will let you know right on the label. I know it goes without saying, but please don't get tempted to use leftover charcoal from the BBQ last Saturday.
It is possible that brushing too aggressively or using activated charcoal too often can start to erode your tooth enamel. I suggest brushing with your finger instead of a toothbrush, to cut down on the abrasiveness.
But to be fair, here are all the facts. Activated charcoal is not FDA approved. However, most of the common dietary supplements, holistic products, and weight-loss pills, (even melatonin!) we use every day aren't either. So keep that in mind - that it doesn't mean that activated charcoal isn't safe for use.
Where Do I Get My Hands On Some?
Thanks to the internet, getting your hands on some activated charcoal is just a click away. There are plenty of different brands to look for, but it’s important to take the time to find the one that works for you. And because of the popularity of using activated charcoal for beauty and skincare, there are some brands that sneak in added chemicals, perfumes, and fillers.
So make sure to check the ingredient list carefully and do your research on any unfamiliar additives. I try to use brands that don't use sulfates or dyes, are 100% organic and are food and supplement grade. These are your best bet when purchasing the purest activated charcoal. Knowing that it has such a high level of purity puts me at ease since I use it regularly on my face and body.
So if you've been curious to try activated charcoal, add it to your skincare routine! Because working to discover new and interesting ways to take care of yourself (and your self-care) is how you form an even more solid habit of making yourself first priority. Always.
How have you incorporated activated charcoal into your wellness routine?