Activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, has been around the health care aisles for ages, but it’s just starting to gain traction in the beauty and DIY communities. Essentially, the substance is charcoal that’s been treated until it's porous and absorbent (it’s what does the heavy lifting in your Brita filter!). Now activated charcoal is used for many different detoxification purposes. Dr. Sarah Villafranco, founder of Osmia Organics, frequently uses it in the ER to treat patients who accidentally swallowed something toxic or to help counteract the effects of a drug overdose. “That really speaks to its detox potency,” she says, adding that activated charcoal is also effective for at-home beauty treatments and in products.
You can find it in capsule or powder form at pharmacies or health food stores. One common beauty use is DIY teeth whitening: break open a capsule of activated charcoal and mix it with a few drops of water. Then spread the mixture on your pearly whites and swish it around—it will help draw out the tannins (compounds that discolor teeth) found in foods and beverages. Some studies have shown that it can help reduce intestinal gas and aid digestion; consult your physician before taking to discuss potential interactions with other medications.
This intriguing detoxifier appears as in ingredient in some everyday products. Here are a few we like.
Formulated with activated charcoal as well as tea tree oil, chamomile, and lavender, using this soap is like having a detox in the shower. Jonathan Dubuque, Level’s cofounder and CEO, says, “Activated charcoal absorbs bacteria and oil, and the combination of that with the antibacterial properties of tea tree [oil] pulls toxins out of the skin and leaves it feeling clean.”
Don't let the gummy feel intimidate you; this one tightens as it dries, helping to clear pores of dirt and grime. The activated charcoal draws out impurities, and white china clay clarifies.
This herbal-scented paste has been made with activated charcoal as well as raw manuka honey and finely ground walnut shells to exfoliate. Gently massage into skin for a weekly polish, or leave it on for 15–20 minutes for maximum detoxification.
Top Image: Matt R. Kyle / FLICKR