First known to have been used by the ancient Egyptians in both their iconic beauty routines and mummy-embalming process, charcoal is now a hero ingredient in everything from body washes and face masks to pore strips and toothpaste. Graduating from a niche beauty secret used by Korean skincare therapists to super-charge their mud masks, charcoal is now a global skincare trend, with the raw ingredient’s sooty hue contradicting its ultra-effective cleansing powers.
Barbecue charcoal from the petrol station is not the order of the day – the beauty world uses a far more refined kind of carbon. Wood is kiln-fired for 16 hours, finely ground, purified and treated with oxygen to create ‘activated’ charcoal. This carbon creates an electrical reaction known as adsorption to attract and hold other atoms, being capable of trapping between 100 and 200 times its own volume.
It’s this property that allows activated charcoal to clear up your complexion by drawing impurities from congested skin. Kick off your charcoal-fueled skincare routine by first cleansing with an infused wash. The Charcoal & Bamboo Ultra Purifying Face Wash by T-Zone is great for teenagers and acne-prone skin, while Bioré’s Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser discourages the formation of blackheads in all skin types. The T-Zone Charcoal & Bamboo Face Scrub amps up that deep-clean feeling, with finely milled particles buffing your dermis free of dead cells. For sponges, Cleansing Sponges by QVS and Your Konjac Sponge in Charcoal by Daily Concepts are both pocket-friendly buys that whisk away any residue.
Pencil in some pampering time with a charcoal-based face mask to really put the ingredient through its paces. Masks are ideal for a concentrated treatment, as the longer the product is in contact with your skin, the more effective it is. The Bioré Self Heating One Minute Mask is perfect for those short on time, with the mask warming on the skin to allow the detoxifying formula to penetrate further into pores. Those with oily skin types will do well to make a bee-line for a clay-based mask to stop excess sebum in its tracks. The Purifying Charcoal Mask by Quick Fix Facials, plus L’Oréal’s Pure Clay Mask and Pure Clay Detoxifying Mask all use a blend of natural refined clays bolstered with charcoal to draw out impurities and leave skin mattified and fresh. The T-Zone Charcoal & Bamboo Black Peel Off Mask is a quirky choice for those with stubborn, enlarged pores; simply smooth on, allow to dry, then peel off to lift away dead skin and blockages. Bioré’s Deep Cleansing Pore Strips have also been given the charcoal treatment, with the cult favourite now available in a carbon-black version.
Used once a week on blackhead-prone spots such as the nose, forehead and chin, the handy strips unclog blocked pores and reduce the appearance of comedones. Your hair can also benefit from activated carbon, with Hask’s Charcoal Purifying range, which includes a shampoo, conditioner and dry shampoo. Used in the shower, the shampoo and conditioner help remove built-up oils and product debris without stripping the follicles, while the dry shampoo refreshes your ’do for another day.
Finish off your charcoal routine by brushing with a toothpaste that champions charcoal in its ingredients list. The Humble Co.’s Charcoal Natural Toothpaste effectively lifts surface stains and plaque as it cleans your smile. The charcoal extract in the paste binds with rough surfaces, lifting away from the enamel as you brush and rinse. Ready to join the charcoal charge? Grab one or four of our favourite products – there’s never been a better time to join the dark side.