Beauty with a Brain: What Does Charcoal Do?

Image result for charcoal

What exactly does charcoal do for your skin? Every beauty product these days seams to brag about having charcoal in it, but what does it do?


Before we look at the recent trend, let’s stop and talk about what charcoal does inside the human body.

Let’s say that Billy is a stupid kid, and he eats poison. Naturally, Billy goes for a ride to the hospital. At the ER the doctors will likely give Billy activated charcoal. “Charcoal works by binding to irritating or toxic substances in the stomach and intestines. This binding prevents the toxic drug or chemical from spreading throughout the body.” (Frey)

Basically, when you digest something, your gut brakes up the food and sends the nutrients to the different parts of your body as fuel. but when you eat something poisonous, your gut still does it’s thing, except now it’s poison being spread through your system instead of nutrients.

Humans can’t digest charcoal, if you eat charcoal, your gut won’t know what to do with it and it will pass through your system. Activated charcoal is a special kind of charcoal that likes to bond with stuff. once charcoal has bonded with something, it doesn’t want to let go even for the human gut. This charcoal buddy system protects our stupid friend Billy from the poison.

But what does that have to do with skin care? Good question!

The theory seams to be that charcoal traps impurities in the skin like it does in the blood stream. There is SOME validity to that idea: “Based on its ability to bind other substances, activated charcoal has been effectively used to clean skin wounds . . . While activated charcoal shows some anti-aging activity in rats, it remained doubtful that it has the same effect in humans.” (Frey) Dr. Adam Rindfleisch told the Vegetarian Times “It’s assumed that since charcoal prevents absorption of many compounds in the blood, it can be used routinely for detoxification, but based on research to date, it’s not clear how much of a difference it makes.” (Barker)Biore Charcoal Acne Clearing Cleanser for Oily Skin, 6.77 Ounces

So does charcoal make a difference? Well, some women swear by it, insisting that it works for them. I feel the need to point out that there are other, cheaper, natural skin cleansing products such as, witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and honey which all have proven skin benefits and would likely be a better investment.

It’s important to keep in mind that many skin care products are cheap moisturizers with a flashy sounding ingredient. Many charcoal based products seam to be just that. Personal speaking, I don’t use charcoal products because I find them too abrasive for my skin. This is not to say that all these cleansers are all bad, what I’m saying is this: Before you buy any new product take a look at the ingredients list. Make sure it’s a good product even without the charcoal. If you need help judging a product, Good News! The internet has makeup review sites like Beautypedia where you can get expert opinions, and find quality products.



Barker, Elizabeth. “The dirt on charcoal.” Vegetarian Times, Apr.-May 2015, p. 18.

Frey, Rebecca J., PhD, and Tish Davidson, AM. “Charcoal, Activated.” Web


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