Activated charcoal has risen within the skincare world, thanks to its ability to provide a thorough and deep cleanse. Here, we explore the benefits and list our favourite charcoal-infused products.
You may have heard of charcoal skincare products before. While we know it sounds a bit… weird, charcoal can actually be a very beneficial skincare ingredient for those who deal with excess sebum production.
Why? Well, its main purpose is to remove toxins from the skin, which includes oil, pollution and dead skin cells. It’s no surprise then that the ingredient continues to grow in popularity: a study by Cult Beauty found it’s one of this year’s most Googled skincare ingredients, racking up 104,850 (and counting) searches so far.
So, we asked Diane Ackers, skincare expert for cosmeceutical brand Doctors Formula, everything we need to know about the skincare ingredient, from how it helps oily complexions to whether it’s suitable for acne-prone skin.
What is activated charcoal and what are its general benefits in skincare?
“Activated charcoal is a super deep cleanser. It acts like a magnet to attract and draw impurities – think dirt, grime and excess oils – from clogged pores and onto the surface. From here, they can be easily removed from skin’s surface. This means it’s effective for skin types that suffer from breakouts, blemishes and blocked pores. It also helps to remove dead skin cells, so it leaves skin soft and supple after use.”
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How does activated charcoal help oily skin?
“Charcoal is especially good on oiler skin types, thanks to its deep cleansing properties and ability to remove excess oils. So that three o’clock T-zone shine can be kept at bay for longer. It results in a balanced, shine-free complexion after use.”
Do those with acne-prone and combination skin also benefit?
“Those with combination (and oily) skin often get excess blackheads and oil trapped by dead skin cells and activated charcoal can help by drawing out these blockages and sweeping them away. As for acne-prone skin, it can benefit so long as the acne is not excessively pustular or “wet” acne, as that can be too tender to target at times.”
How should you use products with activated charcoal?
“It’s best to always follow the product brands instructions on use. Activated charcoal often comes as a key ingredient in mask treatments so usage can be anything from one to three times per week. These great weekly skin treatments really keep skin in good condition and, combined with ingredients such as salicylic acid and probiotics, can help to normalise excess oil production in the skin. It’ll leave you with a more balanced, clear and strengthened complexion.”
Best skincare products with activated charcoal, picked by the Stylist beauty team
The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask
Made with bamboo charcoal from the Himalayan foothills, green tea leaves and Community Fair Trade tea tree oil, this charcoal clay mask unclogs pores and leaves skin glowing.
Medik8 Activated Charcoal Refining Mask
This Medik8 mask is not only effective but has been created to deliver a spa-like treatment in your own home. Mix the mask sachet with 30ml of water in the bowl provided to create a cooling gel. Once applied, it’ll work to lift away impurities while scents of patchouli and marjoram will soothe your senses.
The Konjac Sponge Company Bamboo Charcoal Konjac Sponge and Hook
Konjac sponges are a popular beauty tool in South Korea, thanks to their ability to draw out toxins, exfoliate skin and reduce future breakouts. This particular sponge is handmade with plant fibre in the volcanic hills of Jeju Island in South Korea, is 100% natural and is also biodegradable.
Origins Clear Improvement Oil-Free Moisturizer with Bamboo Charcoal
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque
Another product that teams charcoal with skincare hero ingredient salicylic acid, this mask from The Ordinary contains 2% SA and effectively reduces the appearance of blackheads. In fact, beauty editor Lucy Partington, who doesn’t usually use face masks, said she relies on it to target individual blemishes.
Dermalogica Active Clay Cleanser
Thanks to its ability to lift away dirt and grime, charcoal makes for the perfect addition to a cleanser. This Dermalogica option will leave skin feeling clean, while added murumuru seed and botanical lipids stop your skin from feeling tight and stripped.
Typology Purifying Masks with Charcoal Powder
Fun and effective, simply add 30ml of water into this little jar and shake it vigorously for 15 seconds. This will create a charcoal gel mask that works to gently cleanse skin.
Typology Purifying Masks with Charcoal Powder, £14.90 for four
Sanctuary Spa 5 Minute Thermal Charcoal Detox Mask
Perfect for an evening in, this Sanctuary Spa face mask gently heats up on your face – and it feels amazing. Charcoal will draw out excess dirt, while myrrh oil will soothe skin to prevent irritation.
Face Gym Training Stick - Activated Charcoal
Charcoal, tea tree and salicylic acid team up to clear out any congestion caused by pollution. Sweep the stick around your face – Face Gym recommends doing it prior to a workout so the heat can help it work harder – then wash it off to reveal a brighter complexion.
Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud Purifying Black Mask
As well as the benefits of charcoal, this face mask contains 9,000 year-old Black Moor Mud – yep, 9,000 years old. The mud, which is harvested by hand in the Irish countryside, contains a high concentration of vitamins and antioxidants.
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Main image: brands/designed by Matt Phare