Black Magic (The Powerful Skin Benefits of Charcoal)
Best known for its ability to heat up the grill, charcoal, which is often referred to as black magic because of its color and healing powers, is also an ancient beauty secret that is making a strong showing in the skincare industry. Activated charcoal, a processed form of carbon, has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Ancient Egyptians are believed to have used it to keep wounds clean; Hippocrates used activated carbon to treat patients with conditions like epilepsy and vertigo; and Hindus utilized charcoal for drinking-water filtration. In the 18th century, chemists and pharmacists studied charcoal’s ability to help protect the human body from toxins, and in recent years, charcoal, which is activated through heat and exposure to steam and certain chemicals, has become increasingly popular in skincare. “Charcoal is an excellent natural ingredient to help purify and deep clean the skin,” says Craig Nandoo, founder of Tao of Man. “It is known to absorb 100 to 200 times its weight in impurities. Apart from its purification properties, charcoal is also used for detoxification and is known to clarify the skin—it actually pulls out impurities and leaves skin soft, fresh, clear, and bright.”
Feel the Heat
According to Teresa Stenzel, director of education at Bioelements, charcoal-based products and treatments are ideal for clients with dull, dehydrated, devitalized, and congested skin. They can also benefit clients with rough skin texture and poor circulation. And because charcoal helps to purify and cleanse the skin, it is a great ingredient for products used in facial treatments, especially those targeting acne. “Think of charcoal as a detox cleanse for your skin,” says Ling Chan, owner of Ling Skin Care and Ling Spa “Charcoal is great for facials. Known for its cooling effects on the skin, charcoal is not only a soothing summertime beauty treatment but also works to detox the skin from impurities and heavy oil buildup. Charcoal is also beneficial for clearing up acne and blemishes and purifying the skin from free radicals.”
While charcoal-based products are mostly used to treat facial skin, they can also be beneficial for the entire body. “Generally, masks are the best way to apply charcoal, because in this form, it can optimally pull toxins and impurities out of the skin like a magnet,” says Nandoo. “Activated charcoal is very powerful when used in facial treatments, however, it can also be used as a full-body treatment. As a highly effective detoxifying ingredient, charcoal is known to greatly improve skin health.” At Spa Castle (Carrollton, TX), guests can enjoy the benefits of this ingredient in the Charcoal Tower, which is a room that features activated charcoal to help extract ingested toxins from the body, kill bacteria and viruses, and lower cholesterol levels.
To ensure the most effective benefits from charcoal, choose products that contain charcoal that has been activated or dehydrated, as it makes the ingredient more porous, says Stenzel.
“Charcoal is a booming ingredient right now and can be incredibly effective when combined properly with other active ingredients,” says Nandoo.
In normal amounts, charcoal is not considered to be harmful to the skin, Stenzel agrees that charcoal is safe for all skin types.