Activated Charcoal for Acne – Does it really work?

Charcoal has been known as a natural medication for many years. Its structure of millions of tiny-little pores endows it with enormous detoxifying capabilities. Taken orally, it has been proven to fight poisoning and overdose by binding toxins and other micro-particles like bacteria, chemicals or dirt. Just recently activated charcoal has gained momentum in conquering the cosmetics industry and is also depicted as the magic bullet against acne.

What is Charcoal?

Charcoal for Acne

In general, Charcoal is created by removing water and other volatile constituents like oils, fatty acids or alcohols from animals or vegetation. The usual charcoal that all of us know is created by pyrolysis – „burning“ wood in the absence of air.

And what is Activated Charcoal for Acne?

Activated Charcoal describes charcoal that is produced for medical and especially cosmetic use.

It is very similar to the normal charcoal but is heated in combination with a gas that increases the surface area by creating pores inside the charcoal. These inhibit the detoxifying capabilities to trap bacteria, chemicals or other toxins.

Activated or active simply means that the charcoal easily engages in chemical reactions like trapping or binding toxins because of its microporosity.

Fun fact: Because of all those little pores, five grams of activated charcoal can have a surface area of up 15,000 square meters – which is about 34 times the size of an NBA-standard basketball court.

 

Whats the Idea connected to Acne?

The idea behind activated charcoal for acne is that it will bind acne-causing bacteria, excess oil, dirt, chemicals or other microparticles and thus help to heal and prevent acne. The recent trend has led to a whole spectrum of skin products that contain charcoal, for e.g. charcoal scrubs, charcoal masks or charcoal soaps for acne.

Other than the usual charcoal that we use to light up the barbecue activated charcoal for cosmetic use is often made from made from coconut shells, bamboo, peat or olive pits.

Taken orally it has proven throughout many medical studies to manage poisoning or overdose, as it helps the body to get rid of unwanted substances!

 

How does it work?

How does activated charcoal for acne work

Its millions of tiny-little pores increase the surface area of charcoal immensely and enable it to carry other microparticles up to 1000 times of its own mass. However, the structure alone is not enough. Additionally, it is negatively charged which attracts positively charged particles like toxins, bacteria or chemicals and traps them inside the pores.

The fact that charcoal is not absorbed by the body ensures that the toxins are carried out of the body when taken orally or if applied on the skin, draws them out.

 

Is Charcoal good for Acne? 

So far, there hasn’t been any scientific research that supports the claim of translating the benefits of activated charcoal from an oral treatment to the context of skin problems.

However, the claim makes a lot of sense if we take a closer look at the potential benefits that activated charcoal for acne could have:

 

The Benefits of activated charcoal for acne

 

Sucks up excess sebum

Activated charcoal really is a sponge, that’s why it is so effective against overdoses and poisonings. Thus, it will also suck up and control excess sebum (The skins Oil) and prevent pores from clogging.

Charcoal draws out acne-causing bacteria

Draws out acne-causing bacteria

Bacteria are naturally present on the surface of the skin. For people that are prone to acne and oily skin, the bacteria can flourish in the anaerobic environment of the oily skin.  Charcoal will bind bacteria that are present on the skin and thus, positively affect acne.

For bacteria that are deeper inside the skin, it is not clear and scientific studies must tell. However, due to its negatively charged structure, it is likely that charcoal will draw out bacteria and toxins that lie underneath the skin's surface.

Charcoal helps to unclog pores

Unclogs pores

Besides, preventing pores from clogging because of its cleaning and oil-diminishing capabilities, activated charcoal can also help to unclog pores as it removes the sebum, dirt and dead skin from the pores. It will smoothen the skin's appearance…

Charcoal removes toxins

Frees the skin of other toxins, dirt, and chemicals

Just as in the stomach, it will bind any positively charged toxins, dirt, chemicals or heavy metals that are present on the skin which will be removed when you rinse it off.

Additionally, it is 100 % sure that activated charcoal is inert and doesn’t cause any allergic reactions, irritation or inflammation – won’t make your acne worse.

Charcoal does not harm the skin

To sum up, there are some very convincing benefits that activated charcoal could have for acne. The environment on the surface of our skin might look very different from our stomachs at first sight but when we take a closer look at the mechanisms – drawing out chemicals, toxins or other microparticles –  things become more coherent. In addition to the fact that activated charcoal won’t harm you or make your skin worse, it is worth a try in fighting your acne!

WARNING: People that tend to have dry skin should be very careful with the use of charcoal as it might make the dryness worse.

 

Products for Acne

The recent trend about charcoal in the cosmetics industry has released a myriad of new products that reach from teeth whitening toothpaste, facial mask, body scrubs, soap bars, charcoal sponges, pore stripes to bubble clay masks and many more.

Once the idea started it went viral and the fact that its memorable color is especially easy to market contributed its fair share to the number of different products available.

Thus, it is questionable which of the products contain charcoal in a way that benefits the skin rather than their marketing strategy.

In the following, I will take a closer look at the products that I perceive as the most effective ones to contain charcoal as an active ingredient.

 

Charcoal Mask for Acne

Activated Charcoal Mask For Acne

Woman relaxing with a charcoal facial mask

The application as a facial mask is a very effective way to use charcoal in your fight against acne. Giving it the chance to rest on the face it can exhibit its magic powers and draw bacteria from the skin, suck up excess sebum and unclog pores naturally.

Just like in the stomach this process needs a little time and at least in my opinion, this is unlikely to happen when using it in a cleanser or any other product that only remains briefly on the skin.

 

While fighting the appearance of acne and smoothening the skin's appearance the superior facial masks also supply the skin with essential nutrients and moisture to improve the healing process and restore the natural health of the skin.

Here are two of my favorite activated charcoals masks for acne:

 

ORIGINS Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores

 Skin Type: combination to oily

Origins Activated Charcoal Facial Mask

Containing Bamboo Charcoal as an active ingredient it adds a composition of Myrtle Leaf Water, Kaolin also known as White China Clay and Bentonite Clay.

Those ingredients sum up as the ultimate detox combination that will draw out any toxins and bacteria from the skin. Additionally, they will unclog and shrink pores, exfoliate dead skin cells and remove excess sebum which will lead to an overall better skin appearance and soft feeling. Bentonite is also known to support the healing of the skin and reduce inflammation.

Myrtle leaf water supplies the skin with powerful antioxidants that boost the skins natural protection.

The Benefits

  • Detoxifies the skin
  • Helps to control excess oil
  • Exfoliates
  • Unclogs and shrinks pores
  • Improves skins appearance
  • Leaves a soft and mat finish

 

Cons

  • Some people don’t see an effect on blackheads
  • Dries out sensitive skin

 

WARNING: Deep cleansing products can be too harsh for sensitive skin that is already prone to dryness. Do a patch test before you apply it to the whole face. Also, use a moisturizer after the treatment

 

Customer Reviews

 

A positive Review about the Origins Charcoal Mask

A positive Review of the Origins Charcoal Mask

A negative Review of the Origins Charcoal Mask

 

Dermatologica Charcoal Rescue Mask

Skin Type: combination to oilyThe Dermatologica Charcoal Rescue Mask for Acne

The Dermatologica Charcoal Rescue Mask is without a doubt a high-end product containing only the best ingredients. Customers view it as the weekly spar retreat that detoxifies, fights blackheads and leaves the skin with a soft and young feeling and a healthy glow.

Ingredients like Volcanic Ash, Bamboo Extract, Sea Silt and alpha hydroxy acids exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin while leaving it brighter and softer than before.

Sulfur and Activated Charcoal draw out toxins and impurities as well as promote cell turnover.

Witch Hazel Water, Volcanic Ash, Tea Tree and Eucalyptus Oil supply the skin with essential nutrients and antioxidants that protect the skin from radial stressors and support natural healing.

Pros

  • Deep cleansing experience
  • Reduces blackheads
  • Detoxifies, exfoliates, brightens and invigorates the skin
  • Prevents breakouts, skin aging, and dullness
  • Outstanding customer feedback

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Not suited to sensitive skin

 

WARNING: Deep cleansing products can be too harsh for sensitive skin that is already prone to dryness. Do a patch test before you apply it to the whole face. Also, use a moisturizer after the treatment

Customer Reviews

 

A positive Review about the Dermatologica Charcoal Rescue Mask

A positive Review of the Dermatologica Charcoal Rescue Mask A outstanding Review of the Dermatologica Charcoal Rescue Mask

 

Charcoal Scrub for Acne

Scrubbing is fun and highly effective to get rid of dead skin cells. Thus, an activated Charcoal Scrub is another great alternative to implement charcoal into your acne fighting routine. It’s very fine structure and pores make it an excellent exfoliator that will remove any dead tissue or dirt.

If you let it rest on your skin for a little while it will also draw out additional toxins and bacteria that remain on your skin.

Its deep cleansing capabilities will rejuvenate your skin, prevent acne outbreaks by eliminating bacteria and removing dirt, and control excess sebum production.

 

BIORÉ® CHARCOAL ACNE SCRUB

Skin Type: combination to oilyThe BIORÉ Charcoal Acne Scrub

Many people swear on the capabilities of the Biore Skin Care series when it’s about fighting acne. With the Charcoal Acne Scrub, they added a product that directly addresses the needs of people who have acne and normal to oily skin.

Charcoal in combination with Salicylic Acid yields a deep cleansing experience that will exfoliate and absorb excess oil. It will also decrease the size of pores and actively fight the appearance of acne scars which will rejuvenate the skin and restore its natural radiance.

The Pros

  • Deep cleanser
  • Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment
  • Removes and controls excess sebum
  • Unclogs pores and prevents new outbreaks
  • Oil-free 

The Cons

  • Harsh to sensitive skin

WARNING: Deep cleansing products can be too harsh for sensitive skin that is already prone to dryness. Do a patch test before you apply it to the whole face. Also, use a moisturizer after the treatment

Customer Reviews

 

A positive Review about the BIORÉ Charcoal Acne Scrub

A negative Review of the BIORÉ Charcoal Acne Scrub

A positive Review of the BIORÉ Charcoal Acne Scrub

 

 

Morihata Binchotan Activated Charcoal Body Scrub Towel        

Skin Type: sensitive to oily

 Binchotan Activated Charcoal Scrub Towel

With the Morihata Binchotan Charcoal Body Scrub Towel, I found an alternative that also works for the more sensitive skin. Its very fine structure might not have the same exfoliation strength as more rough charcoal scrubs, but it will also impurify the skin and leave it with a soft and healthy glow.

The towel also features 2 different textures that you can use according to the sensitivity of your skin in the area! Its great to use under the shower to gently wash, scrub, exfoliate and remove impurities from your whole body.

Pros

  • Also suited to gentle skin
  • Great for people with acne on body areas
  • Exfoliates skin
  • Removes toxins and impurities

Cons

  • No deep „deep-cleansing“ experience
  • No additional nutrients

 

Customer Reviews

 

A positive Review of the Morihata Binchotan Charcoal Towel A positive Review of the Morihata Binchotan Charcoal Towel

A positive Review of the Morihata Binchotan Charcoal Towel

Conclusion

So far, there haven't been any scientific studies that have proven the effectiveness of activated charcoal on skin issues and acne. However, no scientific studies don't necessarily mean that's not the case – the customer feedback on certain products has been outstanding and many people swear on the detoxifying and rejuvenating capabilities of charcoal.

Additionally, the mechanism of drawing out bacteria and toxins, and transporting them out of the body is the same when applied on the skin. At least for products like charcoal masks or scrubs that have a chance to rest on the skin for some time. In combination with the detox capabilities, those products will exfoliate dead skin tissue, unclog pores, nourish the skin with essential nutrients and antioxidants and restore the natural radiance of the skin. Set aside the pleasure they can make and the soft feeling they leave behind!

Charcoal is inert and won't harm you, so it's up to you if want to explore whether it should have a fixed place in your acne fighting routine!

 

Have you ever tried Activated Charcoal for Acne? What other methods of dealing with acne have you tried? What were the most successful ones? Share your story with us in the comments below!

Activated Charcoal for Acne – Does it really work?
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Jonathan Clark
 

An individual with more than 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. The last 5 years i have been specializing in acne treatment and analyzed more than 100 products.

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