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 and help to get rid of dead skin cells.

Just recently activated charcoal has gained momentum in conquering the cosmetics industry and is also depicted as the magic bullet against acne and it doesn’t cause allergic reactions or irritate sensitive skin.

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

What is Charcoal?

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.

What is activated Charcoal?

Activated Charcoal describes charcoal that is produced for medical and especially cosmetic use for acne-prone skin and it usually looks like a fine black powder.

The Charcoal you probably expected right?

It is very similar to normal charcoal but activated charcoal is heated in combination with a gas that increases the surface area by creating tiny inlets across the charcoal. These inhibit the detoxifying capabilities to trap bacteria, chemicals, or other toxins which is good for sensitive skin.

What does ‘Activated’ mean?

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

The idea behind activated charcoal for breakouts is that it will bind acne-causing bacteria, excess oil, dirt, chemicals, or other microparticles and thus help to heal and prevent breakouts.

Why is it so popular?

The recent trend of activated charcoal and oral activated charcoal has led to a whole spectrum of skin products that contain charcoal, e.g. charcoal scrubs, charcoal masks, or charcoal soaps to help combat breakouts

Other than the usual charcoal that we use to light up the barbecue activated charcoal for cosmetic use is often 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?

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 pore. 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 it good for dealing with breakouts?

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.

What are the benefits of activated charcoal for acne?

Besides, preventing pores from clogging because of its cleaning and oil-diminishing capabilities, activated charcoal can also help to unclog the inlets as it removes the sebum, dirt, and dead skin from the pores.

It will smoothen the skin’s appearance… Just as in the stomach, activated charcoal will bind any positively charged enzymes, dirt, chemicals, or heavy metals that are present on the skin which will be removed when you rinse it off.

Bacteria are naturally present on the surface of the skin. For people that are prone to oily skin and breakout, the bacteria can flourish in the anaerobic environment of the oily skin. 

It 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, activated charcoal will likely draw out bacteria and the enzymes that lie underneath the skin’s surface due to its negatively charged structure.

Can you have an allergic reaction to it?

It is 100 % sure that activated charcoal is inert and doesn’t cause any allergic reactions, irritation, or inflammation – won’t make your breakouts worse. Activated charcoal really is a sponge, that’s why it is so effective against overdoses and poisonings. Thus, activated charcoal will also suck up and control excess sebum (the skin’s oil) and prevent inlets from clogging.

What else can it do?

It helps treat insect bites, activated charcoal according to anecdotal evidence may help take the sting out of a bite and it can help to neutralize the enzymes from the insect venom.

Charcoal products also tend to look pretty cool, it is not expensive and it will be harmful to your body and it will be great for your skin!

Doctors also use it to help remove toxins from any patients for an acute overdose. It helps to soak up any drug that has been taken on accident or purpose and helps to remove toxins from the body.


What are charcoal masks?

A charcoal mask is an example of a charcoal cleanser. It usually has a grit-like texture that acts as an exfoliant. An exfoliant (Charcoal cleanser) is a cosmetic product that is designed to remove dead cells from the surface of your skin,

Face masks are quite common and have no harsh chemicals

so the charcoal mask helps to remove dead cells from the surface of your skin. Some skin experts believe a charcoal face mask can help draw impurities.

The Charcoal mask does this by soaking up the pore-clogging dirt and remove excess oil on your skin and when you wash away the mask it is rinsed away alongside it, leaving you with cleaner and clearer skin.

This is why you see some people use a charcoal mask in their routine just make sure you apply the mask evenly across your whole face when you have your own mask.

Are there other types of masks?

Yes., another type of charcoal mask some people use is a bamboo charcoal face mask with some white china clay materials (Kaolin) as it is packed with green tea leaves that are meant to help soothe your skin, and some people mix aloe vera into it.

Charcoal face mask

Make sure you wait for 15 minutes to let the mask dry on your face!

What are charcoal cleansers?

Charcoal cleansers are cosmetic products that sometimes have a grit-like texture they have salicylic acid inside them and are great at absorbing impurities like surplus oil on your skin, dirt, and grime are drawn to the tiny black grains and away from the skin from which the skin benefits as it is left looking clearer and cleaner.

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

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:

#1 ORIGINS Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores

Skin Type: combination to oily

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:

  • remove excess sebum
  • very soothing cooling sensation


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


  • 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

#2 Dermatologica Charcoal Rescue Mask

Skin Type: combination to oily

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.

Key Features:

  • exfoliate and rejuvenate the skin
  • protects skin from radial stressors & support natural healing


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


  • 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

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.


Skin Type: combination to oily

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.

Key Features:

  • deep cleansing experience
  • decrease the size of pores


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


  • 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

Morihata Binchotan Activated Charcoal Body Scrub Towel

Skin Type: sensitive to oily

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.

Key Features:

  • Japanese body scrub towel infused with binchotan activated charcoal
  • Refreshes, exfoliates, and revitalizes your entire body.


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


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


So far, there haven’t been many scientific studies that have proven the effectiveness of activated charcoal on skin issues and breakouts/

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.

It Is important to remember that the use of activated charcoal is unregulated. This is because these products do not claim to help cure or treat any conditions.

Additionally, the mechanism of drawing out bacteria and toxins, and transporting them out of the body is the same when applied to the skin.

At least for products like charcoal masks or scrubs that have a chance to rest on the skin for some time.

Face masks are quite common and have no harsh chemicals

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 skin’s natural radiance. 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 breakouts have you tried? What were the most successful ones? Share your story with us in the comments below!