Charcoal can never be praised enough. I brush my teeth with it daily, and pop a few capsules full if I have overindulged in food or drink. In skin care, there are many different types of charcoal, which is usually made from some type of burned (charred) plant matter or wood.
Activated charcoal is charcoal that is heated, which then acquires a magnetic charge and attracts all of the yuck stuff out where you apply it. Charcoal’s hyperactive levels of absorption are called adsorption and are what makes it a complete blessing to use on acneic skin.
Though even a cave woman could put charcoal powder into a face mask, buying products with charcoal already in them is user friendly and less messy, so I've rounded up five offerings with charcoal in them, from $5 and up.
Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask
This stuff is the truth. My former roommate Natalie was a skin care junkie long before I was, and this was one of her staple products. Being a non-shit head roommate, I never used it (it would be hard to sneak around with this stuff on your face unnoticed) but always wanted to, so I reached out to Origins for a sample. The reputation of this product is very well deserved. True, you could DIY your own charcoal mask, but this one is already mixed up and with things I don’t think most people have in their pantry, like myrtle water, which is calming to angry zits, and lecithin, which helps trap moisture in and dissolve excess sebum.
Once a week use is all it takes to get devoted. I love this stuff just as much as my homemade charcoal masks, and that is saying a lot.
Biore Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar And Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strips
Nose strips! Ugh, I tell you one of the grossest simple pleasures in life is seeing one of these peppered with weird little pods of goop that were once IN YOUR SKIN. It just never gets old. I do agree that you can’t use these too often, since some of what it takes out are sebaceous filaments that just come back anyway, but once a week before deep cleansing and mask day I really love a good nose strip. These in particular employ the suction power of charcoal in addition to the adhesive that pulls out the sebum. I honestly can’t say whether or not the charcoal does anything measurably different, but Biore is the OG nose strip manufacturer, so I would grab these regardless.
The Biore Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar is a decent bar of soap. It's only $8 and it would last a very long time if used only on your face. But considering it has peppermint oil in it, I will likely keep it for body use (my face doesn’t like frequent peppermint). I enjoyed this on my konjac sponge and with bare hands, but I like its performance best on a Salux cloth.
Boscia Black Charcoal Blotting Linens
Boscia loves throwing charcoal up in their products. Since I am already a fan of the Charcoal Konjac Sponge, I decided to try these blotting papers. Using abaca leaf paper (just like Tatcha’s babies that I loved so much), these are infused with charcoal to not only dab up excess oil, but to draw off pollution and dirt. The sheets are priced so wonderfully ($10 for 100 sheets) that I can use them daily without putting a dent in my finances.
Yes To Tomatoes Activated Charcoal Bar Soap
This is my first Yes To face product experience. I like this massive bar of soap. It cleans and tightens pores almost as nicely as my favorite staple: African Black Soap. Tomato extract treats skin to an antioxidant dose of lycopene, a carotenoid that helps heal sun and environmental damage. Willow bark (aka salicylic acid) comes around to help calm zits and renew the skin’s surface faster. Nice lather, good price, sustainable palm oil--I’m into it!
When it comes to testing and trying stuff out, you know the only thing I fear is pimples themselves. If it’s not comedogenic, I’m slapping it on my mug. In this case, it was helpful with my periodic breakouts, and I couldn’t ask for more. Charcoal is so great for problem skin. It should be a weekly staple for anyone experiencing acne.
- Do you use charcoal in your regular skin care routine?
- Are you brave enough to use it as eyeliner, like Sable did back in the day?
Photos by Darnell Scott