The Dirt on Activated Charcoal

Walked by someone swigging a bottle of black liquid lately? What about the weird black powder your roommate left in the sink last night? Spotted a stranger taking a noir capsule following a meal?

Chances are they’re taking advantage of the health and beauty benefits of activated charcoal, the latest interestingly-hued ingredient popping up all over the self-care universe.

What is activated charcoal?

Despite coal’s association with a certain holiday-time naughty list, the activated charcoal you’ll find in health and wellness products is made from natural substances like bamboo, wood or coconut shells that are treated at a very high heat to remove methane, hydrogen and tar. After the heat, what’s left behind is a substance made mostly of carbon that’s then “activated” to open its chemical structure and create an extremely porous aka ultra-absorbent version of carbon.

That super-porous structure? It leaves a whole lot of room for stuff like toxins that are attracted to and bind to the activated charcoal. Think of it like a magnet that pulls in and absorbs the not-great-for-you stuff floating around your system before it makes its way into your bloodstream. Then it bids adieu to your body and makes its way out via natural pathways. 

What makes it so special? (aka why you may want to start using it)

Hospitals use the stuff on overdose patients. It’s what’s used in air filtration systems. And with the right concentration, activated charcoal can have the same detoxifying effect in your self-care routine.

Because toxins are attracted and stick to activated charcoal, it makes for a great deep cleanser and detoxifier. Oily skin? Soak it up with activated charcoal. Enlarged pores? Rid ‘em of the daily toxins that make a home in your skin with activated charcoal. Body feeling “off”? Swap an epsom salt bath for one with activated charcoal. Enjoyed an extra drink with dinner? Pop a capsule of activated charcoal to help stave off a hangover. When you eat or drink something your body can’t digest properly or that irritates your system, the gut produces toxins that burden the liver and mess with your hormones. So if you have that extra drink or eat a big ice cream sundae, even though you’re lactose intolerant, activated charcoal can be a lifesaver as it’ll bind to those toxins and hopefully remove the bulk before they can do too much damage.

How to use activated charcoal.

No longer relegated to a holiday threat for “naughty” kids, it’s not hard to find activated charcoal in many self-care products these days (not to mention the supplement aisle of your drugstore). But before you go adding an activated charcoal pill to your daily vitamin intake, please consult a doctor! It is possible to have too much of a good thing, and activated charcoal is no exception: its wicked absorption powers can interfere with the way your body absorbs nutrients and vitamins, as well as other medication.

That said, when it comes to topical uses, apply away! Deodorant is a great place to start if you want to take activated charcoal baby steps since it’s a familiar product with an added benefit: the activated charcoal will help detox your pits from whatever conventional deodorant you were using before and prime them for an all-natural lifestyle. Or a body wash to help extract pollutants you probably don’t even realize you were exposed to all day long.

If you’re ready for the next step, consider incorporating a facial cleanser packed with activated charcoal into your nighttime skincare routine. Not only will it effectively cleanse your skin, it’ll help pull all the hard-to-reach gunk out of your pores, shrinking them in the process. Or dive into the activated-charcoal-as-toothpaste pool to remove surface stains from teeth and detox your gums.

Can’t make up your mind? Try ‘em all! Happy detoxing!

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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. 
Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.



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I’ve always thought activated charcoal was a gimmick. I guess it is worth a try though!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

Thanks for this wonderful post explaining all the dirt on activated charcoal. I’d been wondering what the benefits are and how I can use it, and this was so helpful!



If consumed, what will stop the activated charcoal from flushing out the good things, like vitamins and nutrients?


I was told about the foot patches, same thing ,you have to it ‘ put a small packet of charcoal onto the sticky piece that comes with it . Put it on the ball of your foot at bedtime,I put a sock on top. In the morning the patch is soot black and soaking wet, only do one for a night, already I have more energy See Range of products made from Charcoal: Charcoal magic powder and paste for Teeth whitening and Gum strengthening, Magic dust for face masks and scrubs The world is going “Charcoal Mad” Experience the rejuvenated skin and revitalized you, with themagical dusty black. Charcoal Magic Powder Charcoal Magic Powder Whitens and Protects Teeth Charcoal Magic Powder contains Activated charcoal, a by-product of slowly burnt wood, peat or coconut shells treated with oxygen. It is a 100% natural teeth whitener; naturally whitens teeth, polish teeth, strengthens enamel, and detoxifies the mouth. Brushing teeth with Charcoal Magic Powder will help you feel… Read more »


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Saves you tons of time!!!!

Hi Allie White,
Thanks for this excellent post and well explain about all the dirt on activated charcoal.

Well explained article!!