What Charcoal Can Do For Your Skin
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It’s Been Used In Medicine For Years
“While it’s now trending on TikTok and other social media platforms, charcoal has actually been used for centuries in medicine,” explains Dr Rekha Tailor, cosmetic doctor and skincare specialist. “It is associated with impressive detoxifying benefits, but it’s also brilliant for removing waste and poisons from the body, too. It’s only in the past few years people are starting to really appreciate similar benefits in their skincare.”
More Research Is Required
“Despite its popularity, there hasn’t been a great deal of research done about the benefits of charcoal in skincare,” adds Dr Rekha. “It’s believed to draw out toxins, debris, oil and impurities, but further studies are needed to confirm this. The reason it’s deemed so effective is thanks to charcoal’s naturally gritty texture. This basically works to draw impurities and dirt from the skin and unblock clogged pores, so the view is, it’s great for preventing breakouts. Charcoal also uses something called ‘dispersion’ forces to effectively remove any substances it comes into contact with – which is why experts regard it as such a good detoxifier.”
It Works Best As An Exfoliator Or A Mask
“Charcoal’s texture means it works best as an exfoliator, face wash or a mask,” advises cosmetic doctor, Dr Paris Acharya. “This is because – as mentioned above – it has a sticky quality to it, and typically these formulas do well to penetrate the skin for maximum absorption of the product. Likewise, these formulas don’t stay on the skin for hours either, so you’re less likely to suffer from irritation. PCA Skin’s Detoxfying Mask is brimming with charcoal to minimise the appearance of enlarged pores, while also absorbing excess dirt, oil and debris trapped within your pores. It’s great if you want a smoother and clearer complexion.”
‘Activated’ Charcoal Works Best
“When shopping for skincare, you want to look for products labelled ‘activated’ charcoal,” continues Dr Rekha. “It has a higher surface area (meaning dirt attracts to it more readily) than traditional charcoal, so it’s better at removing those toxins we’ve mentioned already.” Dr Paris adds: “There are other charcoals to know about, too. Japanese white charcoal contains a variety of minerals and works quickly to absorb oil and dirt from the skin. Kaolin is another type too, but this has more of a clay-based consistency. Both options work well to clear the skin and they’re brilliant when paired with other ingredients like glycerine and hyaluronic acid.”
Only Apply It Topically
“Only use charcoal on your skin,” continues Dr Rekha. “One celebrity once recommended drinking charcoal-infused lemonade for a thorough cleanse, but we really do advise against this. Activated charcoal can be potentially harmful when ingested – particularly if you’re taking it at the same time as prescription medications. The charcoal can actually impact the efficacy of a medication’s active ingredients. If you’re ever concerned or unsure, always consult your pharmacist or a dermatologist first.”
Finally, Use It With Caution
“While beneficial, charcoal should be used with a degree of caution,” says Dr Rekha. “Do your research before using it, and if you have any conditions – such as rosacea or eczema – as well as dry skin, then avoid it altogether. When shopping, try to find some that include hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, too. This will keep irritation – if any – to a minimum.” Dr Paris agrees: “Charcoal can be quite astringent for some. Always do a patch test with new products, too. That way, you’ll know if you’re free of any reactions. Finally, apply it at night. It rids the skin so well of dirt, which makes the evening the prime time for application.”
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