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What Are the Benefits of Charcoal in Skincare?

By Kaitlyn McNab, she/her

Over the past few years, charcoal has quickly risen to ingredient stardom in the skincare world. The buzzworthy substance has made an appearance in cleansers, masks, treatments, scrubs—you name it. Charcoal’s diversity goes even beyond skincare, sometimes being used for ingestion in powder or capsule form, and is often found in hygiene products like deodorant, soaps, and toothpastes. But... what is it? And what does it actually achieve for the body and specifically, for the skin? According to Youth To The People’s Senior Manager of Field Sales + Education, Jacob Tomás del Rosario, charcoal’s purification and detoxification properties are what make it so popular—and so effective—in skincare.

“Charcoal is the carbon soot leftover after burning organic matter, which means anything carbon based, but most often charcoal comes from plant-based materials,” Del Rosario explains. “It naturally holds a strong negative charge which has the potential to attract positively charged matter like toxins, heavy metals, dirt, oil, and even poison, which can make it useful in emergency situations. It’s commonly described as having an effect like a magnet.”

When it comes to skincare, charcoal can be a great routine addition because of its potential to clear buildup and impurities. Those with acneic skin types or skin that produces excessive oil will especially benefit from it, but all skin types can benefit from a clarifying ingredient like charcoal. Buildup may not lead to blemishes for everyone, but it can surely interfere with the full absorption of other skincare products.

Charcoal is often paired up with clay for rinse-off mask formulas. Bentonite clay and charcoal are a well-known dynamic duo due to their similar functions and bentonite’s effectiveness in increasing charcoal’s potential benefits. 

“Bentonite clay, sometimes referred to as volcanic ash, is commonly compared to the ingested and topical benefits of activated charcoal,” Del Rosario says. “The benefit of bentonite is that it, too, attracts toxins, dirt, and oil, but also has a high vitamin and mineral content.”

Like activated charcoal, bentonite is porous and sponge-like. The more surface area both substances have, the more matter they can attract. 

“Molecules are attracted to each other and cling to each other like glue, so especially when used in a rinse-off mask, bentonite and charcoal can go to work to attract those excess oils, dirt and toxins and carry them away as you rinse off the mask,” adds del Rosario. 

The Superclay Purify + Clear Power Mask’s triple-clay blend, which includes bentonite and white charcoal, provides an immediate detoxifying effect without drying—in turn boosting the effects of the other ingredients in the mask which work to improve clarity, visibly tighten pores, and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier.

“For more balanced to dry skin types, I would seek out charcoal paired with skin nourishing ingredients,” Del Rosario shares. “This ensures that all skin types can enjoy the experience of treatment like the Power Mask.” Purifying ingredients unlock a new type of freedom for your skin—one where nothing can stand in your way.

Written by Kaitlyn McNab for Youth To The People