As a child, I was never one to get my hands dirty. Sandcastles at the beach? No, thanks. Midafternoon mud pies? Rather not. Finger-painting? Hard pass. So go figure that at the ripe old age of 24, the thought of dipping my fingertips, taste buds, heck, even my face, in an otherwise cringe-worthy concoction of ultra-black carbon could make me feel downright giddy. Yet, it does. It really, really does.
Though it's been used in the medical world for over 100 years, charcoal could still be considered one of the new kids on the block in terms of its emergence into mainstream health and beauty products. From juices to supplements, the substance has been touted as highly detoxifying—a bold claim, which, unsurprisingly, has been met by some experts with slightly raised eyebrows.
But what about when it's applied to your skin? Recently, charcoal-based skin care (most notably masks and soaps) has had an extended moment in the spotlight. They look intriguing, yes, but do these detoxifying charcoal soaps actually live up to their blackhead busting reputations?
To cover our bases, we consulted two different experts: board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman (who is involved with the SkinCeuticals and also works with celebrity clients like Sofía Vergara) and celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, who has her own skincare line. In other words, we trust them. Curious to discover their take on charcoal soap? Keep reading.
As we mentioned earlier, activated charcoal isn't a new discovery within the medical world. According to Engelmen, "Activated charcoal, or carbon that's been treated to increase its absorbency, isn't new. It's been used in hospital emergency rooms for years to treat alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses." Essentially, the carbon will attach to any toxins in your system and absorb them before they hit the bloodstream.
Therefore, the theory is similar when it comes to beauty products. After all, if charcoal can draw out life-threatening poisons, it can certainly handle a couple of measly blackheads, yes? Engelmen explains that a charcoal-based product will basically act like a sponge, sucking up dirt and grime before being washed away as you rinse.
However, considering the ingredient's potency, we had some concerns. Couldn't something so strong be hard on our precious complexions? Vargas agreed that depending on your skin type, you should tread carefully and recommends finding a charcoal product that's also gentle. (She makes an amazing one, by the way.) "If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you can use [it] daily, and it can even remove makeup. If your skin is normal to dry, I would advise using it three or four times a week, or whenever you need a deep cleanse." Additionally, Vargas adds that nighttime is the preferred time to use a charcoal soap since it will clear your skin of all the toxins it's come in contact with throughout the day.
Vargas tells us that due to its ability to hold "1000 times its weight in toxins, [charcoal soap] has the ability to pull impurities from the skin as well as [perform] an overall detox." And although masks seem to get all the attention, Engelmen makes a case for charcoal soaps and cleansers: "By design, cleansers don't stay on the face for more than a minute, so activated charcoal in a cleanser works to remove surface impurities. You will use it daily to remove surface oils, dead skin buildup, sweat, and salt on your skin." If you're looking for a super-deep clean, however, a mask will probably be more helpful. Since they sit on top of your skin longer, (hello, Netflix binge), they're able to travel deeper into pores and suck out the extra gunk.
Benefits and Results
So what kind of results can you expect after using a charcoal soap? According to our experts, pleasant ones. In short, Vargas explains that since charcoal has a super-immediate effect, it will leave skin feeling clean and decongested immediately after use. And after about a week, skin should have a brighter, more radiant appearance, overall.
Interested in trying out a charcoal soap? We've rounded up a few of our favorites below.
In addition to activated bamboo charcoal, this ultra-gentle soap bar contains tea tree and bergamot oils for a next-level detox experience. Antibacterial and antifungal properties make it a great pick if you're prone to oil and acne.
With a fresh and minty scent, this charcoal soap also boasts a rich lather for a luxurious cleansing experience that will help nix impurities.
Featuring invigorating peppermint oil and moisturizing jojoba, this wallet-friendly pick de-gunks and delivers major bang for your buck—drawing out impurities 2.5 times more effectively than your run-of-the-mill bar soap.
Not only does this charcoal soap effortlessly rinse away impurities, it's also extra-hydrating, so skin will never feel stripped or tight post-cleanse.
Paraben- and cruelty-free, this bar soap helps balance the natural pH of your complexion for a radiant appearance and absolutely zero blackheads.
Still curious about charcoal? Read how it can affect your birth control.