In the past, you may have been more likely to find charcoal in a fireplace than on your face, but times have changed and activated charcoal is now one of the most popular and ubiquitous ingredients in the natural beauty world. This is down to its myriad of healing, extracting and purifying properties which are effective in everything from face masks to oral hygiene products.
So, what is activated charcoal? An odourless, tasteless black powder, activated charcoal is pure carbon made from wood or other materials (like coconut) that has been processed to make it able to absorb various substances. These can include gases and particles inside the digestive system, and when applied topically activated charcoal can absorb impurities from the skin. It’s so powerful, doctors feed it to people who’ve been poisoned, but in smaller doses it’s a wonderful and versatile substance that can assist with healthy digestion, clear skin and white teeth.
Here at Glasshouse, we now stock several brilliant activated charcoal products which we find ourselves reaching for on a near-daily basis, so we thought we’d share them with you and highlight some of the key benefits of our favourites.
Our most comprehensive lifestyle range comes courtesy of Morihata, whose products are made from Japanese Binchotan charcoal which is regarded as the purest and most effective type of activated charcoal. One of their most popular products is a toothbrush made with charcoal powder blended into the actual bristles of the brush. Activated charcoal is known for its powerful deodorising properties, so is ideal for combatting bad breath as well as removing plaque. The charcoal also prevents any bacteria growing on the brush when it’s not in use, keeping those pearly whites both pearly, and white.
Another favourite is Morihata’s facial puff, which is a 100% natural konjac sponge infused with pure charcoal powder. Konjac sponges are made from the konyakku plant which can be found growing wild at high altitudes in Asia. It’s a non-toxic, naturally alkaline sustainable sponge and is pH neutral, meaning it helps balance the pH of the skin too.
We’re all a bit wary of London’s tap water, so naturally anything that promises to purify it is fine by us; Morihata’s pure charcoal sticks can be added to a water jug to absorb any nasties in the water, and they also soften the taste (and look great too). The sticks can also be placed in a hot bath to encourage healthy circulation, and are effective for about 3 months.
The latest addition to the Glasshouse product family is the Sister & Co Raw Coconut & Activated Charcoal Tooth Whitening Polish (bit of a mouthful, if you will). This magic black paste works to remove stains and discolouration from the teeth with the combination of food grade activated charcoal powder, coconut oil, and bentonite clay. It also contains peppermint oil to freshen the mouth and breath. The bentonite clay works in conjunction with the charcoal, aiding its extracting and detoxifying process, and this is a safe, natural way to whiten and brighten your teeth with no harmful chemicals or enamel-damaging effects.
For when our skin needs a polish, we often turn to the Guy Morgan Apothecary Midnight Black clay mask. Made with a base of Rhassoul clay which has been used for over 12 centuries in skincare, this mask also contains the prized ingredient of organic activated coconut charcoal powder. As expected, charcoal appears here for its powerful ability to draw out toxins and impurities from the skin and again the combination with a clay is extremely effective. The mask comes in a dry powder form, simply mix with water and slather on your face (we recommend keeping a special towel for this one as it’s a pretty spectacular deep black colour).
Not even plain old soap is excluded from a charcoal injection - Honest Skincare’s range of handmade soaps include a charcoal soap bar which is excellent for skin clarification on the body. When worked into a creamy lather, this soap is also great for shaving with as it’s non-drying and creates just the right amount of foam, leaving the skin soft and smooth.
We love the colour of charcoal products, there’s something deeply satisfying about slathering oneself in a deep onyx-coloured face mask or spreading black paste on our teeth - it feels a bit rebellious but also like it really works, in an oxymoronic kind of way. We’ve become absolute converts to the benefits of using activated charcoal in just about everything, in as many ways as possible, and we think you will be too!
Words and cover image: Rosie Herdman