What is Activated Charcoal?

What is activated charcoal

I’ve been noticing a dark trend recently. When I say dark, I mean black. Charcoal black.

I’m talking about activated charcoal, of course! It’s been cropping up all over the place; in the magazines I read, on my Twitter feed, and even in my toothpaste. But what actually is it? And what benefits does it have?

Charcoal has been around for centuries; quite simply, it is the solid porous remains of wood and organic matter that has been burned in the absence of air. You’ve probably got some in your garden right now, in the form of barbecue briquettes. However, activated charcoal is a little more delicate than those big ashy blocks.

Activated charcoal is a form of charcoal that has been created to be extremely porous. This means that it has superfine bubbles, and a gigantic surface area per gram. The first time I played around with pure activated charcoal powder* kindly sent to me by Sheabutter Cottage, I was surprised at just how fine the powder is, and how much water it takes to get it to all stick together and be swept up (let’s just say, I made a mess).

Activated charcoal is cropping up everywhere because it is a natural purifier. You can take activated charcoal tablets for digestive problems, find it in toothpaste to whiten your teeth (I’m currently using Ecodenta’s Extra Black Whitening Toothpaste), or even buy a gorgeous Black + Blum water filter bottle with a stick of activated charcoal to reduce chlorine and mineralise your drinking water. I’ve also recently spotted Sukin’s new charcoal range (find it in Holland & Barrett or Planet Organic), which has been specially formulated for balancing the oils on your skin.

Right now I’m planning on creating a DIY activated charcoal face mask, as I imagine my skin would benefit from this immensely. Now that summer is here, my combination skin is exacerbated somewhat, and the polluted London air doesn’t exactly do wonders for blemishes either (that kind of carbon is definitely of the bad variety). I’ll let you know how it goes!

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