What is Activated Charcoal?

Pot of 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?

What is activated charcoal?

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.

Conversely, regular charcoal 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.

What are the uses of activated charcoal?

The first time I played around with pure activated charcoal powder kindly gifted 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. There are many uses for activated charcoal:

  • You can take activated charcoal tablets for digestive problems.
  • You can find activated charcoal in toothpaste to whiten your teeth (I’m currently using Georganics Charcoal Toothpaste in English Mint).
  • You may have also seen activated charcoal sticks, which are used to filter water, reducing chlorine and mineralising your drinking water. I personally have a Black + Blum water filter bottle which comes with a stick of the stuff.
  • Activated charcoal is also cropping up in skincare, used to purify and cleanse your face or skin – and it tends to be used in skincare designed to balance out oily skin, such as Sukin’s charcoal skincare range.
  • And there’s also activated charcoal deodorants – PureChimp’s charcoal deodorant balm may look a little messy, but its natural formula really does prevent odour and it smells like bananas too!

Right now I’m also planning on creating a DIY activated charcoal face mask using my pure powder, as I imagine my skin would benefit from this immensely. As 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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