Soaps, masks, cleansers, sponges and even juice cures: charcoal can go wild! Update on its virtues.
WHAT COAL ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
In cosmetic products, the accepted expression is “activated vegetable charcoal”. This is wood heated to a very high temperature in an oxygen-free environment, to “activate” it, ie increase its concentration of pure carbon. Once “activated”, this charcoal becomes porous and has excellent absorption capacity.
Some cosmetic companies are committed to selecting binchotan, the crème de la crème of charcoal (yes, yes, it does exist). Or the wood of a holm oak cultivated in Japan, also used by chefs for luxury grilling, because it burns slowly and its smoke gives a better taste. In short, a gold mine (much more expensive than traditional coal). Other houses select the woods of the Himalayas, just as exotic for Westerners.
WHAT IS COAL USED FOR?
Once activated, it is charged with positive ions and acts like a magnet that attracts negative ions contained in a lot of waste. It is used to purify the air (in the dry baths of Korean spas, for example), but it also filters water and even odors. This multi-absorbent is sometimes used by doctors to treat certain poisonings. On the beauty side, when charcoal is applied to the epidermis, sebum and impurities stick to it. Quite simply !
HOW IS CHARCOAL USED?
Since it works like a sponge, it is only used in rinse-off products. It slips into many cleansers such as soaps, scrub gels, scrubs and purifying masks.
The effect after rinsing is stunning: you can feel a real feeling of cleanliness, comparable to the results of a cleaning brush. And after a few days, the skin is clearer, with fewer imperfections (we have tested and approved!). It fits easily into the beauty routine: charcoal soap, for example, replaces a cleanser and can be used daily or alternately with a gel or milk.
But it also comes in more playful products like cleansing brushes or konjac facial sponges infused with charcoal and slightly exfoliating, and even Cotton Swabs (very chic because they are black.) The height of snobbery? The eye masks from the Japanese brand Morihata, infused with binchotan, supposed to relax by lowering the pressure on the optic nerve and by boosting blood circulation. Perfect for meditating, they are available from Liberty in London (or at morihata.com, if you think it’s not worth a Eurostar ticket).
SHOULD WE ALL GET STARTED?
Not necessarily. It is suitable for those who need particularly effective cleaning: urban women and smokers. We also recommend incorporating charcoal into the beauty routine for skin prone to imperfections, or acne, which is also sensitive to impurities. Charcoal is also sometimes associated with salicylic acid for more effectiveness against acne, and with tea tree essential oil for its purifying properties. “Women with dry or reactive skin can also use it but less often, no more than once a week,” advises dermatologist Nina Roos. And there is no need in this case to multiply the products, one is enough.
DOES CHARCOAL REALLY WHITEN TEETH?
Eh yes ! There are charcoal toothpastes and very Instagram-friendly toothbrushes, with black bristles infused with charcoal. Sleek, yes, but is it really effective? Its whitening action is not proven: without waiting for absolutely miraculous results, we can consider that the toothpaste constitutes a good routine to gradually eliminate the superficial stains of the enamel. Toothbrushes can have a mild deodorizing effect and prevent the appearance of bacteria within their fibers.
SHOULD WE INGEST IT?
As it has neither taste nor smell, someone had to try to lend it dietetic virtues! In recent months, it has become embedded in healthy juice cures and has been recommended by Gwyneth Paltrow, who “loves charcoal lemonade”, according to her site, goop.com. It would be the perfect post-jet-lag, post-cooked, anti-indigestion, anti-flatulence remedy, slimming and detox ally. In short, he knows his heyday. Should we therefore succumb to it? In theory, we always apply the same principle: once ingested, it would absorb toxins from the stomach. But we don’t know enough about the detoxification mechanism to be sure. “There is no scientific study proving that ingesting charcoal is beneficial for your health,” confirms nutritionist Renee McGregor. As it is used by doctors to treat overdoses, someone concluded that it also absorbs toxins. But we don’t know exactly whether he is also absorbing nutrients, for example, or drugs from a treatment that we have to undergo. Be careful, then.