by Dr. Stacy Matthews Branch
Activated charcoal is increasingly used as an effective method to remove impurities and dirt from the skin’s pores. For this reason, many use charcoal-containing masks to control acne. Activated charcoal (or activated carbon) is a black powder (often pressed into a tablet form) made of substances such as peat, coconut shells, or sawdust. It is called “activated” when these substances are processed by subjecting to high temperatures, creating many small pores which increase the surface area of the carbon particles.
This great characteristic allows for the significant adsorption (adhesion) of substances to the charcoal, hence activated charcoal is used in many emergency situations where a toxic substance is ingested. Ingested poisons are bound to the charcoal so that they do not reach the circulation and are excreted by the bowel instead. This property can be exploited for removing substances from the skin as well.
The concept of the biological use of charcoal is not a new one. The ancient Egyptians used charcoal as a preservative as they found that burned wood (creating a carbon covering) did not rot when immersed in soil. This knowledge also promoted the use of charcoal as part of the corpse preservation process. The health-related uses were then developed for control of foul odors from gangrenous wounds. Studies conducted in the past ten years indicate the use of activated charcoal to remove odors from very badly compromised skin such as leg ulcers and blistering disorders (1,2).
Activated charcoal has gained popularity in many cosmetic products and was rated top rising search word related to skincare in 2017. Beauty Trends 2017 a think with Google study found that in the US and France, consumers show interest in earthy masks with charcoal, clay and mud masks and their use is closely tied to acne, clear skin, hydration and removing excess oils. Not all charcoal masks are created equal however, since knowing the adsorptive property of charcoal is crucial in preparing an effective mask. Activated charcoal when mixed with many other substances in a given product, may not do a good job of removing dirt and oil from the skin because the pores of the activated charcoal may already be filled with some of the ingredients that it is mixed with. The more pure and fewer ingredients in a charcoal containing mask, the more surface area of charcoal to absorb impurities from the skin.
Cytotone Facial Scrub & Mask contains activated coconut charcoal with long known adsorptive properties, Kaolin clay and natural facial cleansing agents such as witch hazel and sea kelp. Simply made, Cytotone Scrub + Mask captures the full benefit of charcoal’s amazing adsorptive properties.
1. Sornakumar L, Kalarani M, Srinivas CR. Activated charcoal dressing in malodorous leg ulcers. Indian J Lepr. 2010 Jul-Sep;82(3):147-8.
2. Chakravarthi A, Srinivas CR, Mathew AC. Activated charcoal and baking soda to reduce odor associated with extensive blistering disorders. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2008 Mar-Apr;74(2):122-4.
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