Everyone's new beauty obsession, activated charcoal.

  Activated charcoal seems to be the newest "it" ingredient in beauty products.  With its awesome detoxification and healing benefits, we don't blame everybody for being so obsessed!  We already know a lot about what this ingredient can do for our skin and body but here at scrub me we had a few more questions.  Does activated charcoal have a history?  How is this ingredient made, and how exactly does it work?

activated charcoal

activated charcoal

A short history lesson on activated charcoal: 

  Used as fuel, charcoal was first brought into play during the ancient Egyptian times.  During this time it was found that wood that had been burned and now had charcoal on it would not rot while sitting in damp soil.  This led them to the discovery of its ability to preserve and they then began using charcoal to preserve the dead when they were buried.  It wasn't until thousands of years later that this ingredient was used in medicine.  During the period of 400 B.C it was documented that charcoal was used to treat illnesses such as epilepsy, anemia, and vertigo.  The activation process of charcoal is said to have been discovered around the late 1800's/early 1900's.  After this discovery, activated charcoal was seen in various medical journals.  It was used to treat poisoning and as a cure for intestinal infections.  Its popularity in medicine grew and by the end of the 20th century activated charcoal was widely used to treat an array of ailments, such as kidney failure, drug overdose, anemia, and more.  Now, in the 21st century it is commonly used for those medicinal purposes and also in many beauty and wellness products.

 scrub me secret: full history of the uses of activated charcoal is not completely known.  research has shown that other cultures like native americans have known the benefits of this substance for many years.  who knows who else was taking advantage. 

 

coconut husk is the most commonly used material to make activated charcoal.

coconut husk is the most commonly used material to make activated charcoal.

  Now that we've satisfied our appetite for the history of this ingredient, let's dive into what exactly it is and what makes it different from normal charcoal.  Activated charcoal is most commonly produced from coconut husks but other materials, such as nutshells, wood, and various natural fibers can also be used.  Activated charcoal is created by heating  the material (ex: coconut husk) with either hot gases or certain chemicals.  After, the material is exposed to a high amount of oxygen and sometimes steam.  What makes this charcoal different from what you see at the hardware store are the small pores that are created during this process.  These microscopic pores are able to absorb toxins and chemicals.

close up of the microscopic pores in activated charcoal. these pores absorb toxins, dirt, oils, etc.

close up of the microscopic pores in activated charcoal. these pores absorb toxins, dirt, oils, etc.

scrub me secret: another name for activated charcoal is 'activated carbon'.  this name isn't commonly used because it is not as well know as the corresponding alias.  if you see this on a label or on the web don't let it confuse you.  activated carbon is activated charcoal.

 

  Since this ingredient is now more popular than ever, it can be found virtually anywhere.  The key is to make sure you're using it in the right way and choosing the right products.  Since the absorption aspect of this ingredient is so powerful, we want to take full advantage!  Those wanting to treat acne, congestion, and oily skin will benefit most from products with this ingredient.  Its ability to draw unwanted oils and toxins from skin helps clean, purify, and heal.  

dry skin has tiny pores that can hold onto blackheads. activated charcoal products can help remove these.

dry skin has tiny pores that can hold onto blackheads. activated charcoal products can help remove these.

scrub me secret: don't have oily or acneic skin but still want to try a charcoal product?  go for it!  all skin types hold onto some congestion deep down in the pores.  activated charcoal can remove dirt and oils that you might not have been able to see. 

 

  When choosing a skin care or beauty product with activated charcoal you want to be selective just like when shopping for any other skin care.  Read the ingredients label to make sure you recognize what you are looking at.  Just because something has this wonderful ingredient doesn't mean that the product will be all natural or healthy for the skin and body.  We want to avoid ingredients such as fragrance oils, alcohols, and chemical preservatives.  Since the detoxification benefits can also make skin a bit sensitive we want to avoid other irritants.  Also, you want to keep your overall skin care goal in mind.  Treating sensitive skin with breakouts?  Choose a product that also has soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredients.   Want to deeply cleanse and rid skin of excess oils?  Choose an activated charcoal product with antiseptic and disinfecting ingredients.  What about wanting to pull toxins from dry skin?  A product with added exfoliant can help break down dead surface cells so the charcoal can penetrate into the pores and do its job.  With each and every skin type it is highly recommended that you follow with the rest of your normal skin care routine.  Dry skin types, especially, will need a moisturizer after using charcoal products so the skin does not become sensitized or unbalanced.

scrub me™ detoxifying charcoal bar

scrub me™ detoxifying charcoal bar

  Want to start implementing activated charcoal into your routine?  Our newest 'detoxifying' soap bar contains this ingredient along with clove and sweet orange essential oil to deeply cleanse skin and heal breakouts.  While this bar is best for oily/acneic skin types everyone can benefit!  Like we said, all of us can benefit from some detoxification.  Just make sure to follow up with one of our whipped shea butters or preferred moisturizer.  Have more questions about activated charcoal or charcoal products?  We are happy to answer them for you, just contact us through our 'feedback' section or in the comments of this blog.  Happy scrubbing!