On a recent stroll through Lush I came across a black slab known as the Cleansing Charcoal Bar and was instantly full of questions. I was fairly certain a face full of coal was supposed to have negative benefits, not positive. After speaking to a store clerk I learned that activated charcoal, a relatively new beauty ingredient, is being used in products to draw out oil and impurities from the skin.
According to the New York Times, products using activated charcoal have “been treated with oxygen to increase the pores on its surface area, which supposedly improves filtration.”
So while it may just be another anti-blackhead, anti-blemish hoax (Note: a super strength magnet will not pull out your blackheads), it also could just be your answer to clear skin. Here are a few brands that have gotten on board, and their products are pretty convincing.
1. Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask, $17
This mask promises to clear out imperfections in the skin and bring new clarity to your complexion. While the activated charcoal works to unclog pores, China Clay absorbs toxins and Lecithin dissolves impurities. Best of all, the made-to-be-used-once-a-week mask is the perfect excuse to treat yourself to an at-home spa night.
2. Lush Coalface, $13.95
If you’re more partial to bar soap than liquid, this bar, made with powder charcoal, exfoliates and reduces redness and blemishes with the help of rosewood and sandalwood oils.
3. Sumbody Coal Train Charcoal Cleanser, $25.95
Though it’s designed specifically people with blemish-prone skin, even those who don’t can reap the benefits of this exfoliating cleanser. The formula also contains DMAE, a naturally occurring fish oil extract, which, as anyone who has choked down smelly fish oil capsules knows, fights signs of aging.
4. Giovanni Purifying D-Tox System Steps 1-3, $9.95-$29.85
This three-part system works together to cleanse, exfoliate and then hydrate for a complete skin detox. The products contain a wealth of “super food” type beauty ingredients—activated charcoal, acai and goji berry—that users say give a deeper clean than their average body wash. You can pick up a travel-size set that contains steps 1, 2 and 3 as well as a purifying facial mask if you want to give the products a try before committing to buying bigger bottles. At under $10, you don’t have anything to lose!
5. Boscia Detoxifying Black Cleanser, $28
This cleanser warms as you apply it, making it the perfect product to wake up with as the weather turns chilly. While the charcoal works to draw out blemishes and impurities, it also brightens skin and minimizes the looks of pores with continued use.