lmost every beauty conscious individual, regardless of gender, vouch for the efficacy of a face scrub in keeping the facial skin soft, smooth and younger looking. And if charcoal is one of the key ingredients in the face scrub, it will work wonders for the skin. Though charcoal based skin care products are currently hugely popular in the beauty industry, it had featured in the beauty recipes since the ancient times. It was popular among the early Egyptians. When used topically, charcoal is known to attract the impurities from the skin. [1] Charcoal is the carbonaceous residue left behind by burning plant or animal substances in the absence of air. Traditionally, it is produced by igniting a conical heap of woods piled underneath a layer of earth. The partial supply of air allows the wood to burn slowly. This is the same process of natural charcoal formation by burning of coal in the forests. Approximately 18% of the wood by weight is converted to charcoal. [2]

For centuries, charcoal is regarded as one of the most versatile absorbents. Since 2000 BC it was used to purify water, and the ancient Egyptians used charcoal for therapeutic purposes. Its modern variant, activated charcoal, also known as activated carbon, is produced from vegetable material. Because of its production technique, activated charcoal has a higher absorbent capacity. [3] Activated carbon works by binding the particles of chemicals and other impurities into its porous surface. This process is known as adsorption. The negative electric charge of the activated charcoal attracts the positive charged toxic substances and gas, thereby trapping them in the millions of pores present on its surface.

Activated charcoal is usually obtained by burning coconut shell and other natural vegetable substances. It should not be confused with charcoal used for combustion, which contains chemicals and toxins and, therefore, unsuitable for internal and external use. [4] When added to a face or body scrub recipe, activated charcoal helps in attracting toxins, chemicals, bacteria, grime and various micro particles to the skin surface. [5] Therefore, the deep-seated impurities can be easily removed from the skin by using it topically.

Renewal of the skin cells is a continuous process. The dead skin cells are being replaced by new cells. However, the dead and worn-out skin cells do not easily fall off from your body. They accumulate on the outer surface of the skin and give the skin a dull and tired appearance. Furthermore, they tend to clog the skin pores. Scrubbing the skin helps in sloughing off the dead cells, thereby revealing the new skin that make the skin appear smooth, soft and plump. Along with regular cleansing, scrubbing at least twice a week helps in improving the complexion. In addition, it helps in increasing circulation in the skin. [6]

Benefits Of Using Charcoal Face Scrub

Charcoal, when incorporated into a face scrub, provides a number of additional benefits.

1. Natural Abrasive

Charcoal particles are insoluble. They never dissolve in water. Because of this property, charcoal is considered an effective abrasive agent. Finely ground charcoal works as an abrasive when added to face and body scrubs. It is eco-friendly and is safe for the skin. [7]

2. Detoxification

The role of charcoal particles in scrubs is not limited to sloughing off the dead skin. Charcoal also helps in detoxifying the skin. It works at the cellular level, thereby giving the best possible result. It helps in extracting the toxic substances, dirt and other impurities from the skin. [8] A small amount of activated charcoal in a scrub is known to work wonders for the skin. It is a potent detoxification agent, capable of attracting and drawing out impurities almost several thousand times its weight. Unlike most of the other detoxification agents, charcoal does not work by absorbing the impurities. Instead, through electrical action, it removes them from the skin, which is a mechanical process. Hence, it is considered an effective natural detoxification agent that helps in making the skin clearer and brighter. [9]

3. Absorbs Odors

Apart from working as an exfoliant, the charcoal particles help in absorbing odors. [10] Such is the odor absorbent capacity of charcoal that it is used in wound dressings for eliminating unpleasant odor coming from the wound bed. [11] Hence, to smell fresh and to fight unpleasant body odor, charcoal scrubs are a good choice.

4. Helps Remove Blackheads

Blackheads develop when dirt, grime and pollutants clog the pores of the skin. Owing to the detoxification effect of activated charcoal, it helps in unclogging the pores, thereby providing relief from blackheads. Furthermore, through the same action, it helps in reducing whiteheads, acne, redness, discoloration, irritation and inflammation. By removing the pollutants from the pores, activated charcoal helps the skin to breathe with ease, which helps in restoring the optimal health of the skin. [12]

How To Use Charcoal As A Face Scrub?

Though burnt wood is commonly known as charcoal, for your face scrub recipe you cannot use the ordinary charcoal. The charcoal used for making skin care products is known as activated charcoal. Charcoal that has been processed by addition of oxygen, steam or carbon dioxide is called activated charcoal. The activation process increases the surface area of the charcoal. Compared to ordinary charcoal, activated charcoal is more porous and is more effective in removing toxic substances. Activated charcoal is used for therapeutic purposes. It is available in the drugstores and can also be found in the grocery stores that sell health care products. It is available in the form of capsule or powder. [13] Powdered activated charcoal is directly added to skin care products. When using a capsule, break it and transfer the content to your skin care recipe.

1. Charcoal With Coconut Oil


One to two tablespoons of activated charcoal powder
One tablespoon of coconut oil

Mix the coconut oil with the powdered activated charcoal. Apply the paste to the skin. Gently massage the skin for one to two minutes and then wash off the paste. By increasing the quantities of the two ingredients, the charcoal and coconut oil mixture can be used for scrubbing the entire body. To use this as body scrub, blend one cup of coconut oil with one to two cups of powdered activated charcoal. Rub the paste on your body in circular motions in the shower. Thoroughly wash off the mixture. Activated charcoal exfoliates the skin and removes the dead skin and toxins. Coconut oil nourishes the skin and makes it supple. [14]

2. Charcoal With Brown Sugar And Jojoba Oil


Four activated charcoal capsules
One cup of brown sugar
Two and a half tablespoons of jojoba oil
Eight drops of lavender essential oil or any other aromatic essential oil of your choice

Open the activated charcoal capsules and empty the content in a medium sized bowl. Add brown sugar. You can use either light or dark brown sugar as both are suitable for making scrubs. Add the jojoba oil and the essential oil and blend the ingredients well. Store the scrub in an airtight container. It can last for up to three months. Use as needed for scrubbing the skin. If jojoba oil is not available, use avocado, olive or walnut oils. All these oils are known to be good for the skin. Though scrubbing the skin is more common in the dry winter months when the skin becomes dry and chapped, it also helps in the summer. [15]

3. Charcoal With Sea Salt And Grapeseed Oil


Five activated charcoal capsules or one tablespoon of charcoal powder
One cup of sea salt
Two tablespoons of grapeseed oil
Ten drops of tea tree oil (optional)

Put the activated charcoal, sea salt and grapeseed oil in a bowl. Blend until the ingredients had thoroughly combined with each other. If desired, for additional benefit add the tea tree oil. Tea tree oil helps in fighting infections and can help in reducing blemishes and odor. Transfer the scrub to a sealed glass jar and store in the refrigerator. It can last for up to six months. On wet skin, rub the charcoal, salt and oil mixture in circular motion. Rinse with warm water. [16]

4. Charcoal With Olive Oil, Brown Sugar And Essential Oil


One activated charcoal capsule
Two tablespoons of olive oil
Four tablespoons of brown sugar
Ten drops of lemon or peppermint essential oil

Though you can use any essential oil of your choice in the recipe, it is advisable to use either lemon or peppermint essential oil. These essential oils are known for their detoxification effect. Use a non-metallic bowl to blend the ingredients. Put the olive oil in the bowl and add the essential oil. Mix them well. Then add the activated charcoal and the brown sugar. You can use either light or dark brown sugar. With a plastic spoon, stir the ingredients. Metal items are unsuitable for mixing and storing any activated charcoal based product as the charcoal tends to adsorb the metal particles. The scrub will look like black wet sand. However, you can adjust the proportions of olive oil and sugar in the mixture according to your specific need. If you want it wetter, you can add more olive oil, and to make it drier, increase the amount of sugar in the recipe. Store the mixture in a non-metallic container. Use it as needed for scrubbing the skin. [17]

5. Charcoal With Coconut Oil, Sugar, Grapefruit Juice And Essential Oil


One teaspoon of activated charcoal powder
Half of a cup of coconut oil
One cup of brown sugar
One-fourth of a cup of grapefruit juice
Ten drops of essential oils of your choice such as sage or lavender

Put all the ingredients in a glass jar. Stir the ingredients until they combine with each other. Tightly seal the jar and store it in a cool dry place. Take a generous amount of the mixture and gently massage it on the skin. Wash off the scrub with warm water. Apply your regular moisturizer. This scrub can be used daily. [18]

6. Charcoal With Oats, Rice Flour And Almonds


One teaspoon of activated charcoal
One-fourth cup of finely ground oat
One-eighth cup of finely ground almonds
One-fourth cup of rice flour
One tablespoon of ground chamomile
One tablespoon of ground dried calendula
Two tablespoons of cosmetic clay
Five drops of peppermint essential oil
Seven drops of turmeric resin oil
One-fourth teaspoon of evening primrose oil

Put the almonds, oat, and the herbs in a bowl and mix them well. Next add the activated charcoal, rice flour and clay and combine the ingredients thoroughly. Add the oils slowly into the mixture. Add one drop of oil at a time and stir well to combine the oil with the mixture. After blending all the oils with the mixture, transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend for about 30 seconds. Take half a teaspoon of the scrub and mix it with a small amount of water, milk, coconut milk or almond milk, or witch hazel if the skin is too oily. Soak the scrub in the liquid for about 30 seconds. With gentle circular motions massage the scrub on the skin for 30 to 60 seconds. Wash off the scrub and apply moisturizer. [19]

It is clear from the aforementioned scrub recipes that activated charcoal can be used in various ways for exfoliating the dead skin. By drawing out the impurities, it helps in improving the skin texture and complexion and diminishes risk of skin disorders. The regular homemade face scrub that you normally use can be improved significantly with the addition of activated charcoal. Currently, it is a popular ingredient in the cosmetic industry where it is used for making body and face scrubs, facial masks and face wash.

Activated charcoal is not only effective but also safe even for long-term use. No detectable adverse effect of activated charcoal on the skin health even following prolonged contact had been reported. Moreover, inhalation of activated charcoal did not produce any significant toxic reaction. Activated charcoal is considered inert and it is not associated with any inflammatory reaction. It is therefore considered non-toxic and safe. [20]

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