block of natural carbon soap and a pile of coal on black wood table background
Image: Shutterstock/images72

5 Beauty Uses For Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal isn’t the most glamorous thing in the looks department. It looks like something you scrubbed out of the bottom of your grill, with its characteristic black grittiness. But this isn’t the stuff you’d use to grill up some steaks.

Activated charcoal starts as normal charcoal you’d think of for grilling, but it is heated by manufacturers with a gas that allows the charcoal to form little pores. These pores then trap chemicals.

What that treatment equates to is a product that is reputed to absorb “toxins,” though the jury is still out on any objective definition for the word “toxin.” The common belief is that the charcoal purges the system of the nasty stuff you don’t want, like mercury, BPA or any other potentially harmful chemical we incidentally pick up via our environment. And activated charcoal is a common medical treatment for poisonings.

Luckily, beyond the anti-toxin hype of activated charcoal is a natural product that helps with a host of real world beauty problems. Just always be sure to buy commercial activated charcoal, which is made to be safe for the body. You can find activated charcoal in powders, tablets, capsules and soap bars, so whatever your beauty need, there’s a form of activated charcoal for you.

Acne Treatment

In its soap form, activated charcoal has been noted all across the internet for its acne-clearing benefits. This is perhaps the most popular of the beauty uses for activated charcoal. It seems to work best with small bump acne, not the cystic kind. For this purpose, you can use activated charcoal as a soap bar, usually with natural additives like shea butter, argan oil and tea tree oil. The activated charcoal is a great natural exfoliator and will soak up the nasty impurities in your skin. Just rub it directly on your face like a normal soap bar and rinse.

Face Mask

If you really want to purify your pores, you can make an easy activated charcoal face mask. Combine equal parts activated charcoal powder, aloe vera gel and water. Slather the mixture on your face and leave on until it dries. Then rinse. For extra purification, steam your face with a home facial steamer or plain steaming water for 5-10 minutes beforehand. That will open your pores so more gunk can get sucked out by the activated charcoal.


Activated charcoal can also act as a natural cleanser, no heavy face masks required. Even if you don’t have acne, it can still draw impurities from the skin and its gritty texture acts as a great general exfoliator. If you want to keep it simple, you can find tons of products with activated charcoal as the base, like natural bar soaps, pore minimizing treatments like Biore’s Charcoal Pore Minimizer and deep pore charcoal cleansers.

To make your own charcoal cleanser, add aloe vera juice to activated charcoal powder until it forms a creamy consistency. Scrub for a few seconds like you would an exfoliator scrub. Leave on for five minutes if you want the charcoal to absorb extra impurities. Then rinse. Try to steam your face beforehand to make sure your pores are nice and open.

Teeth Whitening

How does a solid black powder whiten anything, you ask? This is one of the more surprising beauty uses for activated charcoal. The porous nature of the coal absorbs the plaque that causes the stains on your teeth, leaving behind a pearly smile. You can add the powder directly to your toothpaste and brush as normal.

Or you can add water to the powder until it makes a paste. Slather that on your teeth and leave on for three minutes. Then rinse.

DIY Eyeliner

Want to go natural with your makeup? Dip a wet eyeliner brush into a pinch of activated charcoal powder, swirl around to form a paint-like paste and draw on your design as normal. As always, make sure not to get anything in your eye. If you do, rinse your eyes.