Activated charcoal, which is actually carbon that has been treated to increase its absorbency, isn’t a new phenomenon in the skin-care world. In fact, it’s been used in hospital emergency rooms for years to treat alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses. Charcoal attracts toxins found in the stomach and absorbs them before the bloodstream can. When it comes to using activated charcoal in beauty products, the theory is essentially the same.
“Activated charcoal works like a magnet, attracting dirt and oil in order to cleanse the skin,” board-certified, New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D. explains. “It draws out impurities and traps them.” This makes charcoal an attractive ingredient for those who want to target clogged pores or are dealing with oily, acne-prone skin.
Dr. Jaliman notes that activated charcoal’s ability to rid your skin of excess oils makes it a great cleanser, while the antimicrobial properties that aid in removing dead skin cells make it a gentle (but effective) exfoliator. But what activated charcoal is best known for is its ability to unclog pores, making it a highly sought-after ingredient when it comes to skin-care products like clarifying masks.
Before diving head-first into the world of charcoal products, there are a few things to note. “People with dry or sensitive skin types should be cautious while using charcoal, as they need their natural oils,” board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Cancer & Cosmetic Surgery Center of New Jersey, Adriana Lombardi, M.D. says. “Stripping natural oils in this situation can cause irritation and/or an eczema flare-up.”
If and when you’ve determined that activated charcoal can be a beneficial ingredient to add to your skin-care routine, check out the following roundup of the best dermatologist- and editor-recommended products you can shop to address your most pressing skin-care issues.
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