Age old folk remedies like charcoal are enjoying a revival. In this instance, health experts, beauty bloggers and cosmetic companies are literally breathing new life into it.
They have discovered that injecting oxygen into charcoal “activates” its potency, transforming the raw carbon into a super-concentrated “cleaning” agent, suitable for a plethora of applications.
From teeth whitening to self tanning, beautification benefits of the activated charcoal are well worth knowing.
Once revered by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians for its antibacterial properties and healing capacity, raw charcoal is mainly carbon. It’s made by burning wood or coconut shells in a low oxygen environment.
Activating it involves exposing the carbon to extreme heat and steam, which make it more porous and therefore more effective.
“It’s one of my favourite ingredients,” enthuses Irene Falcone, owner of Nourished Life. “It cleanses by attracting and holding chemicals inside it. So it traps toxins and removes them from the body. The negative electric charges bond with positively charged toxins.”
Nigel Torrens, owner of Cedarwood Health Retreat in NSW, sells activated charcoal in powder form to wellness outlets.
“People add it to water and drink it to help with digestive problems and it works wonders,” he says. “It’s also a popular hangover cure.
“To use it topically, you need to form a paste by adding a bit of oil or water to the powder.
“It’s great for draining infections, but make sure you put cloth over the wound as it can stain broken skin like a tattoo!”
We explore options on the market that combine activated charcoal with other ingredients for a (less messy) user-friendly experience.
Activated charcoal can help clear pores by drawing out impurities sucking them into its own “pores”.
The Charcoal Rescue mask addresses several concerns including ageing and acne, and SPA+CLINIC editor Jenni keeps raving about Dermalogica’s new Daily Superfoliant (launching February 6), that draws on the same innovative powder form that has made the brand’s Daily Microfoliant a best-seller.
Activated Binchotan charcoal powder, derived from Ubame oak attracts, is a key ingredient. It binds itself to impurities in the skin, pulling them out of pores.
“We have seen and heard from customers experiencing clearer, calmer, smoother and detoxified skin since starting to use our charcoal-based formulas,” says Dennille Ludenau, Dermalogica’s corporate training manager.
Despite its colour, activated charcoal can whiten a smile by absorbing plaque and other small particles that stain teeth.
It also promotes oral health by changing the PH balance of the mouth and can prevent cavities and gum disease while deodorising.
SPA+CLINIC publisher Kirien Withers has used charcoal-based dental products for years.
“It penetrates to the blood vessels,” she says. “My teeth feel a lot healthier now which has made me happier.” And team S+C can attest Kirien’s teeth are super-white.
Pollen Botanicals, an Australian company, has released Zoom, a formula that’s being picked up as retail offering by spas and wellness retreats.
“The bentonite clay is slightly gritty and neutralises bacteria while the coconut oil makes it less messy and has the added benefits of oil pulling,” says Joanne, owner of the brand.
“It is perfect for sensitive teeth and is best brushed on like normal toothpaste with soft-bristled brush.”
After interviewing – and being dazzled by – Nourished Life founder Irene Falcone recently, editor Jenni is also raving about the dentist-endorsed charcoal-based toothpastes and tooth powder, My Magic Mud (above), recommended on the site.
“Having spent the best part of several mortgages over the years preventing my teeth from falling out of my head, I am obsessed with them,” she says.
“But the passage of time and discoloured fillings has discouraged me from smiling (for the camera, anyway).
“I read about this toothpaste and decided to give it a go. It wasn’t cheap – something like $21 from the local health food store – but one of the best investments I’ve made.
“It makes a bit of a mess while brushing your teeth if you’re not careful (black specks everywhere!), but my teeth have rarely felt cleaner, my gums are healthier and the pearly whites are almost white again after years of being a grey/yellow combo.
“Even the discoloured fillings are lightening up, even though dentists have told me in the past there’s nothing that can fix that issue except replacing them (thereby drilling out even more tooth. Not an option for me.)
“I reckon this would be a great retail addition to any salon, spa or clinic.”