Activated Charcoal Hair Care Products – the Secret to Fabulous Hair?
Dry and dull hair? Itchy scalp? Could activated charcoal hair care products including shampoo or conditioner be the answer to your hair woes? C&B has researched the shampoo and conditioner market to see what all the fuss is about.
Shampoos and conditioners with activated charcoal are said to:
- Assist in the deep cleansing of your hair
- Clean hair of impurities including pollution and other airborne toxins
- Extract oil and dirt from your hair
- Remove toxins and even unpleasant odors from hair strands
- Clarify your hair. It removes residue from product build up in your hair
- Cleanse your hair follicles and pull out any toxins from the scalp
- Help relieve your scalp of common issues like itching and inflammation
- Reduce dandruff where it is caused by fungal infections or irritated, oily skin
- Exfoliate a dry flaky scalp and reduce greasy, oily strands of hair
As with black konjac sponge (see Black Konjac Sponge Review), the cost of using activated charcoal in a shampoo or conditioner does not have to break the bank, although some hair care products on the market are likely to be more expensive than mainstream commercial hair care brands.
On a tight budget? No worries. Just add a little charcoal powder to your current shampoo (for a regular size bottle of shampoo perhaps add a tablespoon of activated charcoal powder). You can add activated charcoal to your own shampoo in powder form, another option is to open an activated charcoal capsule and put the powder in your current shampoo or conditioner.
There are many DIY recipes on the web for making your own shampoos, conditioners and even dry shampoo products.
In general terms activated charcoal in shampoos or conditioners is said to:
- Be an excellent choice if you are looking for a more natural hair care solution
- Offer a great option for those allergic to a range of the chemicals and toxins most hair care products contain
- Be effective for people with medium to oily skin
- Clean your hair more naturally where you choose products containing no additional chemicals or toxins
- Make your hair feel lighter. Some say that they feel as though their hair feels weighed down by dirt in their hair
- Give your hair more volume
- Leave less residue than regular shampoos and other hair care products
Shampoos and conditioners and other activated charcoal hair care products may not be suitable for you:
- If you have dry skin as these products may dry your scalp out too much
- If you don’t know what has caused your dandruff (and let’s be honest, who can actually know the root cause??). For dandruff or a scalp condition caused by dry skin, activated charcoal hair care products may not be right for you
- If you have very light hair especially in dry shampoo products. This is because the activated charcoal in the dry shampoo may stain your hair
Ease of use
If you are going to buy a ready-made natural shampoo or conditioner containing activated charcoal, it is very easy to use. Simply follow the same directions as any other shampoo or conditioner. The activated charcoal will likely blend in with the other ingredients in the product, furthermore you may notice that the hair product feels a little gritty and exfoliating. This is due to the grainy texture of activated charcoal powder.
If you are adding activated charcoal powder to an existing product, the process of adding it may be a little messy. Remember to shake the bottle before you apply the product to your hair.
When making your own mix of shampoo, conditioner or hair mask, the process may be messy. This is especially true if you are making a dry shampoo mix. Activated charcoal powder can stain clothes, the floor and your sink.
If you are using activated charcoal powder and you store it in airtight containers it has an almost indefinite shelf life.
When using activated charcoal powder in a DIY shampoo or other hair care product, you will need to consider the shelf life of the other natural ingredients you are using in your product mix.
Where activated charcoal is used as an ingredient in a shampoo, conditioner or other hair care product, consult the product packaging for a product expiry date.
If your activated charcoal powder is left exposed to the environment, in time, activated charcoal will adsorb various pollutants and eventually “fill up.” If stored securely, there is no expiration limit. Consider any governmental regulations in your country. Some countries may dictate an expiry date.
Freak Out Factor
There are a few factors to consider when using activated charcoal shampoos, conditioners and other hair care products:
- Once you have applied the hair care product, remember to rinse your hair really well. If you do not rinse your hair properly you may end up with some grey or black bits of activated charcoal in your hair
- For those with lighter hair, perhaps test of a small sample of your hair first. Some (although not many) report that activated charcoal has stained their hair. This result will vary from person to person. It will also be influenced by the amount of activated charcoal added to the hair care product
- When shampooing your hair it may feel a little gritty. Whilst your current shampoo may have a gorgeous smooth lather, shampoos containing activated charcoal may leave some grey water at the base of your shower
The Jury is Out
It is difficult to know whether the activated charcoal hair care products is making a positive difference to your hair. In most cases, activated charcoal is mixed with a range of other great natural ingredients in hair care products. Those ingredients may also be contributing to any positive results you see.
Whilst there is information to suggest that activated charcoal is able to clean your hair follicles it has been difficult for C&B to research exactly how deeply it can reach.
There is no real ouch factor when considering shampoos and conditioners with activated charcoal. As mentioned in the Freak Out Factor section, your hair washing experience may feel more exfoliating given the activated charcoal powder in the product you use. If your scalp is dry or sensitive the exfoliating sensation may hurt your scalp a little, so display extra care and gentleness if you have a dry or sensitive scalp.
Added “Extras” – Would You Like Chemicals With That?
Products that enter our body through the skin bypass the liver’s detox system. This means that our bodies cannot process the chemicals and release them properly. Typically when we have a warm shower our pores are wide open so toxins absorb straight into our blood stream. It is important to consider the commonly known chemicals that are often in shampoos, conditioners and other hair care products.
Avoid hair care products that contain sulfates, parabens, phthalates, gluten, alcohol and artificial colours.
Additives to Avoid
C&B has pulled together a list of commonly known hair care product ingredients that may be harmful and are best avoided where possible:
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
Quaternium – 15
Coal Tar Dyes
BHA and BHT Buylated Hydroxyanisole
Diamine Toluene Sulfate
Unfortunately the chemicals in shampoos, conditioners and other hair care products are not regulated by relevant authorities in many countries. Given this is the case, it is important to take your own precautions when choosing which hair care products to buy.
Usage – How often can I use hair care products containing activated charcoal?
For the most part people use shampoo, conditioner and other hair care products weekly. Some use them only monthly. People tend to use activated charcoal hair shampoos more frequently if they use leave-in or styling products regularly. The activated charcoal combats build up on your hair.
Where can I get activated charcoal hair care products?
There are many places to purchase hair care products containing activated charcoal including online and at beauty and skincare stores. Some chemists or drug stores may also carry some shampoos and other hair care products that contain activated charcoal.
If you are making your own shampoo then many of the raw ingredients can be sourced from your local health food store.
As an aside, if you are looking for beard shampoos, these often come in bars rather than a liquid product.
Want to just dip your toe in the water? Consider adding activated charcoal to your current shampoo and see for yourself whether there is a difference. Just add around a teaspoon of activated charcoal powder to your regular shampoo. You should be able to pick up some activated charcoal powder from your local health food store.
Good to Know
- If you are adding activated charcoal powder to your current shampoo, remember to shake it well before each use
- Don’t use activated charcoal if your dandruff or scalp condition is caused by dry skin
- Some people discourage using activated shampoos for lighter hair. C&B has been unable to source a consensus on this front. It would be prudent to check shampoos and conditioners on just a small patch of your hair before diving in unless you were planning to change your hair colour to a darker tint sometime soon. This may fast track that decision!
Buying Guide – How to choose the haircare product that is just right for you:
The key to buying activated charcoal hair care products is to look for products without any of the ingredients in the Added “Extras” – Would You Like Chemicals With That? section above. Review the ingredients of products with that list on hand, and furthermore, avoid products that contain any of these ingredients.
There is significant variability in the ingredients included in activated charcoal hair care products. Many products that contain activated charcoal tend to have less toxins and chemicals in their ingredient list. However C&B has found it hard to source products in the mainstream marketplace that don’t have any other harmful ingredients (listed in the “Added Extras – would you like synthetics with that” section)
There seems to be a greater focus on natural ingredients in hair care products produced by artisans. These people or companies often produce their products by hand, therefore these products tend to have more essential oils and other natural ingredients.
As C&B has mentioned elsewhere in this guide, the effectiveness of activated charcoal in shampoo and other hair care products depends on the amount of activated charcoal in the product. Also mentioned elsewhere, it is difficult to tell if activated charcoal is “the hero ingredient” in hair care products or if other ingredients deserve to take that accolade.
There are limited brands on the market that contain activated charcoal but no other chemicals or toxins. It may be best to check out your favourite artisan maker of activated charcoal in this category. C&B had a difficult time finding hair care products that don’t contain at least some of the “not so wholesome” ingredients.
The key points of difference in products within this category are in the amount of activated charcoal in each product and the type and quantity of other ingredients. For the purists, you will probably want to consider buying a product from an artisan producer rather than a mainstream brand. Etsy is a great place to look for these products.
Ingredients are listed in the order of quantity. For example, if activated charcoal is listed as the first ingredient on the product ingredient list the product will contain more of that product than those listed after it. Conversely, if listed last on the ingredient list, it contains less activated charcoal than all the other ingredients listed before it.
The cost of activated charcoal hair care products does exceed those in the mainstream commercial marketplace. You can expect to pay around double what you might pay for a “regular” shampoo or hair care product.
Are Activated Charcoal Hair Care Products the Secret to Fabulous Hair?
Certainly if you are looking for a product that cleans your hair of toxins, shampoos and conditioners containing activated charcoal could hold the key to healthy hair. If by fabulous you mean healthy, then it cannot hurt to give activated charcoal shampoos and conditioners a test run.
There are many products on the market to make your hair look glossy and glamorous. From what C&B has found, we couldn’t say that activated charcoal shampoos and conditioners are the key to this. However from the research undertaken it does seem that activated charcoal may be very beneficial for the health of your hair and scalp.
Those in natural health circles seem to prefer to make their own hair care products. Often they add activated charcoal to those DIY products, hence there is a definite school of thought that activated charcoal does indeed assist in deep cleaning your hair. C&B
What’s your experience with hair care products containing activated charcoal? We’d love to hear your feedback in the Comment section below.