Activated Charcoal Body Scrubs and Exfoliators – the Secret to Smooth Skin?
Known for its detoxification and pH balancing properties, activated charcoal absorbs a thousand times its own weight in dirt, bacteria and chemicals.
Activated Charcoal acts like millions of tiny sponges that soak up all the nasties in your skin, and trap them inside its own pores. It is one of the most effective ingredients in body exfoliators and scrubs, helping you combat acne, dry itchy skin, eczema, psoriasis and many other skin ailments.
Related Article: To learn more about activated charcoal, jump over to our Activated Charcoal Product Benefits blog post.
Body scrubs and exfoliators with activated charcoal are said to:
- Detoxify and gently draw out toxins and impurities in your skin
- Exfoliate, cleanse and detoxify your skin
- Reduce the instances of acne and other skin impurities by a process of adsorption (yes, adsorption. This is not a typo)
- Deeply cleanse and purify skin by removing dead skin cells and build up
- Increase circulation and reduce inflammation
- Assist in purifying pores, eliminating blackheads, bumps, and acne while deep cleaning
- Increase skin healing
- Help reduce body odor
- Get rid of in-grown hairs, blemishes and acne
- Leave behind soft, glowing and replenished skin
Activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators may help to minimise acne scars, stretch marks, psoriasis, eczema, pigmentation and skin discolouration. Scrubs may also assist with cellulite, dry itchy skin and pits and many other skin conditions.
Price Considerations – Activated Charcoal Body Scrubs and Exfoliators
There are many products in the marketplace that contain natural or organic ingredients. Those made by hand are a little more expensive than mainstream brands and are consideration, given they often contain a more natural or organic ingredient list. The added benefit is that artisan activated charcoal exfoliators and body scrubs are often chemical free, animal testing free and paraben free.
Pros of activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators
In general terms activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators are:
- An excellent choice if you are looking for a more natural body scrub or exfoliating solution
- Effective for problem skin and great if you have dry skin
- An effective option if you are up for a bit of a skin detox
- Ideal for targeting acne and other skin impurities
- Helpful in reducing the appearance of dry skin, blemishes, eczema, psoriasis, stretch marks, and scarring
Cons of activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators
Activated charcoal body scrub and exfoliating products may not be suitable for you if:
- you have open cuts or very cracked skin
- your skin is sensitive and doesn’t respond well to grittiness in any skincare or body care products
- a bit of a mess or residue in your bathroom, shower or bath freaks you out
Ease of use
If you are going to buy a ready-made body scrub or exfoliator containing activated charcoal, it is very easy to use. Simply follow the same directions as any other body scrub or exfoliating product. The activated charcoal will likely blend in with the other ingredients in the product. You will notice that the body scrub product feels gritty and exfoliating. This is because activated charcoal powder is grainy.
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 body scrub or exfoliator to your skin.
When making your own mix of body scrub, the process may be messy. Activated charcoal powder can stain clothes, the floor and your sink.
Related article: Activated charcoal is a messy business – Embrace it
The best place to treat yourself with your activated charcoal body scrub or exfoliator is in the shower. In most cases you dampen your skin. Place the scrub or exfoliator in your hand and gently massage it onto your body in a circular motion.
Rinse thoroughly and don’t be alarmed if you skin is left with some black residual charcoal. Rinse the residual activated charcoal off with your favourite soap/shower gel if required.
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 body scrub or exfoliator, you will need to consider the shelf life of the other natural ingredients you are using in your product mix. If you keep the contents dry you will usually need to use up the remainder of the product within 2-3 months. The exact timing will depend on what other ingredients are in the body scrub or exfoliator.
Where activated charcoal is used as an ingredient in a ready made body scrub or exfoliator, consult the product packaging for a product expiry date.
If your activated charcoal powder is left exposed to the environment, in time, it 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 body scrubs or exfoliators:
- Once you have applied the body scrub or exfoliator, remember to rinse it off your skin really well. You may notice a black residue. Don’t panic. The residual should come off with a little soap or shower gel
- Application of activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators will feel a little gritty or rough. Body scrubs and exfoliators containing activated charcoal may leave some grey water at the base of your shower. This sh0uld rinse away with some water
- Some skin types may soak up the charcoal more than others. If you find black marks on your face or body after your shower, gently rub it with a moist paper towel or dark coloured cloth
- Activated charcoal can stain clothing
The Jury is Out
It is difficult to know whether it is just the activated charcoal in body scrub and exfoliators is making a positive difference to your skin. In most cases, activated charcoal is mixed with a range of other great natural ingredients in body scrub products. Those ingredients may also be contributing to any positive results you see.
Ouch Factor – Do activated charcoal products hurt on your skin?
There is a small ouch factor when considering body scrubs and exfoliators containing activated charcoal. As mentioned in the Freak Out Factor section, your body scrubbing experience will feel more exfoliating given the activated charcoal powder in the product you use. If your skin is dry or sensitive the exfoliating sensation may hurt your skin a little. Display extra care and gentleness if you have sensitive skin.
Added “Extras” – Would You Like Synthetics 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 body scrub and exfoliating products.
Avoid body scrub or exfoliating products that contain sulfates, parabens, phthalates, gluten, alcohol and artificial colours. Avoid products with synthetic ingredients, harsh detergents, mineral oils, PEGs and EDTA.
C&B has pulled together a list of commonly known body scrub and exfoliators with 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
Chemicals in body scrub 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 body scrub products to buy.
There are a range of ingredients that are often combined with activated charcoal in body scrub and exfoliators. Here is a list of some of those ingredients:
Sea salt + sugar – work to gently exfoliate, while activated charcoal + coconut oil nourish skin
Jojoba oil + grape seed oil – work to moisturize to leave skin refreshed and vitamins + minerals keep skin revitalized
Bentonite clay – is volcanic ash that is millions of years old. The clay works like a magnet in your pores, adsorbing toxins, chemicals, bacteria, dirt and excess oils. It helps to detoxify and gently cleanse the skin, allowing our other ingredients to get to work on a clean slate.
Coconut oil – helps to moisturize, leaving your skin smelling and feeling beautiful. Coconut oil helps combat bacteria, whilst rejuvenating and revitalising your skin cells. It also helps to minimise the appearance of stretch marks and cellulite, and will keep your skin hydrated and silky smooth throughout the day
Raw brown sugar crystals – gently exfoliate your skin, scrubbing away dead skin cells. The sugar melts into your skin, leaving you with a soft and supple feeling.
Pink Himalayan rock salt crystals – do a tougher job when exfoliating stubborn dead skin cells away. Pink Himalayan rock salt contains a huge range of different minerals to help cleanse your skin, and help to prevent acne breakouts
Grape seed oil – is thin and easily absorbs into your skin. It is moisturising and high in linoleic acid, which helps to maintain the correct skin pH. Grape seed oil combats acne and assists with reducing the appearance of varicose and spider veins
Rose-hip seed oil – is also thin and easily absorbed into your skin. It’s great at reducing wrinkles, as the oil helps to firm your skin. Rose-hip seed oil also helps to reduce skin pigmentation, uneven skin tone, acne scars, stretch marks and cellulite
Rosewater – doesn’t just smell good, it also has antioxidant properties which help to strengthen skin cells and regenerate skin tissue. It helps remove oil and dirt that are clogged in your pores, and assists to reduces fine lines and wrinkles
Virgin coconut and other natural botanical extracts – leave the skin soft and replenished, moisturise the skin and wash away impurities
Usage – How often can I use body scrub or exfoliators containing activated charcoal?
For the most part people use body scrubs and exfoliators containing activated charcoal weekly. Some use them only monthly. It really depends on your skin type.
Where can I get body scrub and exfoliation products with activated charcoal?
There are many places to purchase body scrub and exfoliation products containing activated charcoal including online stores, at beauty and skincare stores and local markets. Some chemists or drug stores may also carry some body scrubs and exfoliators that contain activated charcoal.
If you are making your own body scrub or exfoliator, most raw ingredients can be sourced from your local health food store.
There are literally hundreds of ingredient variations for body scrubs and exfoliators. Moisturising scrubs and exfoliators are probably best for you if you have dry skin and other ingredients like raw sugar are great if you want something a little less abrasive. Don’t give up after the first product you use – read reviews from others online and ask companies for recommendations for your skin type. You will eventually find a product that is just right for you.
Want to just dip your toe in the water? Consider adding activated charcoal to your current body scrub or exfoliator and see for yourself whether you notice a difference. Just add around a teaspoon of activated charcoal powder to your body scrub or exfoliator.
You should be able to pick up some activated charcoal powder or capsules (which are convenient to break open directly into your skin or body care product) from your favourite local or online health food store.
Good to Know
If you are adding activated charcoal powder to your current body scrub or exfoliator, remember to shake it well before each use
Don’t use body scrubs or exfoliators on broken skin like cuts and scratches
Avoid your eyes and lips if you are applying the scrub to your face
Buying Guide – How to choose body scrubs or exfoliators that are just right for you:
The key to buying activated charcoal body scrub or exfoliator is to look for products without any of the ingredients reflected in the Added “Extras” section above. Where possible, avoid products that contain any of the ingredients named there.
Ingredients: There is significant variability in the ingredients included in activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators. 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 more natural or organic ingredients in body scrub and exfoliating products produced by artisans. That is, by smaller skincare companies that often make the product themselves, many by hand!
As C&B has mentioned elsewhere in this guide, the effectiveness of activated charcoal in body scrub products depends on the amount of activated charcoal in the product. It is difficult to tell if activated charcoal is “the hero ingredient” in all body scrub products or if other ingredients deserve to take that accolade.
Brand observations: there are limited mainstream 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.
The key points of difference in products within this category are probably in the quantity 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. C&B is literally discovering new activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators by the day. We will bring those brands to you on our website and social media accounts.
Take note of where activated charcoal is listed on the ingredient list of brands you are considering. As a rule of thumb, 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.
If activated charcoal is listed last on the ingredient list, this means it contains a smaller activated charcoal than all the other ingredients listed before it.
Cost: the cost of many body scrubs and exfoliators containing activated charcoal does exceed those in the mainstream commercial marketplace.
You can expect to pay around double what you might pay for a “regular” body scrub or exfoliator. Whilst this may be the case, there are significant health benefits of choosing products with fewer, or ideally no toxins, synthetic ingredients and chemicals.
Are Body Scrubs and Exfoliators with Activated Charcoal the Secret to Smooth Skin?
Based on the growing number of products in the marketplace and the chorus of praise for activated charcoal skin and body care products, C&B would have to conclude that activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators contribute to smoother skin.
There is no way to give a conclusive statement. All products are NOT created equal in this category. There is a lot of variability in the ingredient list of body scrubs and exfoliators. You have plenty of choice in sourcing products that might be just right for your skin type.
Explore the market and stay tuned for new reviews and feedback on brands that are taking the market by storm. We are confident that you will find an activated charcoal body scrub or exfoliator that is just right for you…and your partner…and your bestie. You get the picture. C&B
What’s your experience with activated charcoal body scrubs and exfoliators? We’d love to hear your feedback in the Comment section below.