What is activated charcoal?

In its natural form, activated charcoal is a fine black powder. It has millions of tiny adsorbent pores (no, the word adsorbent is NOT a typo!). Activated charcoal is made by burning a source of carbon like wood, debris or coconut shells. The heat of the burning process strips away all the oxygen and “activates” the charcoal with gases like steam. The heating process creates millions of tiny pores, nooks and crannies in the final product. Activated charcoal is adsorbent which means that a wide range of molecules and chemicals stick to it.

For more information about activated charcoal read our detailed description here.

What does adsorption mean?

The pores in activated charcoal trap toxins and chemicals. This happens through a process called adsorption. Adsorption is a chemical reaction where elements bind to the surface. Adsorption is the adhesion of molecules, ions and gas spanning across a larger surface area, making for deeper molecular purification.

Which activated charcoal skincare or body care product should I choose?

There are thousands of activated charcoal skin and body care products on the market to choose from. With such a large range it is very difficult to recommend one product over another. You should always consult the brand ingredients of any product you are going to use. Take into account your skin type and other specific skin conditions you have before using an activated charcoal skin or body care product.

How many times a week can I use skin and body care products containing activated charcoal?

This depends on the exact product you use. Always check the skin or body care product ingredient list or contact the brand manufacturer if you are unsure how often you should use a product. Always apply the product to a small patch of skin first to make sure that you do not have an adverse reaction to any of the ingredients.

What form does activated charcoal come in?

Activated charcoal comes in many different forms including powder, liquid and capsules. The amount of activated charcoal that is used in body and skin care products varies from product to product. If you plan to ingest activated charcoal in any form check with your medical professional before doing so. Activated charcoal derives from several different sources. Ideally choose a product that originates from coconut shells, wood or another natural source.

What does activated charcoal taste like?

Activated charcoal does not have a taste despite its black colour. However toothpastes that contain activated charcoal may have a taste depending on the other ingredients in the product.

What does activated charcoal smell like?

Activated charcoal does not have an odor in its pure form. Some body products contain other ingredients which may have a scent.

What is food grade activated charcoal?

Activated Charcoal is “Generally Recognised as Safe” (GRAS). Many manufacturers of activated charcoal will have their product certified under different agencies which will vary across countries.

Can I buy activated charcoal powder?

Yes. Activated charcoal is available in many online stores and retail outlets. It is very important to note that charcoal you use on your barbeque does NOT have the same healing properties as activated charcoal. Some forms of charcoal can be loaded with toxins and chemicals. NEVER consume or use BBQ charcoal on your skin.

How long will activated charcoal body products last?

Each charcoal skin or body care product will have a different expiration date depending on its mix of ingredients. Always check product packaging for expiry dates.

Does activated charcoal expire?

If it is exposed to the environment activated charcoal will adsorb various pollutants and eventually “fill up”. If stored securely in a tightly sealed container there is no expiration date but you should check any governmental regulations in place in your country.

Will activated charcoal body products interfere with my medication if I consume it?

Activated charcoal body and skin care products used on your body (that is, topically) should not interfere with any medication you are taking. Ingesting activated charcoal can definitely interfere with medications. Seek professional medical advice before ingesting activated charcoal in any form.

What are the known side effects of activated charcoal body products?

When used outside the human body there seems to be general agreement that activated charcoal is not only beneficial but also very safe. Activated charcoal is generally deemed safe for most people. The dangers of activated charcoal relate to ingesting or consuming it. Any medical conditions such as intestinal bleeding or blockages, holes in the intestines, chronic dehydration, slow digestion or recent abdominal surgery may affect how activated charcoal reacts in your body. Activated charcoal can also interfere with the adsorption (yes adsorption not absorption) of nutrients, supplements and interfere with prescription medications.

Does activated charcoal stain crowns, veneers, fillings and bondings?

Some people report that their tooth crowns, veneers, fillings and bondings have stained when they have used toothpaste containing activated charcoal. C&B recommends checking with your dentist before using toothpaste or tooth whitening products that contain activated charcoal.

Can I replace the mainstream toothpaste I use with activated charcoal powder?

Most dentists will tell you that the important part of brushing and flossing is the physical removal of plaque. Flouride is a proven cavity fighter and is known to cut tooth decay. C&B recommends checking with your dentist before using toothpaste or tooth whitening products that contain activated charcoal.

Is activated charcoal too abrasive for teeth?

This may depend on the amount of activated charcoal used. Some dentists are concerned about the potential damage the grainy substance can do to your teeth and gums. You could consider swishing activated charcoal powder around in your mouth or using a toothpaste containing activated charcoal rather than creating a DIY paste yourself at home.

Is activated charcoal fine to use as a toothpaste if I have braces?

No. This is not a good idea.

Where can I buy activated charcoal products?

Activated charcoal comes in many forms including powder, liquid and capsules. Powdered charcoal and activated charcoal tablets can be found online (Amazon, eBay etc) and also in health food stores and other health care stores (both online and in store).
There are hundreds of companies selling skin and body care products containing activated charcoal. Some of those manufacturers are well known brands. Others are manufactured by niche artisan producers. You will find these products in a range of online stores including Amazon, eBay and a significant number of beauty, skincare and cosmetic retail stores (both online and in store).

What is the difference between cruelty free and not tested on animals?

Often brands will state that the finished product is not tested on animals. This means that they did not test their finished product on animals. Some product ingredients however may have come from third-party companies (that is, companies that are not owned by the brand selling the end product). Brands may receive statements from these companies that they do not test the product ingredients on animals. However this may not always be the case. Check with the brand if you seek further clarification.

If you want to be certain that animals were not involved in the product making process, look for products that have the Leaping Bunny that means CRUELTY FREE. These products are certified as not having had their ingredients or finished products tested on animals and that none of their ingredients are derived from animals. Beware of sellers that use the caption “Cruelty Free” and state their ingredients are not derived from animals. This does not mean that they did not test on animals; it just means that they did not take something from the animal (oils, etc.) and use it as an ingredient.