Activated Charcoal For Beauty Now The Latest Health Fad, But Clinical Benefits Still Unknown

charcoal
The beauty benefits of activated charcoal are still up for debate. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Activated charcoal is one of the newest must-have beauty products to hit the market. It has its share of fans who boast its ability to clear users' bodies of impurities, but with no scientific evidence backing the product’s beauty claims, some experts aren’t so sure if activated charcoal's popularity is based on actual results or simply the bandwagon effect.

Wendy Brooks, the director of global product developments at the beauty company, Origins, told the NY Daily News that charcoal “is known to absorb 100 to 200 times its weight in impurities.” Due to this, she believes that activated charcoal is “an excellent natural ingredient to help purify and deep-clean skin.” The oxygenated carbon is crushed into and blended into a soft black mixture that can be applied to one’s face and body. The treatment isn’t cheap, however, with one upscale New York City spa offering the Charcoal Facial for $260.

The toxin absorption abilities of activated charcoal have long been recognized by the medical world. Health professionals use the substance to treat conditions such as poisonings, GI tract infections, and nausea. As for scientific proof of beauty benefits, at this point there isn’t any. Dermatologist Craig Kraffert suggests that the product’s success may be slightly due to human’s natural fascination with the strange or unknown. “Using a pitch-black product to purify the skin sounds both intriguing and cool … the uniqueness of the ingredient itself, especially its color, is likely the main driver behind the recent surge in popularity of activated charcoal facial cleansers and masks,” Kraffert told the Daily News.

Despite the lack of empirical evidence, the world seems to love their activated charcoal treatments. A WhaTech press release reported that the global market for activated carbon is expected to reach $5,305 by the year 2020, with the Asian Pacific market forecasted to be the fasted growing regional market.

In the digital age, it’s not hard to find a wide assortment of blogger’s praising the charcoal’s abilities. “It makes your face dark, but it draws out impurities from your pores,” said blogger Shiva Rose on her site The Local Rose. Rose also ingests the charcoal in the form of a capsule to help with an internal cleanse. Nutritionist Lisa Cimperman, although not exactly denying charcoal’s cleansing abilities, suggests that taking the capsules for something other than a medical emergency may not be necessary. “The human body is already well-equipped to remove toxins,” explained Cimperman to the Daily News. “Everybody has everything that they need to remove toxins as it is, so no supplement or juice is going to improve upon that.”

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