Would you ever slather a charcoal face mask on your skin? How does massaging your gums with charcoal powder sound?
If you're cringing at either of those suggestions, chances are you're envisioning those dusty briquettes used to grill your food.
But that's not the case! We're talking about activated charcoal, which is much different than what you see at your backyard barbeques. In this guide, you'll learn how activated charcoal benefits your smile, complexion, and overall health.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
Activated charcoal is an odorless, oxygen-treated powder that is extremely porous and highly absorbent. It's created by heating carbon-based substances such as coconut shells, sawdust, and peat at very high temperatures.
In emergency rooms, drug overdose patients ingest liquid mixed with activated charcoal to bind and trap toxins in the GI tract, preventing them from entering the bloodstream. (Despite being heralded as a hangover miracle cure, however, there is no proof that activated charcoal is capable of absorbing alcohol.)
Water filtration systems contain activated charcoal to remove impurities such as chlorine so it's safe for you to drink. It can also help improve the taste of your H2O.
Activated charcoal has a massive surface area. According to the National Capital Poison Center, a teaspoon of activated charcoal powder has roughly the same surface area as a football field! That’s why it’s highly absorbent.
6 Benefits of Activated Charcoal
There are numerous health benefits associated with activated charcoal. Whether you want healthier skin or a brighter smile, here are the reasons you should consider incorporating this versatile ingredient in your everyday life.
1. Dental Care
Want a safe and effective teeth whitening solution? Avoid bleaching with harsh chemicals and use charcoal-based dental products instead. Activated charcoal can eliminate surface-level stains from your teeth without sensitizing or damaging them.
Use any of the following products in your daily brushing routine for your whitest smile yet:
- This Charcoal Toothbrush scrubs away damaging plaque while gently massaging your teeth and gums. It has an eco-friendly, biodegradable bamboo handle, too.
- The Dirty Mouth Toothpowder gently polishes your teeth, removing surface stains left by coffee, tea, tobacco, and other stain-inducing foods. This charcoal toothpaste comes in two minty flavors so your breath will be as fresh as your pearly whites.
- Make sure you're flossing regularly! If you avoid this crucial step in your oral care routine because it's uncomfortable, these Bamboo-Charcoal Dental Floss/Picks safely remove plaque in between teeth without snagging.
If you have oily, acne-prone skin, activated charcoal will be your hero because its porous makeup helps it absorb oil and other impurities such as bacteria. It's effective at deep-cleaning pores for healthier, clearer skin.
You can find activated charcoal in the popular Char-Glow Mask. Combined with colloidal silver, coffee, and kaolin and bentonite clay, this mask cleanses, exfoliates, and leaves you with a radiant glow.
3. Natural Deodorant
Many popular deodorants on the market contain baking soda, aluminum, and other irritants. Fortunately, the power of activated charcoal has been harnessed to safely save pits from stench-causing bacteria.
The Stick Up Natural Deodorant in the Black Lavender or Black Rogue scents will leave your underarms feeling and smelling fresh. It's formulated with activated charcoal, bentonite clay, hemp seed oil, zinc oxide, arrowroot and other all-natural ingredients that are safe for even sensitive skin.
4. Bloating and Gas Relief
Losing your battle against bloat? Feeling more flatulent than usual? It might be time to enlist the help of activated charcoal supplements.
Be aware that there currently isn't too much evidence that supports this claim, so research is ongoing. However, a 2014 study says that activated charcoal may be effective at reducing intestinal gas when combined with other active ingredients such as simethicone and magnesium oxide.
5. Improve Kidney Function
Activated charcoal's reputation as a detoxifying agent has led some doctors to use it as a way to improve kidney function. Keep in mind that if your kidneys are perfectly healthy, they're already effectively removing toxins and other bad things from your body.
However, if you suffer from chronic kidney disease, an activated charcoal supplement combined with other lifestyle changes can possibly help improve your body's natural waste management system, according to these studies.
6. Maintain Cholesterol Levels
Bile salts are created in the liver as a cholesterol byproduct. An excess of bile salts can lead to clogged arteries and gallstones, among other dire health issues.
One study observed the positive effects of daily 24-gram activated charcoal supplements, which saw a decrease in levels of LDL cholesterol ("bad cholesterol") and increased levels of HDL cholesterol ("good cholesterol") over the course of a month.
However, trials such as this one saw no effects on cholesterol after taking charcoal supplements. Your mileage may vary.
Side Effects and Risks of Activated Charcoal
Charcoal products can benefit your body, inside and out. However, as with all ingredients, there are some side effects to consider. Activated charcoal may cause the following:
- Black stools
- Slower digestion
- Intestinal blockages (in severe cases)
If you're taking over-the-counter or prescription medication, be careful since activated charcoal could decrease the efficacy of those drugs. (Remember, it's used in emergency rooms to detox drug overdose patients!) Ditto for daily vitamin supplements, as charcoal can end up absorbing those good nutrients before your bloodstream does.
Ingesting activated charcoal does not appear to be unsafe to use if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.
In any case, speak with your doctor or healthcare professional first before incorporating activated charcoal into your daily routine.
If you use a charcoal face mask, opt for a wash-off mask. Peel-off charcoal masks have gained a reputation for being painful, uncomfortable ways to draw impurities to the surface, which can actually damage your skin and lead to more problems such as irritation and dryness. Despite an all-too-common saying, beauty isn't — and shouldn't be — pain.
Another thing to consider about charcoal-infused beauty products is that they're most effective for oily or combination skin types since they sop up sebum (oil). If you have dry skin, charcoal will only make that issue worse as it's not a hydrating ingredient.
Remember to patch test before using a new product or ingredient on your skin.
Embrace the Power of Activated Charcoal Today
There are many reasons we love using activated charcoal. It's all-natural, safe, effective, and versatile. It's a wonderful alternative to the popular yet harsh chemicals found in more mainstream products that can cause discomfort and irritation.
Charcoal's detoxing properties will help you attain a brighter smile, healthier gums, clearer skin, and even nicer-smelling armpits. (Not to mention, it's also the reason why your water is safe to drink and doesn't taste so bad!)
While more research is needed on how activated charcoal can help battle bloat, eliminate intestinal gas, and moderate cholesterol levels, some early studies show that those prospects are promising. As always, speak with a doctor or a nutritionist before introducing new supplements to your diet.
We hope this guide provides you with a much better idea of how activated charcoal works, and that you're inspired to embrace the power of this amazing ingredient. For more ideas on how to start living your healthiest and happiest life, check out the Primal Life Organics blog for tips, tricks, and trends.