Why Your Skin Loves Activated Charcoal (And You Will Too)

May 27, 2019 4 min read

skin benefits of activated charcoal the yellow bird blog

A black bar of soap is not most people's automatic go-to-- how do you tell if it's clean or dirty?  Why would anyone choose something so smudgy and reminiscent of fire?  The truth is that activated charcoal is completely in its own class when it comes to a certain property called adsorption.   No, that's not a typo-- adsorption is the process of a solid taking something out of a liquid or gas or other solid. How does this relate to your skin?  Ok, let's start with a really quick chemistry lesson...

What does Activated Charcoal do?

You may remember that every different type of element has its own type of atom, with different numbers of protons, neutrons, and electrons whizzing around within like a tiny solar system. Atoms join together into molecules by "binding," and the glue is their electrons. For example, you may know that a water molecule is made up of two hydrogen atoms bound to one oxygen atom, abbreviated as H2O. Atoms swap or share electrons from their outer layers to bind with one another.

Carbon is an element with 4 electrons in its outermost layer, meaning it has four binding sites; this is the highest number of binding sites in a stable atom. What this means is that carbon as an atom is very "sticky"-- it has lots of "spots" where other molecules and atoms can bind to it. Charcoal, as you may also remember from chemistry, is made up almost entirely of carbon.

The carbon atoms are bound to each other in such a way that there are still plenty of holes where other substances can fit in. This is what makes charcoal so incredibly adsorbant-- its molecular structure allows it to snatch up and hold onto a very high number of other substances. If you were to add up all the surface area (areas where other substances can bind or fit) within 5 grams of activated charcoal, it would be the size of a football field! That is a LOT of room for adsorption! I'm sure you are already imagining how this could be a great property in a soap. Is active charcoal good for your skin? Because activated charcoal is mostly carbon, it is a great choice when you want a material that will attract and hold onto other substances, like dirt, excess oil, pathogens, and allergens.  It is used by doctors in cases of poisoning, it is used in filters in alcohol manufacturing, and in chemistry labs, to purify the ingredients to be used in experiments.

We love activated charcoal so much that we have included in several of our products-- 2 soap bars, and our Salt and Sugar Scrub. Here are some of the common questions we receive:



Frequently Asked Questions

Does active charcoal harm the environment? 

If you are concerned about what will happen once you rinse the charcoal lather down the drain, don't be! Absolutely nothing about it will harm the environment. If anything, it will purify it! 

Why use activated charcoal in soap?

The detox properties are excellent for soaps-- it helps with the cleansing power of the soap (to see how soap works-- how it actually lifts impurities and washes them away, read this article). Our best seller Activated Charcoal Lemongrass and Lavender barnot only smells refreshing but combines the antiseptic properties of lemongrass along with the antimicrobial lavender for a truly powerful cleansing bar. The Dead Sea Mud Pumice and Charcoal bar is unique in the way that it helps to physically loosen the dead skin cells (via the pumice) and then allow the dead sea mud and charcoal to bind with the excess oils, toxins, and bacteria so that they can be rinsed away. 

Can I use Activated Charcoal soap on my face?

Not all activated charcoal products are created equal. Activated charcoal is extremely potent and can be drying to your skin's natural oils. This is why all of our activated charcoal soap bars are also full of rich butters and oils and have a good amount of activated charcoal that will help detox the skin without drying it out. That being said, using the lather of the soap bar on a warm washcloth on your face is one of the best ways to help loosen and wash away dirt and toxins (cleanse) from your face.

How often should you use Activated Charcoal on your face?

It depends on your skin type-- If you have very dry skin, it might be best to use the activated charcoal soap bar every other evening and a moisture-rich bar the other evenings (like our neem orshea bar). Most skin types are able to use the activated charcoal bar every evening on their skin without it being too drying. Remember to also moisturize after cleansing-- with a goodface oilor lotion. In fact, our Argan Face Oil Setincludes 2 mini bars of our Activated Charcoal Lemongrass and Lavender Soap. It is the perfect pair.

Why did we use Activated Charcoal in our Salt and Sugar Scrub?

For its deep cleansing action. The activated charcoal clears and reduces pore size by binding to the debris and toxins that clog our pores. Paired with a naturally occurring salicylic acid in willow bark in the scrub, this scrub can help reduce redness and acne. 


scrub activated charcoal yellow bird shopShop Soap yellow bird activated charcoal bar

Nicole P
Nicole P

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