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

November 09, 2016

Activated Charcoal for Skin

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...

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. 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.

What happens once you rinse the charcoal lather down the drain?  Does it harm the environment?  Absolutely not! If anything, it will purify it!  

1 Response


July 09, 2017

I’ve tried the black charcoal soap for eczema on my legs and have found it works better the the medical cream the doctor prescribed for my condition. I use it on my whole body which leaves my skin squeaky clean and soft. I soap up my legs first and leave in on while I suds my whole body, including my face, where I have a slight case of rosacea. The charcoal smell disappears once I rinse off. Using the soap helps stop the ,which sometimes comes with the condition, keeping my from wearing shorts during the summer months. .

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