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Why is activated charcoal good for your skin? Derms explain its benefits

Pull out dirt and grime with this natural mineral.
Keys Soulcare / Boscia / Dermalogica / mixetto / Getty Images

You might best recognize charcoal as something you use to start things up in your grill or fire pit, but its more porous cousin — activated charcoal — is making the waves in a multitude of ways.

For starters, activated charcoal is utilized in the medical realm, being administered to patients during life-threatening intoxications. Beauty lovers, however, may recognize this ingredient in their everyday arsenal. From toothpaste to body wash and face masks, this natural mineral is known for its properties of absorbing impurities and deep cleaning.

Shop TODAY asked two dermatologists to weigh in on how this ingredient works and how your skin may benefit from it.

What is activated charcoal?

"Activated charcoal is simply charcoal made from wood, coal or other substances that have been combined with gas or other activated ingredients at high temperatures, which expands its surface area. The result is an odorless dark powder that has a variety of uses," mentioned dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama.

Technically, it's no different than the coal you use to barbecue, except that this one is heated at a higher temperature until it turns into porous fine grains.

How does activated charcoal benefit your skin?

According to dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch, activated charcoal needs more evidence and proven benefits when it comes to anti-aging claims. However, due to its absorbent quality and ability to soak up oil on your skin, activated charcoal acts as a great exfoliant.

"Activated charcoal helps clean the skin by removing oil, debris and dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. It can also temporarily shrink the look of pores for smoother-looking skin," said Hartman.

However, she also noted that using it daily can cause irritation. "Activated charcoal can remove too much oil and moisture from the skin’s surface, which can lead to flaking or irritation."

If you're curious about this ingredient and want to upgrade your beauty regimen, here are some derm-approved activated charcoal products and bestsellers to exfoliate your face and then some.

Activated charcoal products to try

Ambi Skincare Even & Clear Purifying Charcoal Black Soap Facial Cleanser

This drugstore cleanser is packed with antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E to help wash away any lingering impurities. While the oil-absorbing charcoal works it magic to remove any dirt and pollutants, this option will leave your skin feeling hydrated thanks to the addition of shea butter.

Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores

This Origins facial mask helps to clean pores from oily and combination skin. "This is a peel-off mask that is gentle enough for sensitive skin and can be used once a week to help keep skin clear and free of blemishes," shared Hartman.

Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud Purifying Black Mask

Strip away bad energy — and dirty pores — with this purifying mask from Peter Thomas Roth. "I like this mask for people with oily skin; the combo of activated charcoal and Irish Moor Mud helps to draw out dirt, oil and debris from pores, without leaving skin feeling stripped or dry," mentioned Hartman.

Younique Youology Perfecting Mask

Give your skin a spa-like experience with this refreshing mask. "I like the combo of bamboo, charcoal and kaolin clay in this mask, which helps nourish and condition the skin. Once applied, the mask foams and tingles on the skin for a sensory experience and is very easy to wash away," said Hartman.

Dermalogica Charcoal Rescue Masque

Soak up the junk from your skin with this mask from Dermalogica. The activated charcoal helps to absorb dirt, while the volcanic ash exfoliates and removes dead skin. "Every time I use it I feel like I have brand new baby soft skin afterwards! You just smooth it on and the charcoal and sulfur visibly draw out sebum and detoxify. It's gross but fascinating at the same time," added one Dermstore shopper who swears by this for her 30-something skin.

type: A Aluminum Free Deodorant

Tired of sweaty underarms? Try this charcoal-infused deodorant with spirulina to stay fresh during your workout. According to a clinical study, 100 percent of women experience all-day protection and agreed this product protects against odor. Now that's what we call a winner!

Rusk PUREMIX Activated Charcoal Purifying Mask

Give your hair a salon-style treatment with this charcoal purifying mask. It absorbs oil and impurities from the scalp while conditioning your hair, all while providing essential nourishment from vitamins E, B3, B5, B6 and magnesium.

Upcircle Chocolate Charcoal Chai Soap Bar

Trade your liquid soap for this charcoal bar option loaded with warming chai spices — a great way to take the latte smell into the shower. It also has cacao extract to boost circulation and brighten the skin. "This soap lathers up wonderfully and leaves your skin feeling very clean and refreshed," shared one reviewer.

Colleen Rothschild Clarifying Detox Masque

Detoxify your skin with this clarifying facial mask. After a long day, take a break and apply this on your face to rebalance your complexion and remove all that trapped dirt from the city. Your skin will feel soft after 10 minutes. You can use it two to three times a week.

Bad Ace Activated Charcoal Face Scrub

For men looking to update their skin care regimen, this face wash is a multipurpose product that will exfoliate and cleanse their face. "My husband really liked this scrub. His face is sensitive so the smoothness of the texture was perfect," shared one happy wife who gave this five stars.

Les Creme Daily Detox Face Wash

This face wash swears it'll completely detox and unclog your pores. The formula contains activated charcoal to help prevent future breakouts and lavender for an extra soothing experience.

Keys Soulcare Harmony Mask With Manuka Honey

With nearly a five-star rating at Ulta, this harmony mask from Keys Soulcare is formulated with antioxidants, activated charcoal and gold foil to nourish the skin while providing a radiant glow. Several shoppers also shared how cooling it feels while it does its job.

Boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser

Feel a warming sensation when you wash your face with this gel charcoal cleanser from Boscia. Ideal for those with combination or oily skin, it's formulated to reduce the appearance of pores while brightening your complexion thanks to the addition of vitamin C.

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