Why activated charcoal is the essential travel and beauty product
Forget oil, this stuff is the real black gold.
I'm no expert when it comes to skincare and beauty. However, through my travels I've learned that one of my regularly packed amenities, activated charcoal pills, have more uses than simply relieving the occasional stomach-bug.
I first discovered the most obvious benefits of activated charcoal travelling through Southeast Asia about eight years ago. My friends and I were suffering from a rare bout of food poisoning following a muddy overnight trek through the foothills of Sapa in northwestern Vietnam.
Returning to Hanoi the next day, we hotfooted it to the local pharmacy seeking medicine to counteract the effects. The drugstore clerk was sympathetic and helpful, explaining that while there were a range of treatment options, the best thing to do was swallow a few coarse black pills, drink plenty of water and get some rest.
We heeded her advice, took the tablets and slept through the afternoon at our run-down guest house in the city's jostling Old Quarter.
Waking around dinnertime, the three of us felt decidedly less ill and somewhat re-energised. Ambling out of bed we felt well enough to venture out and find something to fill our empty stomachs. By the following morning the three of us had recovered.
A miracle? Nope. Just charcoal.
What is activated charcoal?
Activated charcoal helps prevent poisons from being absorbed from the stomach into the body.
It works by trapping toxins and chemicals in its millions of tiny pores, however, it doesn’t absorb them but uses the chemical process of adsorption to bind the harmful elements to its surface.
"The porous surface of activated charcoal has a negative electric charge that causes positive charged toxins and gas to bond with it," according to nutrition specialist Doctor Josh Axe.
"It’s important to note that activated charcoal is not charcoal used in your barbecue grill! Barbecue charcoal is loaded with toxins and chemicals, and should never be consumed."
Aside from the effectiveness of activated charcoal as a digestible antitoxin, there are other apparent advantages to using this natural product.
Bloggers, beauticians and wellness physicians have touched on the various benefits of activated charcoal in the areas of skin and body health, water filtration and cholesterol reduction.
For external use, it can be purchased in powder form and used to alleviate body odour and acne or ease itching and discomfort as a result of insect bites, rashes and other skin irritations.
Simply mix a few grams of activated charcoal with ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and cover the affected area. Reapply every 30 minutes or until the itching desists.
Activated charcoal can be found in a range of makeup and skincare solutions. As a face mask it can help cleanse your pores, removing blackheads and detoxifying your skin.
If you suffer from oily hair, you can find both regular and dry shampoos that contain activated charcoal. You can even make your own by adding a teaspoon of activated charcoal powder to your regular shampoo.
Research published in the Natural Medicine Journal explains that due to its adsorbing effects, activated charcoal may help in the treatment of liver and kidney disorders. Ingesting activated charcoal may also lower cholesterol levels and reduce high levels of bile acids. Charcoal may also be given with light therapy to help prevent jaundice in newborn babies.
Where can I find it?
Our comprehensive guide can help you navigate the world of online health and beauty to find the best products at the lowest prices. We've also listed 12 essential online beauty shops that stock natural and organic items, including products containing activated charcoal.
Read our guide if you're interested in further understanding the science behind the skincare treatments you're using or want to discover which products work best for you.