We’ve seen a major influx of activated charcoal beauty products in the past year or two, and with good reason

Activated charcoal is a versatile ingredient, known to purify, cleanse and clarify the skin.

It has the ability to…


Our body absorbs toxins not only through the skin, but also via the lungs and our digestive system.

Although the main route to neutralise and eliminate them is through the liver and kidney, some of these toxins can be released on the skin surface carried by sweat. If not removed they can cause oxidation, inflammation and skin barrier damage.

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Activated charcoal can detoxify and purify the skin by absorbing these toxins that are difficult to remove by detergents only. Once absorbed by the charcoal they can simply be rinsed away.


Protect from pollution by trapping Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).

VOCs are gases released from many commonplace materials. VOCs include a variety of chemicals emitted by organic solvents present in paints, cleaning products, pesticides, building materials, copiers and printer inks.

VOCs are also associated with indoor pollution as many chemicals present and used in the household or the office contain organic solvents emitting VOC. VOCs like benzene are also released by cigarette smoking. Skin exposure to pollution and VOCs leads to an increase of trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) and increased skin reaction to allergens, suggesting an altered skin barrier. It has also been associated with increased dermatitis.

Activated charcoal has shown the capacity to bind several VOCs and therefore preventing their harmful effect on skin.


Organic pollutants reaching the skin, excess sebum, dirt, and make up residue are difficult to remove especially when they accumulate in pores or are trapped in the superficial skin layers. If not removed these impurities can cause skin oxidation, inflammation and weaken the skin barrier.

Excessive pollution and the increased frequency of oily skin have furthermore exacerbated the risk of inflammation especially in sensitive skin. The overuse of detergents and harsh surfactants to remove dirt from an increasingly impure skin has led to increased dermatitis, weakened skin barrier and dehydrated skin.

To avoid the overuse of detergents, activated charcoal can complement a milder cleansing approach, by boosting the removal of impurities while avoiding skin stripping due to a mechanism based on physical absorbance rather than dirt solubilisation and removal. Its high absorbance capacity enables a lower use level for a maximum effect.

Once impurities are absorbed, the activated charcoal can then be washed away.

DIY masks to try at home

SKNLogic Detox Charcoal Masque – R290

Remove sebum, decongest and detoxify the skin and minimise pores with the SKNLogic Detox Charcoal Masque activated charcoal masque. Because the activated charcoal is suspended in beads you can get the benefit of the activated charcoal without the mess, making it much easier to remove.

Does not contain Parabens, Sulphates and Synthetic Colourants, Lanolin derivatives or Mineral oil.

Sorbet charcoal peel off mask – R69

Sorbet Charcoal Peel Off Mask is deep cleansing leaving your skin clean and oil-free. With activated charcoal and tea tree oil, your skin is cleared from all dirt and grime leaving your pores open and your skin feeling radiant.

Dr Organic activated charcoal pore cleansing face mask – R189

Dr Organic Charcoal Face Mask and Activated Charcoal works effectively in helping to cleanse the skin of excess oil and impurities. Combined with a blend of bioactive and organic extracts such as aloe vera juice and China clay, the mask helps to leave the skin fresh and energised.

Hey Gorgeous activated charcoal mask – R245

If you’re struggling with a dull complexion and blocked pores, the activated charcoal face mask from Hey Gorgeous will help your skin to breathe easy again.

The natural charcoal draws out impurities, while the purifying kaolin clay helps to remove blackheads and whiteheads.