4 Ways Activated Charcoal Can Improve Your Skin

drinking activated charcoal

Activated charcoal – also referred to as activated carbon – is charcoal that has undergone a heating process that makes it safe for medicinal use. This process, which increases the charcoal’s adsorptive ability, allows it to expand into a porous surface capable of trapping a multitude of toxins and chemicals (1).

While its main use throughout history has been as an internal supplement for easing digestive distress and detoxing, its properties have recently been found to benefit the skin.

4 Ways Activated Charcoal Can Improve Your Skin

1—Helps Remove Impurities

Remember how we talked about charcoal’s adsorptive ability? No, this isn’t a misspelling of absorption, but a different process that involves attracting chemicals and toxins using an electric charge. The surface of activated charcoal, filled with millions of tiny pores, has a negative charge that attracts and binds with positively-charged toxicants.

The adsorptive ability of activated charcoal is so powerful, in fact, that for the last 100 years it has been used internally as an antidote to serious poisoning (2).

This adsorptive quality can have a powerful effect when it comes to binding to impurities on the surface of our skin, such as dirt, pollutants from our environment, and build-up.

2—Gently Exfoliates

In addition to removing impurities, activated charcoal’s slightly gritty texture makes it a great option for gentle exfoliation.

Exfoliation is essential for removing buildup on the surface of our skin, which can clog pores, further exacerbate blemishes, and result in an uneven, dull appearance. Activated charcoal helps us achieve even, supple skin with a one-two combination of exfoliation and simultaneous purification. Plus, it’s gentle enough to use on sensitive skin since the granules are so small.

3—Balances Oily Skin

While natural oil production is necessary for keeping our skin moisturized, glowing, and free of wrinkles, too much can be a problem. Oily skin can trap dirt and other impurities from the environment, which then sit on our skin and result in clogged pores—especially if you aren’t regularly exfoliating.

Activated charcoal, again with its adsorptive quality, can bind to these impurities and excess oil, while gently loosening deeply-ingrained particles with its gritty texture.

4—Shrinks Appearance of Pores

Excess oil and dead skin can become trapped in pores over time, causing them to enlarge with debris. Large pores can give us a tired, aged look – and who wants that?

Using activated charcoal as a mask and scrub can help loosen the debris clogging up your pores. In addition, it will also adsorb any foreign impurities that may have slipped into your enlarged pores.

How to Use Activated Charcoal

You can purchase activated charcoal either in loose powder form, or in capsule form. If you’re using a capsule, simply break open the capsule to use externally. Also, various brands of activated charcoal are derived from different substances, such as nutshells, coconut husk, peat, wood, coir, lignite, and coal. Of course, your best option is to choose an activated charcoal powder derived from natural substances like coconut shells.

Ready to get started with activated charcoal? Below are two recipes for your skin: a detoxifying mask to remove impurities and an exfoliating charcoal mask to get that deep debris out of your pores. Keep in mind that while activated charcoal won’t stain your skin, it will stain other surfaces like countertops and clothes, so be careful during application.

DIY Activated Charcoal Detox Mask


1/2 Tablespoon Activated Charcoal Powder
1/2 Tablespoon Rosewater (or regular if you don’t have it)
1/2 Tablespoon Bentonite Clay
Optional: Dab of raw honey for hydration


Combine charcoal, rosewater, and other ingredients if you’re adding them. Know that this mixture will be slightly runnier than many other types of masks.
Apply to a clean face and let sit for 10 minutes.
Rinse and pat dry.

Activated Charcoal Scrub


1/2 Tablespoon Activated Charcoal Powder
1/2 Tablespoon Rosewater
2 teaspoons coconut palm sugar
2 teaspoons honey


Combine ingredients and apply to a clean face. Use gentle circular motions over the entire face to loosen dead skin cells and other impurities from the pores. Rinse and pat dry, following with a moisturizer.

How do you like to use activated charcoal? Let us know in the comments below!


1. American Academy of Clinical Toxicology and European Association of Poisons Centres and Clinical Toxicologists. Position Paper: Single-Dose Activated Charcoal. Clinical Toxicology. 43:61–87. 2005. < http://www.clintox.org/documents/positionpapers/SingleDoseActivatedCharcoal.pdf >
2. Howell CA., et al; Nanoporous activated carbon beads and monolithic columns as effective hemoadsorbents for inflammatory cytokines. Int J Artif Organs. 2013 Oct 3. < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23918264 >

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Reader Interactions


  1. Mary says

    I have not tried activated charcoal but I would like to since I have read a bit and found that it is good for different skin types among other things.

  2. Catherine says

    Thanks for the recipes. I am definitely going to try them. I also use charcoal toothpaste every evening. It leaves my tongue a little black but I don’t mind.

  3. Elizabeth Resnick says

    I love activated charcoal for teeth whitening. I brush with it about once a week, using a dedicated toothbrush. Messy, but extremely effective. People always ask how I keep my teeth so white for the pics on my happy, healthy and hot blog. Activated charcoal is all it takes!!!

  4. name* says

    I have been using this on my teeth for a while and it has helped remove stains. Thank you for letting us know about using it as a mask for skin too. Candace

  5. Fariha says

    Thanks so much for posting these recipes. I have a related query. Whenever I use any mask or scrub containing activated charcoal, it becomes nearly impossible for me to remove it completely since it leaves behind its blackish tinge. This would disappear over a period of 2 days after using another scrub (dead sea salt). Because of this, I’ve discontinued use of activated charcoal scrub as I find it meaningless to first apply the charcoal scrub followed by another scrub to remove its residue. Would you know of a way to remove this blackish tinge completely?

  6. Kay says

    Ann Marie, I’d love for YOU to make a charcoal product like a mask or spot treatment. Especially for those of us with acne/oily skin. I’d buy it!

  7. Emma Susan says

    I use as a teeth whitener/brightener after brushing. I’m also experimenting with it as an alternative to chemical paint for my creative design practice. Trying the mask out now. Thank you. x

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