Beauty trends come and go like the wind, but Charcoal seems to be here to stay.

It’s been promoted in toothpastes, face masks, cleansers and scrubs as magical and skin-clearing, but what is the real deal with charcoal in beauty products?

We wanted to get down to the nitty-gritty details of why charcoal became such a popular ingredients within the beauty and skincare industry and find out whether it’s truly worth the hype. In order to dig deep, we spoke to Tom Bourlet from Procoal to find out more.

The first thing Tom explained to me was how the market had grown and what was behind its evolution. He told me that activated charcoal is something that has been used for thousands of years, dating all the way back to the ancient Egyptians. “Back then it was largely used for air purification and removing bad smells. They also used it for its ability to cure digestive issues and intestinal issues.” Apparently, it wasn’t until the last century that charcoal evolved, making its way into our daily routines in the likes of our toothpaste and now, our beauty products.

When did charcoal’s beauty qualities truly come to life? Tom told me that, “the first point it truly took off was when it was used as a teeth whitening powder, recognised as a safer alternative to the products on the market. Rather than directly whitening your teeth with hydrogen peroxide, instead it was removing discolouration.” From there on, Charcoal became a buzzword in the beauty and skincare industry.

It wasn’t just the beauty and skincare brands who jumped on the charcoal craze though. Food chains began adding it to burger buns for commercial, seasonal and simply Instagrammable reasons as well as being made into ‘activated charcoal lattes’. While the food trends are still very much here, the biggest step forward was with the use of face masks due to how well charcoal extracts dirt from the skin. “Charcoal is highly porus”, Tom said, “meaning it absorbs all the dirst and excess sebum from the skin, making it a very useful addition for those wanting to clear their skin.”

Charcoal has proved itself many times to be effective as absorbing anything you don’t want. Tom told me that, “they even pack activated charcoal onto every ambulance, as a tool for anyone that might have swallowed something poisonous, as it will soak up any dangerous chemicals in the stomach and potentially save your life.” Hence, why it is so good at removing dirt and grime from our skin.

Products that contain charcoal are thrown at us left, right and centre, so much so that it can be hard to know what is actually worth investing our money in and what isn’t. Tom told me the two in particular that we should be using. “The teeth whitening activated charcoal products are the most tested and proven goods, while offering a much more safer option than hydrogen peroxide options on the market. Then the charcoal face masks work incredibly well at extracting impurities and excess sebum from the skin, however they are incredibly porous, meaning I recommend following them up with a moisturiser and only using them once per week for optimal results.”

Depending on your skin’s needs and what your aiming for, these could be worth buying over non-charcoal products, although Tom made it clear that, “while it can help with spotty skin, it won’t cure acne.” However, if you suffer from oily skin, charcoal could be a brilliant option for you. “The charcoal face masks will remove impurities, excess sebum and dirt, but it won’t help to tackle fine lines, wrinkles of moisturise the skin, so it is a useful addition to your beauty regime.”

If you are thinking about incorporating some kind of charcoal-based product into your routine, Tom advises to limit how often you use it. “A once a week face mask is definitely worth adding to your routine, along with an exfoliation, but just like with exfoliating, performing more than once a week can be too harsh on the skin and cause irritation.”

While skincare products work their magic better when used less often, charcoal toothpastes have to be used daily in order to have an effect. “With teeth whitening, they work incredibly well considering the price, but you have to control your expectations.” Tom went onto explain, “if you want an extreme change in how many shades whiter you want, then you should look enquire with your dentists, as they will be the only ones that can utilise a higher level of hydrogen peroxide safely. Activated Charcoal doesn’t whiten your teeth, it removes stains and discolouration, so it works best for people who smoke or drink a lot of coffee or wine.”

So charcoal in the beauty industry does’t seem to be slowing down, only evolving. You must be careful not to fall into the trap of cheaper Chinese products, which are low quality products and tarnishing the true benefits that charcoal really has. Be sure to know exactly where your product has come from and what it consists of. Whether you’re using it to target skin issues or simply trying it for it’s added benefits, charcoal will leave your skin clearer and feeling smooth and clean.

So, is charcoal skincare fab or fad? We think it’s fab.

Feature image: Garden Collage Magazine