Here’s Why You Want Charcoal In Your Skincare Routine

Ingredient Spotlight


If you thought charcoal was a modern-day beauty invention, think again. Cosmetic and medicinal usage of this sooty black substance dates all the way back to 1500 B.C. Back then, and through today, charcoal helps absorb and remove impurities, excess oil and sebum, and dead skin cells from pores and the skin’s surface.

“In modern days, charcoal has had a wide range of uses as a beauty ingredient,” says Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. “It has a high surface area and ability to attract and remove toxins and debris.”

These properties make charcoal especially popular in beauty masks, scrubs, and cleansers or shampoos. We’re going to share some of our favorite charcoal-infused products, but let’s tackle a few common Qs, first.

What’s the Difference Between Activated Charcoal Vs. Charcoal?

If you’re particularly astute, you might have noticed that there are two different types of charcoal found in beauty products: regular charcoal and then activated charcoal.

“Charcoal is the byproduct left over after slowly heating carbon-containing material like wood, coconut shells, and bamboo, among other ingredients,” explains Dr. Murphy-Rose. “Activated charcoal is formed when charcoal is treated with oxygen to make it more porous.”

Who Should Use Charcoal Beauty Products?

Charcoal is meant to draw out and remove impurities, dead skin cells, and excess oil. Dr. Murphy-Rose says it’s especially beneficial for anyone with oily or acne-prone skin types, but that anyone can reap the benefits of charcoal.

How Often Should You Use Charcoal Beauty Products?

We recommend using charcoal-infused skincare products once or twice weekly, depending on your needs. Consistent usage can help reduce the appearance of large pores, promote clearer-looking skin, and create a complexion that looks and feels smoother. When in doubt, follow the usage instructions and listen to your skin.

Our Favorite Charcoal Beauty Products

Ready to add a little charcoal to your beauty process? These are some of our top picks.

Love Beauty and Planet Delightful Detox Charcoal Shampoo, $7

Yep, charcoal can be found in hair care products, too! “Charcoal-based hair products can treat build-up on the scalp,” notes Dr. Murphy-Rose. This clarifying shampoo from Love Beauty and Planet puts charcoal in the spotlight. It helps remove excess sebum and dirt from the scalp for a super fresh, clean feel.

Wishful Yo Detox Face & Body Enzyme Scrub, $39

This gentle scrub is infused with a trifecta of charcoal, fruit enzymes, and an AHA/BHA blend. Basically, it works triple time to draw out impurities and visibly refine pores. We recommend using it once or twice a week to address uneven texture, excess oil, and large pores.

Talika Bubble Mask Bio-Detox, $11

Dr. Murphy-Rose says this foaming mask is one of her favorites. “It’s formulated with charcoal to clear skin and unclog pores, as well as skin-soothing and antioxidant ingredients like camellia sinensis and grape extract,” she says. “Apply the mask to clean skin and leave on for 10 minutes. Afterward, remove the mask and massage the foam that has formed onto skin, then rinse off with water.”

Beautyologie Tea Tree Charcoal Shea Butter Soap, $8

Keep this bar of soap in your shower for a soothing, moisturizing experience every time you scrub down. It gently cleanses your skin with saponified coconut, palm, and sunflower oils, detoxes with charcoal, and nourishes with shea and cocoa butter.

Kopari Armpit Detox Mask with Bamboo, Charcoal and Bentonite & Kaolin Clays, $15

Have a case of stinky pits? Spread a little bit of this armpit detox onto your underarm area, let it set for five minutes, then rinse away. The combo of charcoal powder, starch, diatomaceous earth, and clays help draw out odor and toxins while simultaneously moisturizing. You can use it instead of a regular deodorant one to three times a week or as an extra treatment.

Sunday Riley Charcoal Smoothie Jelly Body Scrub, $38

A combination of charcoal, salicylic acid, botanical oils, and coconut water join forces in this jelly-like scrub from Sunday Riley. Physical and chemical exfoliators buff away dead skin cells for a smoother feel while charcoal nixes yucky stuff and oils moisturize.

Have you guys tried charcoal in your routine before? Let us know in the comments below.

Disclaimer: Every product we review has been independently selected and tested without bias by our editorial team. We never take payment to review products, although some brands allow affiliate links, so we may earn a commission if you purchase a product by clicking on one of our links.