There's No Proof That Charcoal in Beauty Products Actually Does Anything

Illustration for article titled There's No Proof That Charcoal in Beauty Products Actually Does Anything
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I once watched a documentary about monkeys whose diets consisted of leaves or nuts or something that gave them terrible stomachaches. One group of monkeys had discovered that eating charcoal out of nearby fire pits made their stomachs feel much better. They gamboled merrily, living the way monkeys who feel good do. Another group of monkeys was not so lucky, and they moped around clutching their stomachs dismally. However, if you were hoping to be a happier primate with gleaming teeth and clear pores due to your discovery of charcoal, you may not be so lucky.


Charcoal has of late infiltrated everything from toothpaste to shampoo. But it’s long been used by monkeys and doctors alike to counteract the effects of ingested poisons and toxins because charcoal is incredibly porous, making it great for soaking up stuff you don’t want in your body. So it stands to reason that charcoal could also soak up the stains on your teeth, the gunk in your pores, and the grease in your hair, right? Eh, who knows. According to The Washington Post:

Megan Rogge, a dermatologist at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center, says that while she understands charcoal’s appeal in a culture obsessed with detoxifying and cleansing, ‘there have been no controlled studies to say charcoal gives you a clean like no other or produces any significant change in skin.’

But Rogge says if charcoal soap does it for you, go ahead and use it, since charcoal doesn’t generally irritate the skin. Dentists, on the other hand, warn that if you’re using a charcoal toothpaste, you should alternate with a regular toothpaste, since charcoal can be abrasive and many activated charcoal toothpastes don’t contain fluoride.

I have no idea if it’s the charcoal or the power of positive thinking, but Lush’s Dark Angels certainly makes me an incredibly happy monkey.

Ph.D. in English with a concentration in the intersection of Gothic novels, ghosts, and shitty men.


Citizen Anonymous

Medical professional here. I don’t really know anything about what it does for your skin, but I recently read about this new diet trend where activated charcoal is being added to meals and protein shakes and things, and then promptly absorbing medication that is taken at the same time. (Activated charcoal absorbs things, that’s its whole job, it’s given after overdoses and things like that, so if you eat a bunch at the same time as you take medication, it’s gonna absorb at least some of your medication)

So PSA, if you want to eat activated charcoal, fine, whatever, live your best life, but eat it 2 hours before or after taking whatever meds you need to take