Activated Charcoal: How does it work in skincare?


biore charcoal


A long time ago,  in a galaxy not so far away, there was a girl who thought that charcoal was merely for grilling food on a nice, warm day. Little did she know that there were so many other health benefits that could come from the unassuming substance. Nowadays, it seems like charcoal is found everywhere. From toothpaste to ice cream flavors, charcoal is becoming more and more common in everyday life. Its striking black color helps it turn some commonplace items into something novel and fun. But what is it and how can it help?

charcoal ice cream 2


Activated charcoal is carbon material that has been processed to become more like a sponge, with lots of holes. Its surface is full of jagged edges, giving it a very large surface area. This large surface area makes it very good at picking up other particles, allowing it to act as an effective filter for air or water. In medicine, it is even used in poisoning cases, where a large dose is ingested by the patient. The charcoal will remove a lot of the harmful chemicals instead of them absorbing into the body.


Activated charcoal works through a process called adsoprtion (with a d). This is the capability of a solid to attract other molecules to its surface through a “stickiness” or attraction between molecules called intermolecular forces. These intermolecular forces are present in all substances and are what keep materials from falling apart of dissolving into the air, but also what gives activated charcoal its “super power”. When it comes close enough to toxin, that toxin will be attracted to the surface of the activated charcoal. Remember those tiny pores in the charcoal that we mentioned earlier? Well, those allow for a LOT of surface area for toxins and other particles to attach to, as seen in the figures below.

activated charcoal diagram 1
Figure 1: Activated charcoal is introduced to skin containing clogged pores and a surface layer of dirt


activated charcoal diagram 2
Figure 2: Activated charcoal has adsorbed the dirt from the surface and the clogged pores of the skin onto its jagged, porous surface


One teaspoonful of activated charcoal has a surface area of more than 10,000 square feet which allows it to adsorb large amounts of chemicals, toxins or poisons. It can remove up to 100 times its weight in toxins which it then carries safely out of the body through the digestive system. That’s pretty powerful stuff!


Now that we know of charcoals amazing adsorption power and how it works, it’s important to understand what we must out for while using it. First of all, adsorption is not a discriminatory process. Because it cannot tell the difference between helpful and harmful chemicals, it is just as likely to remove vitamins as it is to remove toxins from your system. This means that it is probably not a good idea to incorporate it into your regular diet. It is also very important that you don’t use charcoal soon after taking any medication. The charcoal will greatly reduce the amount of chemicals reaching your body and thus cause it to be much less effective.

If you’re interested in trying some skin care products containing charcoal, Biore has a rather wide variety that are readily available and quite affordable. I have tried the pore strips and the deep pore cleanser myself (available here through affiliate links) and have really enjoyed them so far. The cleanser does tend to be a bit drying, but definitely leaves me feeling squeaky clean. And as long as I remember to use a heavy duty moisturizer afterwards, it’s enough to keep my skin from becoming a desert. I hope you enjoy these products, I look forward to trying a few others in the future!

Have you tried any of the charcoal products on the market? What have been your results and how do you like them? I would love to hear your experiences so please comment below. Please also to remember to subscribe/ join my email list if you like the content here and would like to see more!!

Until next time, keep a scientific eye on the world and a happy thought in your head!

❤ Julie


  1. As I know charcoal is the drug of choice for the overdosed patient to remove the drugs or toxins that build up in the body.But now I have seen a lot in the market that charcoal now is use for skin care. I haven’t try it yet but now I learned that charcoal acts as adsorption in the surface of the skin , I can start using charcoal to open up my clogged pores or black heads. Especially if I don’t go for facial for a while my pores are clogged & dirt accumulate in my skin & making it hard to manage giving me ugly skin tone . Thank you Julie for the blog until next time .


    • Thank you so much! I’m so glad you stopped by and enjoyed the articles! Please feel free to join the email list so you know when new content is up on my page 🙂 I’d love to chat about skin care science anytime so drop me a line if you’d like to talk!! ❤


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