What's the Deal with Charcoal?

Charcoal is all the rage. It's like the new kale. Or aloe. Or whatever is cool by the time you read this.

It seems like it's being added to everything: Charcoal water, charcoal filters, charcoal masks, charcoal soap, charcoal toothpaste, etc. etc. etc.

As I write this, I'm currently sipping a Charcoal Detox Lemonade at Tea Bar. Part of me hates myself for succumbing to this marketing ploy. But TBH it's real tasty. 

Anyway, I figure at this rate everyone must have black stained sinks, mugs, clothes and kitchens, right?

So what's the deal with this stuff? WHY is it everywhere? WHAT is it doing? Is it actually doing anything?  Is it good for me? How should I use it?

So many questions! 

Let's start with looking at what it is... 

Charcoal is made from coconut shell, peat, wood, or petroleum. The medicinal form of charcoal is called activated charcoal and yes, it is different from the stuff you use on your BBQ.  DO NOT EAT THE STUFF ON YOUR BBQ. Activated charcoal has been heated in the presence of gas to develop air pockets. These pockets or pores, are what trap chemicals, toxins, and more (1)

Basically, activated charcoal is like a really good sponge that traps the bad guys and prevents you from absorbing them via your skin, water or food. It is most commonly used in the cases of overdose or poisoning. 

Is all activated charcoal created equal?

No! As with any food or supplement: READ THE INGREDIENTS! As activated charcoal becomes more mainstream, the more it gets bastardized #truthtalk. Be on the look out for artificial sweeteners or additives, gums, preservatives or stabilizers. Seek out activated charcoal made from coconut shell or wood. Cheap activated charcoal is often made from petroleum products and you definitely don't want to consume that. (It does beg the question... can it absorb itself?🤔)

Is it good for everyone? Is there such a thing as too much charcoal?

As always, check-in with your physician before consuming any new supplement. Activated charcoal is considered generally safe for short term consumption-- SHORT term being the key here. This is not part of your morning supplement party. Those pockets and pores can absorb nutrients and may reduce the effectiveness of other supplements or medications. I don't recommend consuming it all day everyday as it may cause some electrolyte imbalances, nutrient deficiencies or constipation. And frankly, it just isn't necessary

Topical use may be a different story. Activated charcoal in skin care products is fantastic at clearing the pores of any environmental toxins you are exposed to on the daily. I use the Charcoal Cleansing Bar from Beautycounter almost daily as a face wash (more #truthtalk...  I may not wash my face daily. Judge away. But also #momlife) 

Three ways to use activated charcoal

So it's a great supplement, but not something to go overboard with.

Check out my favorite ways to incorporate activated charcoal!

Whitening Toothpaste

I use My Magic Mud Activated Charcoal Toothpaste on the daily. This toothpaste combines activated charcoal (made from coconut shells) and bentonite clay to trap bacteria and safely polish and whiten teeth. It does turn your mouth an alarming gray color until you rinse... But I love it (and my dentist approves). I'm an avid coffee and tea drinker, and this toothpaste removes those stains fast. 

Skin Care

Activated charcoal works wonders in skin care care products, especially if you have acne-prone skin or oily/combination skin. Lots of companies are adding charcoal into their products, so be sure to check out the EWG Skin Deep Database to make sure the products are safe! Remember words like natural, green and plant-based don't actually mean anything (the terms aren't regulated). My two favorite products with activated charcoal are the Charcoal Cleansing Bar and No. 3 Balancing Charcoal Mask. The cleansing bar is gentle on my sensitive skin. I use it as both a face and body wash. The Balancing Mask is ridiculously awesome. I feel fancy just using a mask, and my skin feels incredible afterward. 

Digestive Aid

Activated charcoal can be a great digestive aid to reduce bloating, gas, or diarrhea. I use it when I get accidentally dairy-ed or gluten-ed to help mitigate that super fun shitty feeling. My favorite supplement versions with activated charcoal are Bulletproof Coconut Charcoal capsules made from coconut shells and Nature's Way Activated Charcoal capsules made from Indian hardwood. 

 

And sometimes, I fall ploy to marketing tactics and pretty beverages and sip charcoal lemonades... 

What about you? What do you think about activated charcoal? Have you used it? Tell me your favorites ways to incorporate it into your routine!