Why is activated charcoal in everything?

September 6, 2017 5:09 pm Last Updated: September 27, 2017 9:39 am

These days, you’ll see this hot commodity ingredient in beauty products, health drinks, and even toothpaste. But what is activated charcoal exactly?

Charcoal is the byproduct of slowly burnt wood or other plant material. The “activated” part is treating the charcoal with a heated gas so that the material becomes extremely porous. This makes activated charcoal a great cleansing agent because molecules can easily bind to it, such as toxins and odors.

Activated charcoal has been used in hospitals to treat drug overdoses or poisoning. It’s also long been known as a healthful ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine. In many parts of Asia, charcoal powder is used to cleanse teeth.

It’s in all your personal care products, from the standard—bath soaps, facial masks—to more unique products like whipped body creams and bath salts.

While some of its purported acne-clearing, hangover-remedying, and body-odor-fighting properties have yet to be studied in depth, many people attest to the benefits of activated charcoal. (Click here for a story about using charcoal to whiten teeth.)

Some creative mixologists have even added the ingredient into cocktails and mocktails, giving their drinks an extra boost.