Black Gold

A black-as-soot compound, charcoal is a beauty wonder that is tailor-made to make you glow and sparkle
By Ambika Gupta

It’s heavy, dark and magnetic and it’s the all-in-one magic beauty cure you’ve been waiting for. Sounds too spooky to be true? That’s because it’s the last thing you’d associate with squeaky clean goodness and flawless beauty – charcoal! Yes, the unassuming charcoal from your barbeque grills, when heated, increases in surface area and becomes so dry and porous that it actively adsorbs impurities, turning it into a powerful detoxifying agent known as activated charcoal. Hollywood A-lister and wellness connoisseur Gwyneth Paltrow swears by its beauty benefits.

This compound is, counterintuitively, the wonder panacea for everything from burns and drug poisoning to coffee stains, skincare, body polishing and cleansing. It works like a magnet, adsorbing any toxins it comes in contact with, and is easily flushed out of the body. And it’s no unreliable fad either – it has been around since the time of the Ancient Egyptians, who used it to treat intestinal issues. It also finds mention in the work of Hippocrates, who employed it for more serious illnesses such as epilepsy. In the 1960s, this tar-like substance was widely used to remedy drug and alcohol poisoning.

The versatile substance is easily available at chemist shops in the form of pills and powder, and it can effortlessly be integrated into your healthcare regime. Its truly miraculous property is that it can be used for external application as well as oral consumption. Health drinks have quickly been replaced by activated-charcoal-based shakes because they are more efficient in cleaning out the intestines and aiding weight loss. It’s a bonus that the flavour of the drink remains unchanged.

activated charcoal

Riding on the recent popularity wave, a lot of major skincare brands have launched products with activated charcoal – soaps, face washes, toothpastes, gum powders, scrubs, skin masks, lip balms, cleansers, shampoos – the list is endless. Although, if you really want to enjoy its undiluted cleansing benefits there are lots of DIY recipes that you can whip up at home. It’s a dermatologically tested, completely safe and easy-to-use substance with which you can’t go wrong. Simply mix a tablespoon or two of activated charcoal with water to prepare a thick paste and apply it on the skin surface. This formula removes impurities, oils, dirt and bacteria from the skin, revitalises it and improves circulation to give you a fresh and healthy glow. You can also use this to clean your teeth and gums; it prevents infections, improves oral health, removes tea and coffee stains and brightens teeth. And don’t worry if you accidently swallow some – it’s safe to ingest. “Pollution levels are getting worse every day and have an impact on our skin’s health. It’s more important than ever to develop good skincare habits that keep our skin healthy from the inside. Most people approach me with an everyday solution for dull and patchy skin. The first step to deal with this issue is to use a good cleanser regularly. I would recommend face cleansers formulated with activated charcoal. Physical absorption of impurities is a characteristic of activated charcoal, which makes it a great ingredient to deep cleanse pores and remove the dust and dirt that accumulates through the day. For those in search of naturally glowing skin, I would suggest a quick daily cleanse,” says Dr. Rashmi Shetty, dermatologist and celebrity skin expert on board with Pond’s.

If you want to cleanse internally, you can use pills, but be sure to consult a medical practitioner on the appropriate dosage vis-à-vis your medical history. Generally, it’s best to avoid consuming food two hours before and one hour after taking activated charcoal because it might interfere with the body’s absorption of essential nutrients.

A neat trick that’s widespread in Indian villages is to use activated charcoal to purify water. The powerful agent adsorbs chemicals, pesticides and microscopic impurities and, thus, is routinely used to filter water.

Activated charcoal tops the list of safe yet powerful detox agents with a mind-boggling range of applications. Little wonder then that this beauty care sensation is sweeping across the globe right now. This is one bandwagon you must make sure you jump on!