Charcoal might not be what you'd expect to see labelled as the latest ingredient taking the wellbeing world by storm, but the natural product, in its 'activated charcoal' form, brags a whole host of health and beauty benefits.
Gone are the days when charcoal's only use was for throwing onto the barbecue over the summer. The black stuff is now becoming widely known for its cleansing and purifying powers, and it's all thanks to charcoal's natural ability to remove impurities.
The porous surface of charcoal means it's able to absorb toxins and poisons better than many other natural substances (it's this reason why charcoal was used inside gas masks in World War I).
Now, charcoal (or activated charcoal) promises an array of nifty benefits. From teeth whitening to water purifying, there are a number of ways you can incorporate charcoal into your daily routine - and at £5.49 for a jar of activated charcoal capsules, you won't be breaking the bank either!
What is 'activated' charcoal?
According to Holland & Barrett nutritionist Alex Thompsom, activated charcoal is charcoal 'which has been treated (usually with heat or pressure) to increase its adsorptive capacity.
'The highly adsorptive effects of charcoal make it potentially very useful to address a variety of health issues characterised by an excess of a particular substance', Alex says.
So what are the health and beauty benefits of charcoal?
1. Exfoliating your skin
Image: Instagram (opens in new tab) It might look silly but this carbonated bubble clay mask is the latest health hack that's got people talking about charcoal. Once you've put the grey cream on your face and left it for five minutes, the facemask starts to bubble, and your face starts looking like a light grey cloud. The carbonated bubbles exfoliate the skin and tighten pores leaving your face looking refreshed, while the charcoal powder is what gives the cream its grey colour. Buy the clay for £6.50 from eBay (opens in new tab).
2. Teeth whitening
Although you run the risk of looking like an extra from a zombie film when you try this natural remedy, many swear by charcoal for its teeth whitening powers. This is because charcoal's natural adhesive qualities let it bind with the stains on the surface of your teeth (think tea, wine, coffee etc) and remove them.
Get the recipe: Natural teeth whitening scrub (opens in new tab)
Feeling bloated and uncomfortable is something we've all experienced, but wouldn't it be nice to treat a bloated tummy naturally (opens in new tab) rather than reaching for the medicine cabinet? A study in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that activated charcoal prevents gas forming in the intestine after a typical gas-producing meal, so by popping 500mg of activated charcoal an hour before a meal you might consider 'gassy' with a glass of water could keep pesky bloating at bay!
Feel like those dreaded hangovers get worse and worse the older you get? You're not alone. Although charcoal can't absorb alcohol, it can take care of other toxins left in the body associated with drinking different types of booze such as chemicals and sweeteners (beer, for example, contains the most toxins of all alcohol). Take activated charcoal after you've been drinking and see if it helps that groggy feeling.
5. Acne and blackhead treatment
Blocked pores can cause blackheads and acne, so count on charcoal to sort these hard-to-cleanse areas by pulling dirt and other impurities. Many find that applying a mask created from charcoal with a few other natural ingredients can do their skin the world of good, to leave it thoroughly cleansed, soft and without troubling sensitive skin too. Like a mud bath for your face!
Get the recipe: Impurity removing face mask (opens in new tab)
6. Filters water
By now you'll have noticed that charcoal's superpower is removing impurities, and the same can be seen when it's used as a water filter too. Activated charcoal traps impurities in water, including chlorine and other chemicals, as well as mineralising the water and balancing the pH levels (having too much acid in your body can have a negative effect on your health). The practice of using charcoal as a water purifier has been used in Japan since the 17th century, so it's worth a try! You can buy one charcoal filter for £4.50 from Amazon (opens in new tab) or a bottle for £14.95 from (opens in new tab) Abode (opens in new tab).
Just when you thought you were all set with your can of Sure, this could be one of the more unusual health and beauty benefits of charcoal! Some believe that by incorporating activated charcoal into your daily diet as a supplement, the substance will remove the toxins from your gut that end up escaping from your pores, therefore making deodorant redundant!
We're all guilty of trying lots of different products on our hair, and after a while these can cause a build up on your locks. Shampoo that contains charcoal, like this charcoal shampoo bar (opens in new tab), can absorb oil from greasy hair whilst moisturising dry hair and dry scalps. After using it for a while, you may find that you can even wash your hair less frequently. It's a win win!
9. Upset stomach
Charcoal's absorbing powers make it a substance that has been used for treating drug or food poisoning in the body. For that same reason it can be highly effective at beating an upset stomach, by disabling toxins that the body can then flush away. Although activated charcoal isn't recommended for anyone under three, older children could sip water with charcoal dispersed inside, and adults can take two capsules three times a day.
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