Derived from wood, coconut shells, peat, or other natural sources, activated charcoal has numerous applications in medicine, health, beauty, and beyond.
It differs vastly from the kind of charcoal used as fuel for barbeques. Common charcoal – a known carcinogen – is created through heating in the absence of oxygen. Activated charcoal, on the other hand, is slowly dried, heated, and then oxidized with carbon dioxide or steam. This process causes the formation of millions of small pores across its surface that are able to trap organic compounds and foreign toxins within. This phenomenon, known as adsorption, prevents chemicals from being absorbed by the body or the environment, allowing them to be flushed away. Because activated charcoal is so porous, a single gram of it has the equivalent surface area of over 32,000 square feet!
This unique property of activated charcoal has been used to clean up polluted air and waterways, treat poisonings and overdoses, alleviate gas and bloating, and detoxify the body. There are plenty of applications for health and beauty too – here are 17 DIY recipes for activated charcoal:
1. Activated Charcoal & Coconut Oil Pulling Tabs
The ancient tradition of oil pulling – or swishing your mouth with coconut oil – is a wonderful natural way to supplement your oral hygiene routine. This recipe for oil pulling tabs adds some activated charcoal to the mix to help lift stains and brighten teeth – just chew until melted, swish, and spit.
Get the DIY here.
2. DIY Toothpaste
A really easy recipe to whip up, all you need is coconut oil (for cleansing), activated charcoal (for whitening), stevia (for natural sweetening), and lemon or peppermint essential oil (for mouth freshening).
Get the full instructions at Beautymunsta.
3. Homemade Tooth Powder
A dry toothpaste (just sprinkle it on a wet toothbrush), this DIY incorporates plenty of tooth-friendly ingredients: bentonite clay, sea salt, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, mint leaves, stevia, and activated charcoal.
Get the DIY at Mommypotamus.
4. DIY Deodorant
Not only does activated charcoal wick up bacteria, it can also neutralize strong smells like B.O. This deodorant recipe is somewhat dry so it can be pasted onto your pits, just brush away any excess.
Get the tutorial from the French Pixie.
5. Activated Charcoal Soap
With the ability to pull out oil, bacteria, and other impurities from the surface of the skin, activated charcoal is a great ingredient to make soaps with. To make this soap you’ll need a shea butter soap base, bentonite clay, tea tree essential oil and peppermint essential oil.
Get the recipe at Thrive Market.
6. Detoxifying Face Mask
See how it’s done at Wellness Mama.
7. Exfoliating Facial Scrub
For deeper cleansing, slough off those dead skin cells and remove dirt and oils with this combination of organic cane sugar, extra virgin olive oil, and activated charcoal.
Get the recipe from Live Simply.
8. Activated Charcoal Facial Cleanser
If you have oily, acne-prone skin, this treatment can help remove excess oils while still keeping your skin supple and moisturized.
Get the recipe at Sparkles of Sunshine.
9. Activated Charcoal Pore Strips
Declog your pores and remove blackheads and whiteheads with this glue-free recipe. To make, you’ll need charcoal, water, and unflavored gelatin.
Watch the tutorial here.
10. Detox Bath
Give yourself the full body treatment! Draw yourself a hot bath and stir in some Epsom salts, bentonite clay, salt, and activated charcoal.
See how it’s done at Mind Body Green.
11. Scalp Treatment
Using lots of product on your hair can often leave a flakey residue on the scalp. Clarify your noggin by making a paste from bentonite clay, rose water, activated charcoal, and rosemary and peppermint essential oils. Slather it on your head, wait 20 minutes, and rinse away.
Get the tutorial here.
12. All Natural Mascara
For darker, thicker lashes, this all natural mascara recipe calls for coconut oil, aloe vera gel, bees wax pellets, and activated charcoal. You’ll also need a clean mascara tube and wand, like this one.
Get the full instructions at Thank Your Body.
13. Homemade Eyeliner
This two-ingredient recipe is dead simple – a teaspoon of activated charcoal and a touch of your favorite carrier oil. You’ll also need a small jar for mixing and storage as well as a good quality eyeliner brush.
See how it’s done at Red and Honey.
14. Anti-Itch Insect Salve
For those painful and itchy bug bites and stings, you can make this soothing balm by mixing powdered activated charcoal with a little green tea to remove toxins from the wound. Put a few drops on a band aid for small bites or apply liberally for larger rashes and wrap with gauze.
Watch the tutorial here.
15. Activated Charcoal Lemonade With Collagen
Treat yourself to a digestive cleanse with a refreshing glass of lemonade supplemented with the ever beneficial beef collagen and finished with a few activated charcoal ice cubes.
Get the recipe here.
16. Black Smoothie Bowl
A yummy recipe indeed, it’s made by whipping up coconut milk, strawberries, banana, peanut butter, charcoal, and protein powder in a blender until creamy. Pour the smoothie into a bowl and top with more bananas, strawberries, cashews, and drizzle with your choice of peanut butter or Greek yogurt.
See how it’s done at The Sugar Free Box.
17. Orange Ginger Juice
Tangy, sweet, with a little bit of spice, this fresh juice is made with oranges, Granny Smith apples, ginger, activated charcoal, and sea salt.
Get the details at Clean Eating.
How to Use Activated Charcoal Safely:
Though activated charcoal is generally considered safe for use topically, there are a few caveats to be aware of when adding it to food or drink.
Activated charcoal is an excellent adsorber but it doesn’t discriminate between toxins, chemicals, vitamins, or nutrients. Consuming too much charcoal could potentially interfere with medications and supplements you might be taking. It’s also been known to cause constipation, electrolyte imbalances, and nutrient deficiencies if consumed in excess.
That’s not to say we should be avoiding ingesting activated charcoal entirely! Our environment, homes, foods, and the products we use are more polluted and toxic than ever before and our bodies haven’t had the time to keep up and develop stronger mechanisms to help us detox naturally. And activated charcoal can certainly aid us in the cause of cleaner living – just don’t over do it.
Because the detoxification effects of activated charcoal are quite powerful, it’s best to use it in moderation. Here are some tips on how to consume it safely:
- Drink at least two liters of water on days you know you’ll be drinking or eating charcoal. It will help you flush out toxins faster (via urination) while keeping you well hydrated.
- If you are on any kind of medication (including birth control), the Mayo Clinic recommends waiting at least two hours after you take it before consuming activated charcoal.
- To prevent important nutrients from being adsorbed by activated charcoal, the best time to consume it is in the evenings, at least 3 to 4 hours after your last meal.
Where Can I Buy Activated Charcoal?
When purchasing activated charcoal make sure you look for a product that is made from coconut shells and one that has no nasty additives, fillers or sweeteners. This tub from Majestic Pure (available from Amazon) is made from 100% pure coconut shells contains, no additives, it’s not tested on animals and it’s vegan.