I’m not what you would call trendy. Most trends are too expensive for me.
From juice cleanses to the latest exercise craze, I can’t afford to do anything more than keep up with the Kardashians.
Despite that, I can’t stay away from charcoal products. From charcoal face washes to charcoal toothpastes, many products comes in a shade of black that would be disconcerting if it weren’t so trendy.
According to Michelle Wong, a science educator with a Ph.D. in chemistry, “[a]ctivated charcoal is carbon soot that’s been treated to give it a sponge-like structure, with lots of holes,” which makes it “particularly handy for soaking up substances.” Because activated charcoal is primarily used to treat poison — administered in large quantities to soak up the poison and not let any be absorbed by the body — you would think it would be perfect to absorb the not-as-toxic toxins in your body that create acne and yellow teeth.
The black substance may have this ability, but it comes with a downside: activated charcoal can’t differentiate between good and bad chemicals. Along with oil and dirt, it can suck up beneficial bacteria and nutrients such as Vitamin C.
Nonetheless, activated charcoal can prove to be quite useful in products such as face wash and toothpaste. Wong said most face washes use surfactants to remove dirt and oil, but these ingredients can only work on the surface, as the name suggests. Activated charcoal, on the other hand, can get into the pores to remove everything.
That is all well and good, but, according to a study on activated charcoal, it would take a few hours for it to be fully effective. Despite that criticism, many consumers claim activated charcoal has worked for them.
I first noticed charcoal on my Instagram feed where people were brushing their teeth with it. Their gums would still be black after spitting it out, and it looked quite unappealing, but the effects it boasted couldn’t be ignored. Lucky for me Groupon was having a deal on charcoal toothpaste, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon at that junction.
The toothpaste didn’t give me the fresh feeling of regular toothpaste, which is why I relegated it to nighttime use only. The paste not only colored my spit, but it shaded my tongue like a popsicle, as well as my toothbrush. Thankfully I had been using a spare brush for that exact reason. The black paste wasn’t as gritty as I had thought it would be, though, which went a long way to my continued use of the product.
As I consistently brushed my teeth with the charcoal paste, I began receiving compliments on the whiteness of my smile. While greeting guests at my job as a hostess at a restaurant, people couldn’t help but comment on my chompers, and I wouldn’t say their admiration was unwarranted.
The general success of the toothpaste led me to pursue other charcoal products. While on a rare trip to BJs, I found a pack of Biore charcoal deep cleansing face wash that I just couldn’t leave without. The cleanser came in a handy pump bottle and was just as black as the paste. When I first washed my face with it, I was surprised by the tingling sensation I felt. It was that same feeling you get when you swish Listerine: a slight burning sensation that wasn’t altogether unpleasant.
Just like with mouthwash, I felt that, because this face wash did burn in a way that no face wash has ever burned before, it was somehow better, as if it was really digging deep into my skin to find and eradicate its imperfections. My skin has always been moderately clear, so I have yet to see any noticeable improvement since I started using this cleanser.
Nonetheless, my experience of washing my face changed. Despite there being no real indication that this was true, I felt like I was getting a better clean. I found myself using my acne fighting gel less, and half of my makeup has been neglected.
These results may all be somewhat psychosomatic, but the charcoal in both my teeth-whitening toothpaste and my cleanser has me feeling more proactive in my beauty regimen. Before, I would just brush my teeth with any old paste and wash my face with whatever was at the nearest drugstore. But now, with the tingling burn and tattooed toothbrush, I can sense a shift in my own personal beauty dynamics.
Don’t go throwing away your current daily cleanser just yet, though. Medical esthetician Nicole Bell warned News Channel Nine that some charcoal masks can pull off the protective layer of your skin. Dr. Melanie Petro echoed these sentiments on ABC Online’s Cynthia Gould, saying that the charcoal mask can not only remove the top layer of skin but also “your facial hair along with oils you need to protect your skin from bacteria.”
Regardless of who is right or wrong, this trend doesn’t seem as though it will stand the test of time. It’s hard to imagine millions of people buying activated charcoal products ten years from now.
We’ll see, though. Beauty trends are a dime a dozen, but I sure am glad to have had my taste of this one.
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