At first glance, the idea of activated charcoal might sound dangerously close to the kind of material you might feed a fire with, or find smouldering after it goes out. But the charcoal we use is obviously not just pulled out of a fireplace but made specifically in a controlled environment to reap its best benefits.
How is charcoal activated?
You start by heating a carbon-rich material, such as wood, peat, coconut shells or sawdust, to very high temperatures (think 600-900 degrees Celsius) without access to oxygen. We use Himalayan Bamboo for our Activated Charcoal Face Mask.
The carbonised particles are activated by exposing them to an oxidising agent, again at a high temperature, which is usually steam or carbon dioxide. At this point the charcoal exists in a pure state, free from any pore-blocking materials.
The important thing to remember is activated charcoal has an exorbitant amount of micropores. Each molecule is covered in them. Activated Bamboo Charcoal has a surface area of 1,200 square meters per gram.
What sets it apart?
Activated Charcoal is incredible at adsorption. No, I didn’t spell that wrong. Adsorption refers to the adhesion of atoms, ions, or molecules to a surface. Absorption, on the other hand, is a substance dissolving into or permeating a liquid or solid. There’s no chemical attraction taking place when something is absorbed, whereas Activated Charcoal (and other adsorbent materials) attract adsorbates to bind to its own surface. In this case, adsorbates are things like dirt, dust, excess oil and other skin pollutants.
But, as you are probably well aware, Activated Charcoal is not limited to skincare. The material is commonly used to adsorb and remove odours and other unfriendly atmospheric gases, without being potentially harmful to asthmatics. In the same sense it is widely available in deodorant form. It is also a popular water purifier, as it can soften water and adsorb chlorine.
Taken orally, Activated Charcoal is also regarded as helpful for intestinal gas, diarrhoea, high cholesterol and in extreme cases, poisoning*.
What’s great about Bamboo specifically? The material is sustainable, with indefinite regeneration when harvested responsibly, and can grow incredibly fast with minimal water. It also requires no pesticides to grow, and is 100% biodegradable (However when it comes to the fashion industry, there are some setbacks).
*Obviously it is extremely unwise to self-medicate these conditions and always refer to your doctor or pharmacist first.
Q+A Activated Charcoal Mask?
We’ve combined the adsorbent powers of Activated Charcoal with Kaolin, to soften, and Bentonite, which absorbs excess oil. When applied, it works to draw out the impurities on and in your skin, especially those pesky pimples, leaving your skin feeling clean and fresh. Activated charcoal also has natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties making it a no-brainer addition to your post-workout skincare routine. Perfect for oily and blemish-prone skin, with regular use (2-3 times a week) it should help improve skin clarity and help calm breakouts. The blend of ingredients can have a drying effect, and is not suitable if you have dry or sensitive skin.
That’s it! Still unconvinced? Perhaps you’ve been adsorbing information instead of absorbing…
Bye for now,
Amy @ Team Q+A
Online community coordinator at Q+A and proud succulent mum