It’s hard to believe that the sooty mess of charcoal left behind in the wake of a roaring bonfire or afternoon barbecue could end up in a facial cleanser, but it’s there for the same reason that it’s in most water filters: charcoal aids in purification. In its activated form, which is achieved through a process involving oxygen and heat, charcoal’s surface takes on a porous texture; a mere teaspoon contains 10,000 square feet of surface area. Like a magnet, the substance attracts and binds to any organic carbon-based molecule it touches. A charcoalbased face mask, for example, will draw excess oil, dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria out of the skin’s pores, removing the grime completely once rinsed away.
Charcoal is a game-changer for those who contend with acne flare-ups or enlarged pores (most charcoal-based beauty products are geared towards these concerns), but as environmental pollutants increase, skincare brands are turning their attention towards this new source in order to stall premature signs of aging. A study by Skinceuticals found a positive correlation between exposure to city-level pollutants (like car emissions) and a number of visible signs of aging like wrinkles, pigmented spots, loss of elasticity and a decreased ability to build collagen. While Skinceuticals is committed to creating products that shield the skin with antioxidant-based ingredients, others, like Boscia (the brand’s charcoal-containing Luminizing Black Mask is a cult favourite), focus on removing what’s already there. “It is essential that these harmful impurities are removed from the skin in order to prevent and correct any potential damage,” explains Michelle Fry, Boscia’s product development director. Fry confides that along with avoiding the longer-term effects of pollution, Boscia’s charcoal products are ready to remedy the immediate ones, like irritation and redness, caused by exposure to pollution.
Using charcoal essentially gives skin a fresh slate and effectively removes unwanted chemical deposits on our complexions—all while refining the pores and helping to shut out future impurities. So, by harnessing this element’s detoxifying powers, Fry says, “The skin is left purified, tightened and smoother without the use of any harmful chemical ingredients.” Which is exactly what we want.
Three Charcoal-Based Products to Try Now:
Boscia Luminizing Black Mask, $42, Sephora.
GlamGlow SuperCleanse Daily Clearing Cleanser, $43, Sephora.
LUSH Dark Angels Facial Cleanser, $15, Lush.
Photography by Carlyle Routh; hair and makeup by Blair Petty; model Juliann (Elite), is wearing Boscia’s Luminizing Black Mask, $42.