|What is it?||Activated charcoal is a form of charcoal that’s been treated to have an incredibly high amount of surface area. It can be made from various types of ash, including bamboo and hardwood.|
|Appearance||Fine black powder.|
|Usage rate||I rarely use it above 1% due to how messy it is.|
|Texture||Fine, mildly gritty.|
|Why do we use it in formulations?||First and foremost, activated charcoal is very black—so you better want a black end product! It works well to colour soaps, scrubs, facial polishes, masks, and more. It is also a mild physical exfoliant.
Activated charcoal also has quite a lot of almost mythology-level lore around its ability to detox. LabMuffin has a fantastic post on this and I would highly recommend reading it! The general gist of it is that it might be a better cleanser than other things, and it’s likely not harmful.
There are a lot of recipes online for activated charcoal mascara—please do not make mascara (or other eye makeup) with activated charcoal! Activated charcoal is not an eye-safe pigment.
|Do you need it?||No|
|Strengths||Very black, very trendy.|
|Weaknesses||Activated charcoal is really messy, and it is unlikely to be as magical as some sources claim.|
|Alternatives & Substitutions||If you just need something to be black, black iron oxide is a good option. You won’t need as much of it to get the effect, though, as black iron oxide is even more potent.
If you’re using it as a mild exfoliant, a clay like kaolin would be a good alternative.
|How to Work with It||Include it in the heated or cool down phase of a recipe. It is not heat sensitive.|
|Storage & Shelf Life||Stored somewhere cool, dark, and dry, activated charcoal should last indefinitely.|
|Tips, Tricks, and Quirks||“It’s estimated that 1 gram of activated charcoal has a surface area of 3000 square metres, which is the same as 3 Olympic swimming pools, 7 basketball courts or 230 car parking spaces.” –LabMuffin|
|Recommended starter amount||30g (1oz)|
|Where to Buy it||Buy it from an online DIY ingredient supplier or Amazon.|