Activated Charcoal

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.
INCI Charcoal
Appearance Fine black powder.
Usage rate I rarely use it above 1% due to how messy it is.
Texture Fine, mildly gritty.
Scent None
Solubility Insoluble
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.

Some Formulations that Use Activated Charcoal


Posted on

December 12, 2018