Activated charcoal beauty products are popping up everywhere from Rite-Aid to Sephora, and we’re already huge fans. Find out what charcoal beauty products can do for you!

Several years ago I visited a temple somewhere in the mountains of Wakayama, Japan, a region famous for producing traditional binchoutan charcoal. After strolling around, my hosts and I spotted a little log cafe in a nearby meadow and decided to stop for refreshments. When we sat down, we were served a pitcher of deliciously crystal-clear water in which several thick, black chunks of coal were submerged like ice cubes.

Intrigued, I asked about the unusual ingredient and got a life-changing lesson on the incredible purifying qualities of charcoal. Charcoal is capable of absorbing a huge range of organic compounds, which is why it’s so widely used for purification and filtration. Activated charcoal, which is specially processed to increase these absorption properties, is used in everything from water filters to gas masks. That’s not to mention its medical use as a poisoning treatment.


Kinshu Binchotan water-purifying charcoal from Bigelow Apothecaries.

The practical uses of charcoal are more widely understood in other countries than in North America, where we mostly associate it with barbecues and art supplies. But all that’s about to change! The activated charcoal beauty trend has finally arrived, and so far the offerings are amazing.

What I love about charcoal beauty products is that they’re nature-based, incredibly gentle, and super cleansing. For sensitive skin like mine, that’s a thrilling combination. I’m happy to report that my favorite beauty trend has taken hold of the Spa Week office, and we’ve been trying out as many charcoal beauty products as we can get our hands on. Check out the best activated charcoal beauty products on the market and find out what they can do for you!

Charcoal Beauty Product No. 1

Charcoal Bar Soap


Charcoal bar soaps from Yes To, Deitanseki, and Biore.

Your face is a great place to start with charcoal beauty products. And believe me: As someone with dry, sensitive, acne-prone combination skin, I don’t make that claim lightly. Charcoal bar soaps can be used on your face and body, and they leave your skin squeaky clean without stripping it dry. This is a great option for anyone struggling with oil control, whether your face is too dry, too oily, or breakout-prone. I’ve tried all three of these charcoal bar soaps, and here’s what I thought:

Yes To Tomatoes Activated Charcoal Bar Soap, $4.99. Tomato extract offers additional anti-inflammatory benefits to this popular charcoal beauty product. People seem to love this soap, and I can see why. It’s very gentle and super moisturizing, with a slippery, almost oily foam. Plus, it’s cruelty free, 98% natural, and goes for just $4.99. For me, though, the sweet fragrance — while pleasant — is too overpowering. But I’m picky like that. Others may like it. Get this soap at drugstores or online through Yes To.

Deitanseki Soap, $8-10. This is the go-to charcoal soap in Japan and one of my all-time favorite beauty products. It has a woodsy scent that makes you feel like you’re soaking in a big cedar hot tub at the edge of the forest with a fire crackling nearby. It’s also incredibly gentle and clarifying. Don’t be surprised if this charcoal beauty product makes it over the pond in the next year or two. Until then, you can find it in Asian markets and online through vendors like Rakuten.

Bioré Pore Penetrating Charcoal Bar, $5.99. This is my current facial soap, and I’m really loving it. It’s infused with peppermint oil, which adds noticeable fragrance, but it’s the fresh, tingly, herbal kind I like. Jojoba beads are embedded in the soap for exfoliation, but I find them too scratchy for my skin — especially my face. I lather up my konjac sponge and use that, instead. Get it at drugstores or online through Bioré.

Charcoal Beauty Product No. 2

Charcoal Facial Cleanser


Charcoal facial cleansers from Garnier, Daiso, and Biore.

When it comes to liquid charcoal facial cleansers, I still reach for the cheapo Japanese brands I’ve gotten to know over the years. I wish I could share some buy links, but they’re much easier to track down in Chinatown! For substitutes, check out Garnier’s Blackhead Eliminating Charcoal Scrub for $7.99. The glowing reviews for this product indicate that it lives up to the charcoal promise of going deep to remove impurities. Also check out Bioré Deep Pore Charcoal Cleanser for $5.99. (Bioré has been quick to jump on the charcoal beauty trend, and so far their charcoal beauty products are on point.)

Charcoal Beauty Product No. 3

Charcoal Mask


Origins Clear Improvements active charcoal mask.

Now we’re getting serious. If you feel the need to deep clean and refresh your face, this activated charcoal mask from Origins will get the job done in a majorly satisfying way. We’re huge fans of this mask at the Spa Week office, as you may have seen on Instagram. The Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask ($25) is particularly effective for those with super oily skin. Ani says that since she’s been using this mask (along with a few other charcoal products), her skin has been softer and less oily than ever before. Plus, it looks so chic, don’t you think? Get it online through Origins.



Charcoal Beauty Product No. 4

Charcoal Facial Sponge


boscia’s Konjac Cleansing Sponge with Bamboo Charcoal.

You already know how strongly we feel about boscia’s Konjac Cleansing Sponges. After a month of using this sponge, my skin has officially reached “Never Been Better” levels. I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re intrigued by charcoal beauty benefits but nervous about switching up your cleansing routine, this is a great solution. I use my sponge with Biore’s charcoal soap, but Ani uses hers by itself at the end of her routine. Seriously, do yourself a favor and try it out. One $15 sponge lasts for 2-3 months! Get it at Sephora.

Charcoal Beauty Product No. 5

Charcoal Blotting Papers


Black Charcoal Blotting Linens from boscia.

The charcoal beauty trend is right in boscia’s wheelhouse. This Japanese brand is all about botanical science and natural ingredients, and they may actually have the widest selection of quality charcoal beauty products currently available in the United States. Competition is bound to increase as the charcoal beauty trend grows, but boscia will be hard to top. boscia Black Charcoal Blotting Linens are prettier and more effective than any blotting papers I’ve ever used. They also have a strangely alluring natural fragrance. Plus, they’re only $10 at Sephora!

Can’t get enough all natural products? Check out our roundup of all-natural beauty brands and get your fix!

Have you tried any charcoal beauty products yet? Tell us about it in the comments!

Main Image: Creative Commons

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