Ultimate Guide: Activated Charcoal

Over the past eight months we’ve received hundreds of emails asking how to best incorporate our hardwood and coconut activated charcoal into wellness routines. Although activated charcoal has been used since 3750 BC, it’s only been the past few years that it’s become a product that is widely recognized for all of its amazing health benefits.

Our goal here is to provide a resource which can answer every single question we’ve received over the past 8+ months about activated charcoal. With that said, I want to be clear that a lot of the evidence and research is anecdotal. There are so few studies on activated charcoal despite its wide-spread use.

This guide contains recipes from dozens of bloggers who have allowed us to re-publish their work. If you plan on using a recipe from their blog, I encourage you to visit the original source.

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Part I: Activated Charcoal General Information

Part II: Activated Charcoal For Beauty

PART III: Activated Charcoal for Oral Health

Part IV: Activated Charcoal for Topical Remedies
Part V: Activated Charcoal for Stomach Issues


Part I: What Is Activated Charcoal?

 HOW IS ACTIVATED CHARCOAL PRODUCED?

Activated charcoal is created by heating the source material to 600-900C. Typically, it is acid washed after this stage before it is oxidized. This increases the charcoal’s surface area, which increases its ability to adsorb compounds.

Charcoal’s ability to adsorb compounds is what makes it so effective across such a wide variety of applications. It’s important we differentiate between absorb and adsorb.

Adsorption is “The process by which molecules of a substance, such as a gas or a liquid, collect on the surface of another substance, such as a solid"

Our body absorbs nutrients - it takes them in. Activated charcoal adsorbs certain poison, chemicals and even some nutrients – it binds to the substance.

Types of Activated Charcoal

The type of activated charcoal is dependent on the source material. Here at Rocky Mountain Essentials we carry two types: coconut and hardwood activated charcoal powder.

Typically coconut activated charcoal has the largest surface area and is the most effective. However, all coconut activated charcoal comes from South East Asia, so we carry hardwood activated charcoal for our customers who want an American product.

Charcoal can also be produced from sawdust, peat and bamboo.  In addition to different materials, you can find charcoal tablets or pellets— both of which aren’t typically used for ingestion.

Remember, when you’re looking to buy activated charcoal for beauty, oral health or internal ingestion you want to purchase food grade activated charcoal powder.

Activated Charcoal Powder Versus Activated Charcoal Capsules

The majority of activated charcoal powders and capsules are either hardwood or coconut.

The primary difference between charcoal powder and charcoal capsules is the price – 1.6oz of activated charcoal capsules are sold for anywhere between $15 - $21 compared to an 8oz bag of Rocky Mountain Essentials Activated Charcoal Powder which is sold at $14.

This means you get 5x more activated charcoal when it’s purchased in powder form versus capsule form. Plus, you can control portioning much easier with the powder than with the capsules.

It’s not hard to figure out which option provides a better bang for your buck.

The Risks of Activated Charcoal (Medication + Activated Charcoal)

Activated charcoal is relatively benign though there are some risks associated with the product.

Some studies claim it is dangerous and point specifically to poisoned patients who receive large doses of activated charcoal while in the hospital.

These are typically studies aiming to determine whether the large doses of charcoal administered by a nasogastric tube while at the hospital induces vomiting or bronchoaspiration.

One such study states “Children with previous vomiting or nasogastric tube administration were at highest risk”.

Studies like this can be twisted to suggest that activated charcoal is causing patients to vomit.

It’s hardly surprising that a person who was vomiting thirty minutes ago because they had ingested poison and also have had a tube stuck down their throat would likely vomit again, with or without activated charcoal. Context is crucial when reading findings from studies like those.

Does Activated Charcoal Adsorb Nutrients?

There is a common misconception that charcoal adsorbs all compounds, including medications, toxic chemicals and nutrients.

There has been a great deal of research showing that it does indeed bind to a number of poisonous substances. For example, Strychnine is a poison that was used as rodent bait for a long time. Unfortunately, it’s extremely toxic to dogs and other animals and is now being used less frequently. Studies have shown that charcoal is an excellent antidote for Strychnine1.

Studies have also shown it can inhibit aspirin absorption2 along with a large number of other toxic substances.

A few of the common drugs activated charcoal can bind to include;

  • Acetaminophen (pain medication)
  • Digoxin (heart medication)
  • Certain antidepressants

This is why it’s generally advised not to take activated charcoal with medication. Many studies suggest that after a few hours, medications will have been absorbed by the body and taking charcoal will not interfere3.

But what about nutrients? Does activated charcoal bind to nutrients in a meaningful way?

“In clinical experiments, Yatzidis and Oreopoulous relate that kidney disease patients were given 20-50g activated charcoal per day for four months without any side effects”4.

28.35 g is equivalent to 2 Tbsp of activated charcoal per day for four months straight.

In another experiment, sheep were given activated charcoal for 6 months and it didn’t cause a loss of nutrients.

Finally, another study looked at the effect of activated charcoal on water-soluble vitamins5.

Essentially, researchers spiked apple juice with vitamins and then observed the difference in vitamin levels after adding activated charcoal. The most dramatic differences amounted to 50% reduction in vitamin levels, while the least dramatic differences were only a few percent.

We need to consider that charcoal is being mixed directly into the drink instead of being consumed separately, after the food/beverage is consumed on its own.

If this is something that you’re worried about, just don’t take activated charcoal daily and avoid taking it after eating nutrient-dense foods like leafy greens.

I personally only take charcoal after eating low-quality food or beverages to aid in digestion.

Other potential side effects include constipation and black stools.

From Web MD:
“Gastrointestinal (GI) blockage or slow movement of food through the intestine: Don’t use activated charcoal if you have any kind of intestinal obstruction. Also, if you have a condition that slows the passage of food through your intestine (reduced peristalsis), don’t use activated charcoal, unless you are being monitored by your healthcare provider.”

Shelf Life

When stored correctly, activated charcoal can last indefinitely. You’ll want to store your activated charcoal in a dry, airtight container or bag.

Conversion Chart

1 oz = 28.35 grams

16 oz = 1lb

3 tsp = 1 tbsp

1 tbsp = 10g

1g = 1000mg

2 tbsp = 1oz

14 capsules = 3 tsp

Activated Charcoal Dosage

I’m not a doctor and this shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. This is purely anecdotal, based on my own experience as well as the experience of others who use charcoal regularly. You should consult with your healthcare provider before using activated charcoal.

I started with ½ teaspoon and then I went up to a full teaspoon. Now I consume 1 Tbsp. after consuming low quality food (processed foods, foods high in sugar, alcohol, etc.).

There are studies that show ingesting activated charcoal is fine in the short term (David Cooney), however I’ve never personally used it for more than a week at a time.

If you or a loved one is poisoned, please don’t self diagnose or administer activated charcoal - go to the hospital.

Activated charcoal while Pregnant or Breastfeeding

From Web MD:

“Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Activated charcoal might be safe when used short-term if you are pregnant or breast-feeding, but consult with your healthcare professional before using if you are pregnant.”

Part II: Activated Charcoal for Beauty

Activated charcoal is fast becoming a star in the natural health and beauty industry. It can be used for facemasks, shampoo, homemade soap recipes, to reduce acne, psoriasis, blackheads, as well as used in homemade eyeshadow or mascaras, body scrubs and facial cleansers.

Activated Charcoal works by binding to chemicals through adsorption, which is why it works so well removing impurities, leaving you with glowing skin and white teeth.

With the exception of a few originals, the majority of these recipes come from some of our favorite DIY beauty bloggers. If you plan on making a recipe, I strongly encourage you to visit the original source.

Please note that for recipes that originally called for “breaking open capsules of activated charcoal”, I have included instead exact measurements, since as mentioned, buying in powder form is much more cost effective.

Activated Charcoal Facemask Recipes

When it comes to using activated charcoal as a beauty product, face masks are the simpliest and most popular. The recipes require minimal ingredients and produce maximum results— glowing, healthy skin!

How to Make & Apply An Activated Charcoal Face mask

The instructions are essentially the same for all the recipes. The ingredients vary, but creating an activated charcoal face mask is very simple:

  1. Mix all of the ingredients together and slowly add the liquids called for in the recipe (water, lemon juice, rose water, rose petal, witch hazel) until you reach the desired consistency.

  2. Use a cleanser to clean your face and pat dry before applying the mask.

  3. Apply the mask and let it dry

  4. After 10-15 minutes wash with warm water

  5. Apply a daily moisturizer

Coconut Oil & Activated Charcoal Facemask

The Pistachio Project

  • 1/2 tsp activated charcoal
  • 1/2 tsp. bentonite clay
  • 1/4 tsp coconut oil – softened or melted
  • 1 tsp water

This four-ingredient face mask can be whipped up in no time. Gently clean your face with warm water or an organic facial cleanser. Pat dry before applying the charcoal mixture. Allow the mask to dry and sit for fifteen minutes before washing it off with warm water.

Activated Charcoal Kaolin Clay Mask with Essential Oils

Fresh Picked Beauty

  • 10 grams Kaolin Clay
  • 6 Activated Charcoal Capsules (break open the capsules and empty the charcoal out)
  • 3 grams Matcha Powder
  • 15 grams Aloe Vera Gel
  • 5 grams Witch Hazel Extract
  • 5 grams Vegetable Glycerine
  • 5 ml Lavender Tincture
  • 5 ml Calendula Tincture
  • 10 drops Bergamot Essential Oil
  • 8 drops Cypress Essential Oil
  • 5 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil
  • 5 droops Rosewood Essential Oil

If you’re feeling particularly luxe, this face mask is well worth the extra few ingredients. Aloe Vera is amazing natural moisturizer and can help treat dry skin. The kaolin clay and activated charcoal will help draw out impurities and blackheads, leaving you with hydrated, clear skin.

Clays and activated charcoal work wonders together. You’ll notice a number of the recipes include both ingredients.

Acne Scar Busting Activated Charcoal Castor Oil Face Mask

  • 1 capsule activated charcoal
  • 1 tbsp green clay or any clay will do
  • 1 tsp or more water
  • 1-2 drops Frankincense Essential Oil or Chamomile Essential Oil or Cypress Essential Oil
  • 1/2-1 tsp castor oil

Castor oil is terrific for reducing wrinkles and giving your skin a youthful glow. It fades scarring, decreases inflammation and is antimicrobial, making it a seriously effective natural acne treatment.

Basic Blackhead Busting Activated Charcoal Mask

Body Unburdened

  • ½ tsp of activated charcoal
  • 1/2 teaspoon of bentonite clay
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of water

This recipe is as simple as it gets - charcoal, bentonite clay and water. Just mix the ingredients together, wash your face with a cleanser and apply the mask for 10-15 minutes.

Nadia from Body Unburdened suggests applying Jojoba oil to dry patches on your skin after removing the mask for maximum benefits.

Activated Charcoal Lemon Juice Mask

Lazy Girls DIY

  • 1-2 tablespoons of Activated Charcoal powder
  • 1-1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice/Aloe Vera juice (unsweetened)/distilled water
  • 1 Q-Tip (to apply mask)

Lemon juice is one of the most powerful (and readily available) beauty ingredients from the garden. Chances are you always have a few lemons on hand in your kitchen. To make the mask, slowly add lemon juice to the activated charcoal until you reach the desired consistency.

Apply the mask and allow it to dry. Leave it on for 10 minutes and be careful not to move your face too much as it’ll begin to crack and flake away. After ten minutes, gently wash the mask off with warm water before applying a daily moisturizer.

Matcha Charcoal Face Mask

Rocky Mountain Essentials

  • 1/2 tsp Matcha green tea powder
  • 1/2 tsp Bentonite clay powder
  • 1/2 tsp Activated Charcoal (Buy It Here)
  • 2 tsp Rose water (or filtered water)
  • 2 drops Tea tree essential oil (optional)

This recipe came from our in-house, organic skin care expert. While Matcha had its moment a few years ago, it still remains one of our favorite (and most effective!) natural beauty ingredients. It’s packed full of powerful antioxidants to help nourish your skin.

Activated Charcoal Facial Cleanser

  • .5 oz. cocoa butter
  • 25 oz. shea butter
  • 3.5 oz. organic liquid castile soap
  • 1 tsp liquid soy lecithin
  • 2 ml rosehip seed oil
  • 15 drops birch tar essential oil
  • 15 drops rose absolute blend
  • 5 drops non-GMO vitamin E
  • 5 drops rosemary extract
  • 1 tsp activated charcoal powder

This is the first of several recipes we've included by Rebecca at Soap Deli News. She's got hundreds (thousands?) of recipes on her site with great images and step by step instructions. 

Please visit her site for the recipe in it's entirity as there are several steps to creating this facial cleanser. 

DIY Beauty Mask: Activated Charcoal

  • 1 tsp coconut activated charcoal
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp bentonite clay
  • 1 tbsp aloe vera gel
  • 3 drops lavender essential oil

Krista, suggests using this mask for acne prone sensitive skin. If you have raw manuka honey on hand, swap that for the raw honey to create an even better anti-acne facemask.

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL WITCH HAZEL MASK

Of the Wolves

  • 1 ½ tsp Activated Charcoal
  • 2-3 tsp of Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera (like this one)
  • 6 drops of Bergamot Essential Oil

Witch hazel oil is another ingredient that balances well with activated charcoal. It’s a natural astringent, which means it helps remove excess oil from the skin and shrink pores. All the while, the activated charcoal helping to lift and remove dirt and bacteria that cause acne.

DIY ACTIVATED CHARCOAL & TURMERIC MASK

Scratch Mommy

  • ½ tsp organic plain yogurt
  • ½ tsp organic witch hazel
  • ½ tsp activated charcoal
  • ¼ tsp organic ground turmeric

Scratch Mommy’s blog is one of our favorite DIY bloggers. Her charcoal and turmeric mask is just one of countless original, effective and natural recipes she’s created. Turmeric is a wonderfully potent spice that can help reduce wrinkles and aging.

DIY ACTIVATED CHARCOAL FACIAL CLEANSER

Besskincare

  • 1 part Powdered Activated Charcoal
  • 1 part Witch hazel
  • 1 part Pure Aloe Vera gel
  • 3 drops Tea Tree Oil

This is yet another extremely easy charcoal mask that is fantastic for acne prone skin. Tea Tree Oil is our favorite essential oil— it’s especially great for fighting acne….and by now you must know how we feel about activated charcoal.

Don’t overdo the tea tree oil; it’s very powerful and can dry out your skin.

Homemade Activated Charcoal Soap Recipes

DIY Activated Charcoal soap is another Rocky Mountain Essentials favorite. Most of these recipes can be used as either body soap or facial soap – they’re that gentle!

Charcoal is an awesome soap ingredient for fighting breakouts as it gently lifts dirt and bacteria from pores.

Soap making is a little bit more difficult than just adding ingredients to a bowl and stirring them. It’s important you read each recipe thoroughly if you plan on making one of them.

For that reason, I’m going to list ingredients but not quantities.

If handled correctly, Lye won’t cause any problems. However it’s very important you always add Lye to water and not the other way around! Adding water to lye will turn your kitchen into an active volcano. Again, visit the original recipe and read the instructions very carefully!

DIY Activated Charcoal Orange & Rosemary Soap

  • Organic coconut oil
  • Organic olive oil
  • Castor oil
  • Shea butter
  • Distilled water (always use distilled water, as tap water can contain impurities)
  • Lye
  • Activated charcoal
  • Organic rosemary essential oil
  • Organic orange essential oil

These were whipped up by our in-house DIY beauty expert. She used muffin tins as her mold which ended up being extremely cute and since they’re so small (and solid!), they’re perfect for travel. Alternatively, you can always use a bigger mold if you want a larger bar of soap.

Melt & Pour Activated Charcoal Soap

If you want to give soap making a try but don't necessairly want to fool around with lye, this is an excellent alternative. This four ingredient soap is easier to make but still turns out a beautiful bar of soap.

Homemade Activated Charcoal Facial Soap

This recipe comes from the queen of natural DIY products: Katie @ Wellness Mama.

She adds bentonite clay to her soap which is an awesome ingredient to pair up with activated charcoal.

Like charcoal, bentonite clay has the ability to pull bacteria from the surface of your skin to fight breakouts.

  • Filtered water
  • Lye
  • Coconut Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Activated charcoal powder
  • Bentonite clay powder
  • Essential oil of choice

DIY Activated Charcoal Soap With Algae and Tea Tree Oil

Rebecca wins the award for most beautifully packaged. Seriously, her labels are gorgeous. If you haven’t checked them out, you should! She’s a total inspiration.

  • Pomace olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Rice bran oil
  • Grape seed oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Shea butter
  • Olive squalane oil
  • Carnauba/candelilla wax
  • Distilled water
  • Lye/sodium hydroxide
  • Activated charcoal powder
  • Spirulina powder
  • Red Moroccan clay powder
  • Rosehips powder
  • Chamomile flower powder
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Tea tree oil

This soap is packed with nourishing ingredients for your skin. It’s purifying without being drying, leaving your skin moisturized and clean. If you’re prone to breakouts or looking for a daily facial soap, this one is perfect for you.

Where to Buy Activated Charcoal Soap

If you’re not the DIY type, here are some excellent places you can buy activated charcoal soap.

Soap Walla

Soap Walla is a Brooklyn-based Skincare Company that produces a terrific bar of activated charcoal soap.

Craftsman Soap Co.

Craftsman Soap Co has a few versions of activated charcoal soap. Our household loves the “rough stuff bar soap” which is an exfoliating soap bar that does an amazing job to help soften grizzled hands. In the summer time, when we're almost always barefoot we use it to exfoliate and moisturize to prevent cracked heels.

If your job or daily routine leaves you with dry, rough hands, you have to try the rough stuff bar soap.

They also carry a gentler charcoal bar which can also be used as a face wash.

Little Seed Farm

The raw goat’s milk makes Little Seed Farm so unique— it’s especially fantastic for dry or irritated skin. As you may have guessed, Little Seed Farm sources their goat milk from their own goats.

It’s an adorable farm (and family!) and they’ve even named their goats! I’m partial to Willow.

Photo Credit: Little Seed Farms

They sell a range of soaps including their activated charcoal goat milk soap.

Activated Charcoal for Acne and Blackheads

With all of the amazing charcoal face masks listed above at your disposal, it seems acne may be a thing of your past. That doesn’t mean a spot won’t pop up sporadically. Thankfully, a relatively unknown use for activated charcoal is as a spot treatment!

Instead of creating an entire face mask, just add a bit of water to a tiny bit of charcoal and slather it on the pimple(s).

Once I’m at home and in P.J. mode, I’ll apply my activated charcoal spot treatment and leave it there all night until I wash my face right before bed. Conversely, you can apply it after you wash your face at night and wash it off in the morning.

And I’m not the only one who has seen my skin improve by using activated charcoal. This article has some pretty compelling evidence that activated charcoal soap has done wonders for treating the author’s adult acne.

I originally got the idea to spot treat pimples from Bethany who runs primalpastures.com

Just as Bethany describes, activated charcoal seems to speed up the natural healing process. Even if I didn’t use activated charcoal for a zillion other things, I would keep a bag handy just for spot treatment!

Activated Charcoal for Eczema and Psoriasis

A close friend of mine has struggled with eczema for years - like waking up in the middle of the night because you’re sooo itchy, eczema.

A year ago he started using a daily coffee scrub and activated charcoal soap. His eczema has virtually disappeared.

I can’t even imagine the difference in the quality of life. Not sleeping because your skin is on fire sounds like a literal nightmare.

We’re currently working on formulating an activated charcoal coffee scrub but until then get a good coffee scrub (or make one) and pick up a bar of activated charcoal soap.

I use a scrub several times a week when I’m not in a rush, because it does take extra time to rub coffee all over your body— and then wash it all off.

Even if you don’t suffer from eczema or psoriasis but you have dry skin you might want to take notice. This combination will leave you with the softest, most supple skin you’ve ever had.

It’s honestly transformative.

Activated Charcoal in the Shower: Shampoo, Body Scrubs & Konjac Sponges

Where to Buy Activated Charcoal Shampoo

This might come as a bit of a shock, but on the long list of, “Oh my gosh, this stuff is amazing for my ___________ ” - hair is one of them.

Great hair really does start at the scalp and activated charcoal is terrific at removing buildup and dirt from the scalp.

In the same way activated charcoal helps eczema or psoriasis, it can help an itchy scalp.

There are lots of great activated charcoal shampoos on the market. Here are a few brands you can look into.

If you’re into DIY projects here is a recipe from Naturally Curly.

DIY Activated Charcoal Shampoo

  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ¼ tsp activated charcoal

Mix the baking soda and the water together before adding the charcoal. Work the shampoo into your scalp and hair before rinsing.

Activated Charcoal Body & Facial Scrubs

Photo Credit: Fresh Picked Beauty 

I’ve already talked about how wonderful an activated charcoal scrub is for dry and flakey skin.

This might be the best application of activated charcoal, it does wonders for the skin and leaves it feeling oh-so clean.

The Kitchen Activated Charcoal Scrub

Crunchy Betty’s scrub is a little more high maintenance than the rest of the recipes we’ll share here. It requires quite a few ingredients from the kitchen and a food processor.

  • 1/4 c. finely ground oats
  • 1/4 c. white rice flour
  • 1/8 c. finely ground almonds
  • 2 Tbsp cosmetic clay (fuller’s earth, bentonite, kaolin, french green, or rhassoul)
  • 1 Tbsp ground dried calendula
  • 1 Tbsp ground chamomile
  • 1 tsp activated charcoal
  • 1/4 tsp evening primrose oil
  • 7 drops turmeric resin oil
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil

This recipe requires more then a few steps, so instead of re-writing her entire post I’m going to direct you over to CrunchBetty.com for her step-by-step directions!

Activated Charcoal Facial Scrub

  • White sugar
  • Dr. Bronner’s 2-in-1 Hemp Unscented Baby Mild Castile Soap
  • Shea butter
  • Castor oil
  • Hazelnut oil
  • Activated charcoal
  • Tea tree oil
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Rosemary essential oil

This activated charcoal cleanser and facial scrub is terrific for gently removing make up AND dealing with acne.

Shea butter is an incredibly hydrating moisturizer that will help soothe dry, irritated skin. The blend of essential oils is also a nice, luxe touch.

Full Body Activated Charcoal Exfoliating Treatment Cubes

This recipe is super cute (and creative). You’re basically adding a bar of activated charcoal soap to lots of other awesome, natural ingredients to create miniature body scrub cubes.

Each cube is big enough for one full body treatment.  

  • A Bar of Activated Charcoal Soap
  • Coconut Oil
  • Activated Charcoal Powder
  • Bentonite Clay
  • Lemon Essential Oil (or a blend)
  • Cane Sugar
  • Silicon Ice Cube Trey

This requires more than just a quick mix of ingredients; so once again I’ll encourage you to visit Shannon @ Fresh Pick Beauty to get the full step-by-step treatment.

Activated Charcoal Body Polish

  • 3 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp activated charcoal
  • 1 Tbsp bentonite clay 
  • 1 Tsp lavender flower powder
  • 1 Tsp calendula flower powder
  • 1 Tsp Walnut shell powder
  • 1 Tsp Coconut Milk Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Carrot Powder

Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and store it in an air tight container. When you're ready to use mix 1 part body polish with 1 part of your favorite liquid. Coconut oil, honey and aloe vera work well.

Baking Soda Activated Charcoal Body & Facial Scrub

  • ¼ Cup Borox
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1/8 Cup Activated Charcoal Powder
  • ¼ cup Bentonite clay powder
  • 10 to 20 drops of Tea tree oil.

This is a quick and easy recipe to make with fairly common ingredients. If you don’t have tea tree oil on hand you can swap it out with your favorite essential oil.  It’s an excellent daily exfoliating scrub that is cheap and quick to make.

Combine all the ingredients, mix thoroughly and store in an air-tight jar!

Activated CharcoaL Cleansing Grains Facial Scrub

  • 2 tsp bentonite clay
  • 1 tsp spirulina powder
  • 1 tsp sea clay
  • 2 tsp activated charcoal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp dead sea salt, fine ground
  • 1 tbs arrowroot powder or ground oats

These are really cool - you make a small containers of the above ingredients. Rachel uses 8 dram glass vials - when it's time to use one you just added a liquid. That can be manuka honey, your favorite oil or even just water. 

Gently massage the scrub into your skin and wash it away with warm water. These are great for exfoliating your skin in an all natural way.

Charcoal Exfoliating Sponges (Konjac Activated Charcoal Sponge)

Konjac Sponges come from a plant that is found in Asia and it’s made up of 97% water. The sponge itself is created from the fibers of the plant— making it an all-natural sustainable product.

The addition of activated charcoal creates an ideal exfoliating sponge that helps deal with blackheads, dead skin cells and dirt. It makes an excellent addition to your daily shower routine.

I’m partial to these Konjac Sponges made by Riverlightnaturals.comthey last longer and they have a tear-drop shape which makes them more user friendly when scrubbing large areas and small areas.

Activated Charcoal - DIY Eyeliner, Mascara, Eyeshadow AND Eyebrow Gel

Photo Credit: Healthyeah.co.nz

Before I get into the recipes in this section I want to get something out of the way. Avoid getting your DIY eyeliner, mascara and eyeshadow in your eye! 

Ok, got that out of the way. Here we go.

DIY Smokey Black Eyeliner & Eyeshadow

  • 1 tsp of activated charcoal
  • Distilled water
  • Empty eyeshadow tin

Add a few drops of distilled water at a time until the activated charcoal starts to clump. Place the mixture in the empty tin and smooth with your fingers.

Homemade Eyeliner with Aloe Vera & Coconut Oil

This recipe originally came from this book  - which, by the way, is an a great source for non-toxic recipes!

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 4 tsp aloe vera gel
  • ½ tsp activated charcoal

Smudge Free Natural Eyeliner

It turns out there isn’t a lot to making homemade eyeliners— who knew! This is a simple 2-ingredient recipe:

  • 1 tsp activated charcoal
  • Jojoba oil

Add jojoba oil until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Store it in an airtight container. All done.

Coconut & Activated Charcoal Eyeliner

  • Activated Charcoal
  • Coconut Oil

For some, making your own eyeliner might sound like you’d be taking the ‘natural lifestyle’ thing a bit too far. But after reading this natural eyeliner post on YumUniverse you might consider changing your tune.

Or at the very least you might find yourself picking up a copy of No More Dirty Looks.

Activated Charcoal for Eyebrows

Thankfully, gone are the days of the 90s pencil thin brows. Now, it’s all about fuller, more natural brows— though that 90s plucking has made achieving those full brows difficult for many women. That’s why eyebrow gel is so important to a girl’s make up routine.

Thankfully, gone are the days of the 90s pencil thin brows. Now, it’s all about fuller, more natural brows— though that 90s plucking has made achieving those full brows difficult for many women. That’s why eyebrow gel is so important to a girl’s make up routine.

Activated Charcoal Eyebrow Gel Recipe

  • Fresh aloe/store bought gel
  • Unrefined shea butter (optional)
  • Arrowroot powder as a thickener or to lighten your brow gel color  (optional)
  • Color - activated charcoal (black), cocoa powder (brown), beet powder (red), ginger powder (pale cream)

Aloe Vera is an amazing natural ingredient that helps hydrate and nourish your skin.

When you’re buying Aloe Vera try to find 100% Aloe Vera instead of gels that have additives.

Alternatively, you can buy Aloe Vera plants and scrape the gel out from the inside of the plant.

Part III: Activated Charcoal Oral Health

Activated Charcoal: An All Natural Teeth Whitener

Much has been made of activated charcoal’s ability to brighten and whiten those pearly whites. And rightfully so -  it’s an all-natural solution in an otherwise chemical-laden industry.

It’s becoming extremely common for natural beauty enthusiasts to skip the bleach and use activated charcoal to whiten teeth.

But does it work?

That’s what you want to know – does activated charcoal actually whiten your teeth. The short answer is yes, it works.

How does it work and is it safe?

Activated Charcoal binds to tannins and many compounds that contain Chromogens. 

Why are Tannins and Chromogens important?

Without getting too Bill Nye on you, Tannins are plant based compounds that make it easier for stains to stick to your teeth. Chromogens do the actual staining. The third important factor is acid, which weakens your enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to staining.

For example: coffee is acidic, contains tannins and chromogens which spells trouble if you want white teeth.

Other foods such as wine, berries and tea are also culprits when it comes to staining our teeth.

Here is my anecdotal evidence. I’ve never used whitening strips and I drink black coffee, usually two cups per day (I know, I know – at least one cup too many!)

Naturally, my teeth have been yellowing over time. They’re not super model white and probably never will be.

I’ve been brushing with Tuxedo, our activated charcoal teeth whitening product for four months, once daily in the shower. My teeth have gotten whiter, despite the fact that I continue to drink black coffee, the occasional glass of wine….and did I mention blueberries are my favorite thing to eat?

And I'm not the only one; you can read Crunch Betty's account here.

We’ve received dozens of emails with this type of reaction. Even more if you include the countless 5 star reviews on Amazon for our teeth-whitening product.

Here are what some customers had to say:

"When I was younger I used many different chemical teeth whiteners which led to my teeth becoming extremely sensitive. I began using sensitive toothpaste I actually noticed Decay happening on my teeth so I decided to switch to an all natural route upon looking for new items to purchase I came across this whitener so I decided to give it a try and I just want to say that I love this whitener. Since using this right now I have noticed my teeth are no longer as sensitive as they were. Now as with any natural product the results aren't as immediate as chemical. So with continued use overtime I have noticed whitening taking place. I love this product and will continue to use it and purchase it again. I recommend it to everybody. Thank you" - Amy

"Already one shade brighter" - Mike

"Great product. Visibly whiter teeth in just 5 days. I can hardly wait to see what happens in 30 days.I would highly suggest you try it for yourself. You won't be sorry." - Cathy

So the answer is yes, brushing with activated charcoal helps to whiten teeth by naturally removing existing stains over time.

Brushing your teeth with black powder may not be for everyone and it doesn’t work as well as chemical teeth whitening strips, but it is an all-natural solution to gently whitening your teeth over time AND charcoal tooth powders fight bacteria in the mouth.

Does activated charcoal work as well as common teeth whitening products on the market?

Activated charcoal can do an incredible job of lifting and removing surface stains. It doesn’t remove deeper stains and frankly nothing will except harmful chemical products.

Think about that for a second. How did that even become a solution? Bleaching your teeth.

The most common complaint after using chemical products to whiten is increased sensitivity and according to one study, 2/3 of patients experienced some level of tooth sensitivity after using hydrogen peroxide.

The same study noted that most patients’ sensitivity was gone within a few days, but some patients found the increased level of sensitivity to be permanent.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve experienced tooth sensitivity and it’s extremely uncomfortable.  

Other problems that have been observed from using hydrogen peroxide teeth whitening products include:

  • Tooth surface roughening and softening
  • Increased potential for demineralization
  • Increased risk of tooth fracture
  • Degradation of dental restorations
  • Unacceptable color change of dental restorations

I’m not suggesting that traditional teeth whitening products will harm your oral health. Frankly, I have no idea - I just know that when I think about it, the product seems counter-intuitive and the cons vastly outweight the pros.

Before & After Teeth Whitening Pictures Using Activated Charcoal

A lot of these images are more convincing on the owners blog as they are bigger. I've linked to each post where you can find the pictures, often times there are multiple images over multiple days.

*This is from our top review on Amazon for Tuxedo 

*Another Tuxedo review on Amazon. She mentions this is after one use.

Photo Credit: The Work Out Mama. She takes pictures for 7 days you can literally see the change day to day

Photo Credit: Laurenda Marie Ren says she uses charcoal every second day.

Photo Credit: Normalizing Parenthood This was after one five minute application

Photo Credit: Saved By Grace Don't be thrown off, the top is the after, the bottom si before and the middle. Well thats activated charcoal.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Does Activated Charcoal Reduce Tooth Sensitivity?

Personally, since I started brushing with our activated charcoal tooth powder, I’ve noticed that my sensitive tooth isn’t an issue anymore. We’ve had customers tell us the exact same thing.

Again, this is anecdotal evidence. There are no studies which can back up that claim. I’m just relaying what I’ve personally experienced and customer feedback.

"Ok I have sensitive gums and this makes them feel great!! Will make your teeth white but will take a couple of weeks but this is a safe easy and amazing for sensitive gums."

"I wish I could give this marvelous product 10+ stars! I suffer from Sjogren's disease, resulting in low to no saliva production, which means decay can be rampant and my oral tissues always extremely sensitive and irritated I have tried other brands of natural toothpastes in various forms, and my mouth remained painful. Tuxedo not only cleans your teeth thoroughly, but it truly does whiten. I'm a coffee-holic, but I've still seen a difference when starting Tuxedo. Kudos to Rocky Mountain Essentials for creating the best tooth cleaner/polisher/whitener with no after effects of burning, stinging, or irritated oral mucosa. Thanks for making a terrific product! I would highly recommend!" 

With that said, some customers have noted had issues with gum sensitivity. Using an activated charcoal tooth powder works for most people, but not everyone!

Activated charcoal falls somewhere in the middle of the RDA (relative dentin abrasivity) scale. The RDA scale is used to measure how abrasive different types of toothpastes are. The recommended limit from the FDA is 200.

We’re currently having our product tested though similar charcoal teeth whitening products range from 70-90 RDA.

The majority of teeth whitening toothpastes are over 100 on that scale.

Activated charcoal shouldn’t bother your gums – if it does, it’s probably best to stop using it all together.

Does Activated Charcoal Strip Away Enamel or Restore Enamel?

This is another common question we frequently get. There is no way to restore enamel. It doesn’t have cells to regenerate itself so once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Enamel is damaged or stripped away from a number of factors including highly acidic foods, diet, acid reflux, genetics and brushing too hard.
It’s estimated that 10-20 percent of population have damaged their enamel from brushing too aggressively. This isn’t a result of activated charcoal being very high on the RDA index (or any toothpaste for that matter). It’s simply a result of over aggressive brushing.

I use a soft bristle toothbrush when brushing to minimize the wear and tear on my enamel. I also try and remember to start on different teeth because the initial brushing is where most of the stripping happens.

Activated Charcoal for Bad Breath and Gum Disease

Another question we get asked is, “Does Activated Charcoal will help with bad breath?”

Good oral hygiene will help with bad breath whether that’s toothpaste or tooth powder.

Tuxedo, our teeth whitening activated charcoal product, is mint flavored, like many toothpastes. But you can only mask so much with mint whether it’s toothpaste, gum or otherwise.

Ultimately bad breath is usually a result of a poor diet, dehydration (dry mouth) or poor dental hygiene. Of course there are other contributing factors but the type of toothpaste you’re using isn’t going to solve the problem alone. 

Just as it’s true that good oral hygiene will help prevent bad breath, good oral hygiene helps to prevent gum disease.  Improving your diet along with regular brushing and flossing is usually enough to prevent or cure gum disease.

Activated Charcoal for Teeth Whitening: Instructions

Another question we frequently receive is, “How long will it take to work?” Personally, it took about a month of using Tuxedo to notice an improvement.  That equated to approximately half the jar; some days I would use it twice, other days I would only use it once.

I use it instead of toothpaste in the morning while in the shower. I highly recommend using it while you’re in the shower because it’s black and messy.

You can also use it with your toothpaste. Simply dip a moist toothbrush (with or without toothpaste) into Tuxedo.

Brush as you normally would.

Rinse with water.

I recently went to the dentist and my hygienist was happy with my overall oral health. I needed to floss more (who doesn’t?) but aside from that everything looked good.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been using Tuxedo instead of toothpaste in the morning for about four months.

PART IV: Activated CharActicoal For Topical Remedies

Another great use for activated charcoal is to create a salve or a topical remedy. It can help prevent infections from wounds or cuts. It’s also a great remedy for bee stings or mosquito bites to reduce itchiness and inflammation.

It even works to draw out venom on some* types of spider bites.

*Please do your own research and consult a professional on this one as some spider bites can be lethal.

Activated Charcoal Healing Salve Recipes (Poultices & Patches)

Activated Charcoal Healing Salve

Calendula-infused oil (see Hello Glow’s blog for instructions)

  • Coconut oil
  • Beeswax Pellets
  • Activated charcoal
  • Bentonite clay
  • Lavender essential oil
  • Tea tree essential oil

Both the charcoal and the clay will help to draw out splinters and certain types of venom. Calendula is an excellent disinfectant and tea tree oil is antimicrobial which is good for cleaning wounds.

And last time I checked coconut oil is the solution for every issue you’ve ever had.

Activated Charcoal Drawing Salve

This recipe is a little bit simpler because it doesn’t require a calendula-infused oil. The infused oil is a nice touch but it’s not the primary active ingredient.

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 TBSP. beeswax
  • 3 tsp caps of activated charcoal
  • 3 tsp. clay
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops melaleuca essential oil
  • 5 drops chamomile essential oil

The recipe is very similar to the others I’ve come across online. They all have the same base: activated charcoal, a natural oil, beeswax and clay.

The only real difference is the essential oils that are added and typically they include tea tree oil.

If you don’t have to/want to add the infused oil to the recipe, you just need to melt the coconut oil and beeswax together. You’re going to want to use a double boiler for this step.

Once melted remove from heat and mix the remaining ingredients together.

Allow it to cool before applying it topically.

Black Drawing Salve for Cuts, Wounds and Bites

Once again you’ll notice a common theme – infused oil, charcoal, clay, essential oils and beeswax. Cat’s recipe uses honey (we recommend Manuka honey) and mango butter. This gives it a creamier texture, which might appeal to some DIY’ers.

She also gets a little bit more intense with the infused oil. It’s got plantain leaves and a mixture of fresh herbs including calendula.

  • Herbal Drawing Oil (see the recipe here)
  • mango butter (or other solid fat, such as lard)
  • beeswax pastilles
  • activated charcoal
  • bentonite clay
  • honey, preferably raw
  • Lavender essential oil

DIY Insect Balm for Bug Bites & Stings

Our incredibly clever DIY expert whipped up a DIY charcoal insect balm. The best part? Shes put them into lipchap containers to make them easy to take with you. I honestly don't know why these aren't a thing, because they're brilliant. 

If you spend anytime hiking, camping or at the cottage these are a must for any good DIYer.

  • 2 parts coconut oil (1 tbsp) 
  • 1 part Shea butter (½ tbsp)
  • 5-7 drops of organic lavender essential oil
  • 1 tsp activated charcoal
  • 1 stp aloe vera gel

In a double boiler, melt down coconut oil and Shea butter. Once fully melted, remove from heat.

Add aloe vera gel, lavender essential oil, and activated charcoal — mix well.

Carefully spoon the liquid into your containers. Allow to rest for 2-3 hours.

Please note, during extremely hot days, it's best to keep this balm in a cool spot, ensuring that the mixture doesn't melt. Make a batch and keep sticks within your medicine cabinet for easy access or to grab when on-the-go

These recipes are terrific to bring along camping, hiking or to the cottage. You’re probably going to get bit by something(s) while you’re there and it’s nice to be able to accelerate the healing process and reduce the itchiness while ensuring it doesn’t get infected!

Activated Charcoal for Stomach Issues & Intestinal Disorder

If your ancestral roots are African, Asian, Native American, Arab, Jewish, Hispanic, Italian, or Greek there is strong evidence that suggests you don’t digest lactose very well.

So basically, if you’re not Nordic the odds of you being lactose intolerant is high.

Without diving into the hornet's nest that is gluten, I think it’s fair to say there are millions of people who have issues digesting gluten. Even if you’re only counting those who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, that number is still in the millions.

Basically, there are a lot of people with digestive disorders…

The most common sense approach would be to figure out what is ailing us and cut that out from our diet. But as someone who knows they are lactose intolerant and still finds the (very) occasional piece of pizza in my hands I know how difficult it can be.

The number one thing that activated charcoal gets used for in my household is digestive issues. If I’ve just eaten a piece of pizza, had a glass of wine or any other food group that I know is going to cause my stomach issues I’ll immediately drink a glass of water with 1 tbsp of charcoal.

Surprisingly, there is some pretty solid evidence that it does indeed work. In 1978 a study was done which included 60 patients with a variety of intestinal disorders. The researchers found in 70% of the cases, all intestinal troubles were gone within 2-4 weeks. 15% of the trial patients needed more than 4 weeks and only 15% showed no improvement6. In another study, the researchers concluded that activated charcoal was effective for lowering levels of gas7.

Of course, these were small studies and are far from concrete evidence that activated charcoal is an effective home remedy for intestinal disorders. Most evidence is anecdotal and you need to try it for yourself to see if it works.

Before I tried activated charcoal, I was skeptical. However, after using it for a while I felt better when I took charcoal after eating poorly. Now it’s a solution I believe in.

I’m sure some skeptics will question whether it’s actually working or if it could be doing harm.

Almost all scientific evidence suggest it’s a relatively benign substance and like most home remedies, you have to try it to see if works.

Activated Charcoal for Stomach Bug, Nausea & Diarrhea

It’s well known that Activated Charcoal has been used for hundreds of thousands of years and is currently used in hospitals for poison treatment.

Activated charcoal can adsorb certain substances allowing them to pass through the body harmlessly.

There are also dozens of products on the market that are specifically for animal poisoning; unfortunately our furry friends get into substances, which have lethal consequences.

I am not advocating that you try to self diagnose. If you or a loved one (four legged friends included) poison yourself, go to the hospital immediately.

However, there is anecdotal evidence and even some scientific evidence that activated charcoal can help with nausea and diarrhea.

In one study, 11 of 39 children (the other 28 did not receive charcoal) who had diarrhea were given activated charcoal three times a day. The researchers found that the children with activated charcoal took 2.1 days to recover versus the 3 days when compared to the control group. Only a very small amount of charcoal (166mg-750mg) was used8. Page 59

Some others who have tried activated charcoal for the stomach bug or nausea:

"I am definitely sold on the effectiveness of activated charcoal and plan on keeping this inexpensive natural treatment for the stomach bug and food poisoning on hand.

"Activated Charocl isn’t something that needs to be taken on a regular basis but it is extremely to handy to have on hand for flu bugs, food poisoning, and even for topical use on bug bites and as a teeth whitener!”

Can Activated Charcoal Really Prevent a Hangover?

Whenever I see this question answered, prevent a hangover and lower blood alcohol level seem to be used interchangeable.

So before go on I want to make one thing extremely clear. Activated charcoal cannot reduce blood alcohol level. Once alcohol is in the blood stream, charcoal can’t coax it out. It doesn’t work that way.

Just as coffee or a shower can’t reduce your blood alcohol levels, nor can activated charcoal.

The other issue is activated charcoal doesn’t do a great job of adsorbing alcohol even before it hits the blood stream

The question is, can activated charcoal prevent or reduce a hangover?

When I drink vodka and water my hangovers are minimal.  When I start consuming drinks containing high levels of sugar or beer, I feel awful in the morning. Plus that pizza we talked about earlier is probably looking more and more tempting with each glass of wine.

And so if I consume low quality booze or low quality food, I’ll take activated charcoal intermittently while I’m drinking.

The only downside to the powder versus the capsules is if you’re trying to use it as a hangover cure, you pretty well have to be at home. Have a zip lock bag full of black powder is going to get you some interesting looks at your next Christmas party.

I encourage you to try it, if it doesn’t work, no harm no foul. If you find it works for you, you just made your Sunday a whole lot more enjoyable.

Activated Charcoal and Detoxes

Of all the claims that are made about activated charcoal, detoxing is the most controversial.  When the word detox is used, most skeptics will tell you that our bodies don’t need to detox, we have organs, like our liver, which removes unwanted substances.

With that said, there are benefits with using activated charcoal to detox.

Activated charcoal is most effective when used within a couple of hours of eating or drinking a certain food. It can’t draw out substances that have already been absorbed.

There are many studies, which suggest that regularly taking activated charcoal can improve your digestive health. Hippocrates believed that all diseases began in the gut.

Dr. Hyman says this about our gut and how it impacts our health:

If you want to be healthy, you have to get your gut working properly

Once again, I’m not advocating that we consume activated charcoal instead of eating well. But when we do decide to go off the rails, it’s quite possible that activated charcoal could be a huge help.

Interested in giving activated charcoal a whirl? Sign Up for our e-mail list (in the footer!) for a 15% off coupon.