Activated charcoal

When you think of charcoal, your olfactory receptors may invoke the aroma of skewers on the barbie or a cozy campfire. However, there are miraculous benefits of this chalky black substance. Turns out, charcoal, which is derived from carbon, isn’t limited to cooking or snuggling fireside.

Activated charcoal is created through a process that infuses oxygen to create millions of tiny pores over a surface area. This porosity allows for the absorption of odors and other organic chemicals, toxins and gases, making it ideal for detoxification.

Charcoal boasts many superpowers, but not all charcoal is created equal. Sustainable charcoal, the ideal choice, is made from sustainably managed forests that use ecologically sound harvesting methods and kiln techniques for better efficiency. Bamboo charcoal is a superior choice due to its inherent absorption properties and rapid renewability.

Need some guidance? Check out these eight surprising uses and health benefits of activated charcoal.

1. Reduce Acne and Prevent Breakouts

If you’ve got oily skin, don’t hide that beautiful face. Instead, scrub annoying breakouts away with the Bamboo Charcoal Dew Puff. I personally use this and can sing its praises, especially in the shower (I’ll spare you the high notes). While it’s initially hard to the touch, once wet, the Dew Puff melts in your fingertips, allowing you to scrub your face gently while the activated carbon and minerals do their thang. This sponge is all natural and derived from the Asian konjac root (as a vegan, something I delight in). So, while this sponge is (almost) safe enough to eat, it’ll help prevent future acne while the antioxidants fight bacteria. At a mere $8, your wallet — and your flawless, zit-free skin — will thank you.

Dew Puff Bamboo Charcoal Sponge

2. Cleanse Your Body

Speaking of scrubbing away toxins, the pureSOL biodegradable, 100 percent natural sponge is also made from the konjac root and contains activated charcoal and minerals for further exfoliation and detoxing by absorbing sebum (buildup) and dirt from your skin.

Yes, I also have this hanging in my shower and love that it’s chemical-free and 100 percent natural. It uses zero chemicals to process; just a steam method of the root plant fibers. The pureSOL Konjac Body Sponge not only detoxifies, but also hydrates your largest organ while balancing the pH levels. The woven fibers stimulate blood flow and promote cell growth. Say hello to smaller pore sizes and goodbye to impurities.

And just to be a bit more bragalicious, this sponge can be composted into your flower pot when you’re finished. It comes in 90 percent compostable packaging. Dang — is there anything this sponge can’t do? Oh, right, it’s vegan, cruelty-free and sustainable.

Pure Sol Konjac Cleansing Sponge

3. Polish Skin on the Go

7th Heaven knows its powers and has created two products that are perfect for that special night out or on the road:

Their Charcoal Mud Mask is a convenient face masque that uses black lava, naturally purifying charcoal, and exfoliating walnut seeds. This all-natural combo helps tackle impurities deep within the skin without preservatives, foaming agents or harsh chemicals typically found in personal care items.

Their Charcoal Pore Strips are one-time-use strips that contain natural hardwood charcoal to absorb dirt and sebum, banish dreaded blackheads, and reduce visible pores around the nose. Volcanic ash helps clear away dead skin cells.

activated charcoal and metal spoon

4. Filter Your Water

Most local water companies add chlorine or chloramines to your water supply to kill bacteria and microorganisms. Activated charcoal or activated carbon is routinely used in household water filtration systems because it chemically bonds with contaminants like chlorine and/or chlorine taste and odor to remove them from the water. This, combined with a multi-stage water filtration, is best to address additional contaminants.

5. Detox Your Body

How about removing nasty pesticides and chemicals and clearing your skin by ingesting activated charcoal? I did. Why? Because, according to Ben Johnson, M.D., “Acne isn’t a skin issue, it’s caused from poor digestion linked to what we eat and hormonal imbalances internally, not topical bacteria.” He created Osmosis Skin Defense Environmental Detox, which binds the toxins before they reach the skin. The activated charcoal acts like a sponge to absorb toxins and harmful compounds, while decreasing the workload of the liver to aid in overall detoxification.

Osmosis Skin Defense Environmental Detox capsules

6. Whiten Teeth

Why resort to harsh bleach to get those pearly whites to shimmer when you can whiten them with activated charcoal, all the while fighting stains and preventing cavities, gingivitis, and bacteria buildup? Say bye-bye to coffee and red wine stains and hello to shine! This all-natural Bamboo Charcoal Whitening & Anti-Stain Toothpaste might look strange, but your bright smile won’t.

Bamboo Activated Charcoal Whitening Toothpaste7. Reduce Bloating

Cold-pressed juiceries are all the rage right now, and charcoal-infused elixirs and cocktails are the new muse for today’s mixologists.

My personal favorite to reduce bloating and draw out toxins for vibrant skin is the Charcoal Skinny Lemonade from Nekter Juice Bar. It’s made with filtered water, lemon, agave nectar and, you guessed it, coconut charcoal. It’s healthy, delicious, and a definite conversation starter.

8. Absorb Odors

How about an effective, fragrance-free, odorless, and nontoxic solution to absorb unwanted odors? Before you reach for that toxic, synthetic “freshener” to cover up smells, get to the source of the stench! Remodeez is a chemical-free, natural odor remover that uses activated charcoal (derived from coconut husks) to absorb and naturally neutralize odors. You can place these deodorizers anywhere — in your shoes, the fridge, a trash can, your car, or anywhere at home. Plus, they last up to a year and can be recharged by placing them in the sun.

Remodeez charcoal deodorizer

Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock

Editor’s note: Originally published on September 27, 2017, this article was updated in January 2020.

By Lisa Beres

Lisa Beres is a healthy home authority, Baubiologist, published author, professional speaker and Telly award-winning media personality who teaches busy people how to eliminate toxins from their home with simple, step-by-step solutions to improve their health. With her husband, Ron, she is the co-founder of The Healthy Home Dream Team and the 30-day online program Change Your Home. Change Your Health. She is the author of the children’s book My Body My House and co-author of Just Green It!: Simple Swaps to Save Your Health and the Planet, Learn to Create a Healthy Home! Green Nest Creating Healthy Homes and The 9 to 5 Greened: 10 Steps to a Healthy Office. Lisa’s TV appearances include "The Rachael Ray Show," "Nightly News with Brian Williams," "TODAY," "The Doctors," "Fox & Friends," "Chelsea Lately" and "The Suzanne Somers Show."