The adsorbent properties of charcoal have been in knowledge since the 18th century. It has been conventionally used for filtration in water treatment plants.
During the early 1800s AD, the scientists demonstrated the efficacy of charcoal in the prevention of poisoning in humans and animals. Among the earliest documented instances is one of a French scientist Bertrand in 1813 AD, wherein he self-administered arsenic trioxide (a potent toxin) along with charcoal powder and survived. In 1831 AD, Tovery swallowed a lethal dose of strychnine mixed with charcoal and suffered no adverse effects of strychnine overdose. Similarly, in 1834 AD, another physician Hort, saved the life of a patient who had taken mercury bichloride, by oral administration of charcoal.
The adsorptive characteristics of charcoal were further explored over the next 150 years. Several researchers have demonstrated refinement and purification processes to enhance the porous nature of charcoal. Despite a significant amount of work in this domain, activated charcoal received a universal recognition for its clinical benefits only in the past fifty years. Administration of activated charcoal powder with water or sweetened liquid has been since in wide use to prevent the toxins from entering the systemic circulation.
Activated Charcoal Mechanism
Carbon-rich materials such as wood are burnt at very high temperatures to obtain charcoal (a nearly pure form of carbon). Once the charcoal is obtained, it is passed through a variety of chemical processes in order to “activate” it. This includes treatment with oxygen, steam, certain acids, and carbon dioxide among other chemicals.
The activation process removes any impurities and produces fine black porous granules. It also creates numerous holes and crevices on charcoal particles. Thus, the overall surface area tremendously increases (approximately 1000m2 per gram). The unique voluminous and porous structure of activated charcoal makes it the most suitable candidate for surface binding (adsorption).
Due to the excellent adsorbent nature, activated charcoal can trap many toxins and chemical molecules. Other than the physical adsorption phenomenon, the porous structure of activated charcoal is also helpful because of its negative electrical charge. It pulls positively charged toxins and gases. These molecules are then trapped inside the intricate meshwork of crevices and holes in the activated charcoal.
Hence, the absorption of toxins into the bloodstream is prevented. Moreover, the activated charcoal is not absorbed by human body, so it is excreted from the body along with the adsorbed toxins on its surface.
Benefits of Activated Charcoal
Throughout the day, toxins from the world around us clog our pores. (You won’t believe the damage that air pollution is doing to your skin!) When your pores aren’t clear, neither is your complexion. Activated charcoal–when used in a face mask–binds to dirt and helps pull it out of your pores, making them less visible (it’s the oil and dirt that makes them appear bigger). This leaves your face feeling fresh.
Balances Oily Skin
Oily skin? Activated charcoal may be just the ingredient you need to balance things out. Used in a cleanser or mask, activated charcoal can pull the unwanted excess oils from your skin, leaving it smooth. You’ll want to do this sparingly–once or twice per week at the most–so that you don’t dry out your skin. If you already have dry skin, you’re best to steer clear of it for this use.
Depending on the specifics of your acne–how severe it is, what’s causing it and what else is going on–activated charcoal may be able to help. In soap form, it’s slightly gritty, which might provide the gentle exfoliating you need. It will also absorb oils and toxins on and below the skin. You can use it as a spot treatment if you don’t want to use it on your whole face–just think of it as a mini mask for your blemish.
Deep Cleanse Your Skin
You can find cleansers that contain activated charcoal in pretty much every drug store these days. Some may be a little more powerful than others; don’t use these ones daily, as you don’t want to soak up the healthy oils and moisture your skin needs. Check out the other ingredients if you’re buying a liquid cleanser–some are designed to neutralize the acidity in your skin, others have deodorizing properties; some can even double as shaving cream. Buy the product that best suits your personal combination of needs and follow the directions on the bottle. Follow your cleanser with this super hydrating homemade oat flour face mask.
Soothe and Heal Skin Irritations
Whether you were stung by a bee or had a cut from the kitchen that’s become infected, activated charcoal can help speed the healing and relieve the symptoms. For minor skin ailments–including insect bites, stings, cuts, scrapes and minor infections–activated charcoal can be applied topically. The activated charcoal, when applied as a paste, helps absorb venom and infection. It will also bring down swelling and lessen pain. To make the paste: slowly add water to a bit of activated charcoal powder and mix until it is a spreadable consistency.
Rid Your Hair of Toxins
A shampoo with activated charcoal can gently detox by attracting dirt and oil which is then washed away. And because it’s gentle, it won’t disrupt your hair’s natural moisture levels.
Add Volume To Your Hair
If you’re carrying around enough dirt and oil, your hair will start to sag and regular shampooing may not be getting it all out. In fact, hair can gain roughly 4 percent of its own weight in build-up from scalp oils, pollution and dry shampoo. Regular shampoos remove surface dirt, but activated charcoal will pull out even more. The other difference, and this is big, is that activated charcoal isn’t going to leave the residue some shampoos do, so your hair will feel lighter and have more volume.
Remedy Scalp Conditions
Dandruff, redness, oily and itchy scalps may be relieved with activated charcoal. You can use it as a scalp treatment before you shampoo or can be mixed in with your shampoo. The activated charcoal will work on your scalp the way it does on your skin and hair: pulling out toxins and purifying. It’s unclear how deep into the hair follicle is being cleaned, but the results should be noticeable.