I don’t know when it happened but it seems like all of a sudden, charcoal has become a highly desirable beauty ingredient. The purported benefit of charcoal is that it attaches to and absorbs oil and dirt. That makes it great for products like masks, cleansers and other face treatments, where the charcoal ingredient will attract the bad stuff and pull it out of your pores.
I’ve recently used four different charcoal-based products. Read more for my reviews.
Boscia’s Charcoal Pore Pudding Intensive Wash-Off Treatment
($38 for 2.8 oz pot)
The product is supposed to cleanse, detoxify, moisturize, balance and hydrate. I’ve used it twice now and I’m still trying to assess the benefits. My skin definitely felt soft and smooth after using. I loved this as a deluxe sample, but I haven’t decided whether I’ll buy the full-size product. It costs more than I’d typically pay for such a “treatment” and I’m not sure if it has a noticeable benefit on my skin and/or if it’s worth the cost.
Charcoal Konjac Sponge from Julep
I received this sponge in my first Julep Maven monthly box in March. I’d never heard of the thing but now that I look around online I see a lot of charcoal sponges. Here’s what Julep has to say about it: “This super gentle all-natural exfoliator is enriched with skin-clarifying charcoal to cleanse, exfoliate and detoxify your skin. Use in the morning to show off smoother, softer skin and in the evening to prep your skin for moisturizers.” So it’s not like a charcoal briquette that you’re rubbing on your face; it’s a sponge that’s been infused with charcoal.
I tried using the sponge with water as an exfoliator and with cleanser to enhance my cleansing (which I don’t think is recommended). I prefer it just with water. It feels soooooo good on my skin! Nice gentle sensation. My everyday cleansing routine normally just includes scrubbing from a makeup remover cloth and a washcloth for my face, so the texture from this sponge is something I don’t otherwise get. I’ve used it 4 or 5 days a week for the past few weeks. A practical benefit of this product: Julep’s sponge has a little string on the end and comes with a wall suction cup, so I can hang it in the shower to dry when not using it. I definitely recommend trying one of these sponges!
Detox It Out: Charcoal Swabs from Sephora
($3 for 30 swabs)
These “charcoal swabs” are basically black Q-tips. They’re meant for “a variety of cosmetic uses, including make-up fixes, removal, and application.” I’m not convinced the charcoal does anything here. I suspect this is a way to get in on the charcoal beauty craze, marketing black cotton swabs in a way that makes them appealing to the charcoal-lovers. I’ve used my swabs to (1) apply product that requires precise application on the face and (2) remove excess nail polish that dried on my finger. There’s not too much loose fluffy cotton like you sometimes get with Q-tips, so these were effective for precision targeting. On the flip side, the lower fluff content probably made them a little less effective for the polish removal because they held less remover. In both cases, the charcoal content was irrelevant. If you buy these, buy only for the other characteristic (color, compact swab head) and not for the charcoal.
Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask To Clear Pores
($17 for a 1.7 oz tube)
This one is a(nother) charcoal mask. The product claims to draw the toxins and dirt from pores. It was notably different from the Boscia treatment. It did not have the strong charcoal smell that the Boscia pudding had, which made me sad because I like the charcoal scent. It definitely reacted with my skin in a way I didn’t feel with the Boscia treatment. I applied this mask to my face and immediately felt a kind of stinging. It was not painful or concerning, but it felt like some active ingredient doing its thing. I left the mask on for 10ish minutes, by the end of which my face felt quite tight. The stuff hardened a bit on my face. When I washed off the mask, my face felt tighter, like maybe my pores were really worked on. My skin did not feel soft but it did feel cleansed.
The bottom line: I love the consistency and the strong charcoal smell of the Boscia pore pudding, and the feel of the Julep charcoal konjac sponge. The Origins mask certainly felt like it was doing something and the results I’ve had so far are promising.