The 10 Best Charcoal Soaps

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This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in January of 2017. If you struggle with oily, acne-prone skin, charcoal soap may be the perfect solution for you. It's excellent at cleansing the derma of excess oil, pollutants, and impurities. The results can vary from a slight improvement in problem areas to a sudden flood of compliments on your complexion. It's also great for treating dry and red spots caused by conditions like rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. The Yellow Bird

2. Simplici Unscented

3. Sapo Organic Face & Body

Editor's Notes

September 27, 2019:

Like any other skincare products, different charcoal soaps will work better for some than others. Charcoal is extremely absorbent, which is why it's so effective at cleaning out pores, but it absorbs oil, too, so if you have dry skin, you may want to opt for a soap with some moisturizing ingredients.

The Yellow Bird is made with certified organic ingredients and contains shea butter along with sunflower, coconut, and olive oils to prevent it from drying out your skin. It has antiseptic and antibacterial properties, thanks to a combination of lemongrass and lavender, making it especially good for preventing and clearing up breakouts. A good choice for sensitive skin, Sapo Organic Face & Body is gentle, but effective, and contains several ingredients that can help to calm irritation, including oatmeal powder and sea salt. Southern Natural Activated is made from goat's milk, which contains natural fats and proteins that moisturize and strengthen skin, with Dead Sea mud for a dose of minerals that can help with psoriasis, eczema, acne, and rosacea when used regularly.

We've also included a few basic soaps with no fancy ingredients. They're great for oily complexions, but if you have dry or combination skin, they may be too stripping to use daily, if at all. Simplici Unscented is made with just five natural ingredients and no artificial colors or fragrances to irritate sensitive skin, and the inclusion of coconut oil makes the bars extra hard, so they last longer than many others. Another simple option, The Healing Tree contains only vegetable oil, water, glycerin, and bamboo charcoal. The charcoal is made using a high-temperature firing process, which makes it four times more porous than wood charcoal, so it's more absorbent than most other soaps and may be too drying for some.

4. Nippon Kodo Deitanseki

5. Southern Natural Activated

6. Herbivore Botanicals Bamboo

7. One With Nature

8. Splendor Santa Barbara's Rose Clay

9. The Healing Tree

10. Joanna Vargas' Miracle Bar

What’s In This Thing?

Charcoal is a lightweight, black material that consists mainly of carbon.

It’s no secret that there is an overwhelming variety of skincare products flooding the market. This can make choosing the best one for your regimen an intimidating task. Here, we’ll outline what charcoal soap is, the different types that are available, and how the right one can benefit your beauty routine.

Charcoal is a lightweight, black material that consists mainly of carbon. It's produced via an ancient cooking process that involves low heat and very little oxygen. During this procedure, water and other chemicals burn off and leave behind the chalky residue we're familiar with. Charcoal is made using a myriad of substances, such as wood, peat, bamboo, and even coconut shells. Each type has its own benefit and specific use, whether it be for energy, cooking, or medical purposes.

One of the most popular types of charcoal used for creating soap comes from bamboo. Because of its microstructure, it's highly adsorbent, about three times as much as other typical wood-derived carbons. It's also gentle on skin, which makes it ideal for drawing out impurities and dirt without leaving your face and body feeling drier than a desert. On its own, it's a powerful detoxifier, but many manufacturers like to give it a boost by infusing it with supplemental skin-soothing ingredients. To restore balance and hydration, moisturizers akin to shea butter and argan oil are occasionally added. Essential oils like rose and lavender can create a luxurious scent, and stimulating additions such as tea tree oil and peppermint are able to assist with abrasions and provide cooling relief.

Then there’s the humble coconut. Typically, producers convert the shells into carbon and then activate it with special ingredients and a steam treatment before grinding it into a soft powder. It’s often sold loose or in capsules. When combined with antiseptics like marshmallow root and moisturizers such as olive oil, it makes an excellent homemade melt-and-pour bar of soap.

The best charcoal soap is one that combines its main component with the essential oils and natural elements that tackle your specific skincare woes. Look for products that use organic ingredients and avoid items that contain synthetic dyes, fragrances, and harmful parabens.

Who Should Use Charcoal Soap?

Plenty of different skincare needs can be met with the right charcoal soap. It's versatile enough to serve a variety of complexions and regimens, and when used topically it's relatively harmless. This means you can experiment safely with various types, as long as they're not infused with irritating chemicals or synthetics. Below are a few benefits to consider when weighing your options.

Those with oily skin types will appreciate this proclivity for drawing out impurities, while its gentle nature means it won't irritate dry skin, either.

Because charcoal is so adept at adsorbing toxins and pulling them away from deep down within, it's a superb minimizer for anyone who suffers from large, highly visible pores. It's safe to use daily, and over time this thorough cleansing helps to reduce this unflattering issue, resulting in a tighter and brighter appearance. This makes it an excellent solution for anyone who works outdoors exposed to smoke and other pollutants. Its formidable sponge-like power isn't just limited to dirt — it also includes odor, so if you struggle with unpleasant bodily smells, this sooty soap is perfect for you. It also tends to penetrate deeper into the derma than conventional cleansers. Those with oily skin types will appreciate this proclivity for drawing out impurities, while its gentle nature means it won't irritate dry skin, either.

If you struggle with mild acne and require an exfoliant tough enough to slough away dead skin without being so harsh that it causes further damage, there are a handful of brands that do just that. All-natural products with exfoliators and anti-inflammatory properties will leave you feeling squeaky clean, yet not overly dry. Added ingredients such as sea salt and oatmeal powder will softly scrub without scarring and help to pacify angry patches. Keep in mind that it’s good practice to use a gentle moisturizer after washing, and those with extreme skin conditions should consider consulting a dermatologist about the safest treatments.

Are you the type to experience an eczema flare-up every so often? Individuals who find they need the occasional spot treatment are best served by soap bars with high percentages of charcoal offset by smaller doses of antiseptic and moisturizing additions. It’s also an excellent alternative to using strong topical ointments, which can be extremely tough on sensitive complexions and those prone to allergies.

Down And Dirty: A Brief History Of Charcoal Use

Humans figured out how to carbonize wood millennia ago. Around 1500 B.C.E, ancient Egyptians discovered this sooty byproduct was an excellent preservative after noticing that charred posts would resist rotting when placed in the Nile. This expanded to medical applications, and it saw use in embalming and burial rituals.

The versatility of activated charcoal is such that it has found its way into numerous cosmetic products.

About 1000 years later, physicians like Hippocrates would prescribe it for ailments in the vein of epilepsy and vertigo. It served as a poultice for treating burns and helped stave off the foul odors that emanated from festering wounds. The healers of the day recognized its strong impurity-drawing effects, and subsequently, surgical procedures saw its employment as well. It was also around this time that sailors realized it could treat water to make it safe for consumption during long voyages. Additionally, it was superb as a quick fix for sealing holes in ship hulls when applied as a tar paste.

By the early 1800s, experiments that involved burning a handful of wood types and other substances before exposing them to certain chemicals and gases led to the discovery of activated charcoal. This new altered carbon had increased adsorptive powers, and it was frequently given to patients orally in order to treat acute poisonings and overdoses. This strategy was so effective at gastrointestinal decontamination that physicians have continued to administer it well into the 21st century.

The versatility of activated charcoal is such that it has found its way into numerous cosmetic products. You’d be hard-pressed to browse a beauty aisle without seeing it as a listed ingredient in a slew of shampoos, face masks, toothpastes, soaps, and more. Its dynamic application to a litany of industries is a testament to its utility and longevity.

Gabrielle Taylor
Last updated by Gabrielle Taylor

Originally from a tiny town in Virginia, Gabrielle moved to Los Angeles for a marketing internship at a well-known Hollywood public relations firm and was shocked to find that she loves the West Coast. She spent two years as a writer and editor for a large DIY/tutorial startup, where she wrote extensively about technology, security, lifestyle, and home improvement. A self-professed skincare nerd, she’s well-versed in numerous ingredients and methods, including both Western and Asian products. She is an avid home cook who has whiled away thousands of hours cooking and obsessively researching all things related to food and food science. Her time in the kitchen has also had the curious side effect of making her an expert at fending off attempted food thievery by her lazy boxer dog.

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