If there's one ingredient that has been taken the beauty industry by storm lately--it's activated charcoal. This must-have does everything from absorbing oil and impurities to fighting off acne. It's truly a detox powerhouse. We chatted with Elena Arboleda, the head Aesthetician at the Mario Badescu Skincare Salon in NYC to break down all the benefits behind this miracle element. We also included charcoal items you need to add to your beauty routine ASAP!

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Image via Johanna Ferreira

Charcoal is powerful and has always been around. 1

Charcoal is powerful and has always been around.

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Activated charcoal has been around for years and was originally used in hospital emergency rooms to keep swallowed drugs and poisons from being absorbed from the stomach to the bloodstream.

Now it’s in all our beauty products for a similar reason. “Charcoal as a skincare ingredient has flown under the radar for a long time,” says Arboleda. “The introduction of a few new products containing charcoal to the marketplace has helped many consumers discover the ingredient and because it is effective, people have begun to seek it out."


It’s a natural skin detox. 2

It’s a natural skin detox.

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“Charcoal has the ability to absorb many times its own weight. So when it is applied to the skin, it helps to purify by mopping up pore clogging matter including, oil, and bacteria that lead to uneven texture and breakouts,” says Arboleda.

She adds, “It is sometimes referred to as detoxifying because of how affective it is at absorbing impurities from the skin.” If you have oily skin or clogged pores try the European Facial with Charcoal Mask at Mario Badescu. It totally revamped my congested skin and left me with a radiant complexion. 


It unclogs pores. 3

It unclogs pores.

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“Charcoal acts as a sort of magnet to the dirt and oil that settles into pores,” says Arboleda. “When applied topically it will help to draw out the matter that dwells in pores and leads to blemishes." Try Biore Deep Cleansing Charcoal Pore Strips ($6). It draws out even more oil than your average pore strips. 

It helps clear acne too. 4

It helps clear acne too.

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“Acne occurs when oil combines with dead skin cells,” says Arboleda. “The oil sticks to the cells preventing them from completely shedding from the face, this mixture causes congestion. Then add makeup, bacteria, and perhaps skin care products that are inappropriate for the users skin type, and you have the perfect breeding ground for breakouts.”

A good charcoal treatment will help to absorb  the access oil that’s mixed with dead skin cells and bacteria. Try Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding ($38). This wash-off treatment immediately absorbs toxins and impurities, leaving skin cleaner and clearer. 


It brightens skin. 5

It brightens skin.

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“When pores are clogged, the skin’s texture can change and can become dull,” says Arboleda. “The fewer clogged pores that exist on the surface the smoother and brighter the skin appears.” To get your glow on, try Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores ($26).


It works as a great cleanser. 6

It works as a great cleanser.

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When you think charcoal, don’t just think face masks. The oil-absorbing elements of this active ingredient makes for the perfect facial cleanser too. Try Clinique City Block Purifying Charcoal Cleansing Gel ($20).  


It fights off bacteria. 7

It fights off bacteria.

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Charcoal's bacteria-fighting and detoxifying properties makes it work better than your average soap. Try Babe Organic Charcoal Hand Wash ($38). It even leaves your skin feeling baby soft. 

It leaves skin feeling fresh. 8

It leaves skin feeling fresh.

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This miracle ingredient not only draws out impurities, but it also absorbs wetness while controlling odor, making it a great all-natural solution for underarms. Try Boscia Charcoal Deodorant ($20). 


It works as a makeup remover. 9

It works as a makeup remover.

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Charcoal melts away any makeup--even waterproof--leaving skin super soft and clean. Try Boscia Charcoal MakeUp Melter ($32). 

It polishes skin. 10

It polishes skin.

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An exfoliating sponge combined with charcoal literally does miracles, drawing out oil while also helping to loosen dead skin cells. Try Julep Charcoal Konjac  Sponge ($12). It’s even gentle enough for everyday use.