Charcoal for Odors and Personal Care: How Does It Work?

By Bridget M. Burns in Natural Products

You might associate charcoal with grilling food or creating artwork. You know it as a soft, dark material that seems to stick to everything, including your clothes! Chances are, you have never considered its odor-removing abilities or realized that it can work in a toothpaste.

Activated charcoal is an increasingly popular ingredient in natural personal care products, with ongoing studies producing a growing list of potential uses and benefits. Here's the lowdown on how this Earth-based substance works to remove odors and how it may benefit your personal care routine.

What Is Activated Charcoal?

Charcoal powder is made by heating an organic material, such as wood or peat, to a very high temperature. Activated charcoal, also called activated carbon, is charcoal powder that has gone through an additional treatment to create holes and pores, increasing its surface area, explains the National Institutes of Health. The National Capital Poison Center says that just one teaspoon of activated charcoal has about the same total surface area as an American football field.

In the medical field, activated charcoal is used to treat poisonings, according to the Mayo Clinic. It also has many industrial uses, namely in water filtration systems, explains the National Capital Poison Center.

Paper bags of charcoal

Charcoal for Odors

According to North Dakota State University, filtering drinking water with activated charcoal effectively removes any unwanted odors through a process called adsorption. During adsorption, the positively charged activated charcoal attracts the negatively charged contaminant ions, making the compounds easy to remove when they adhere to the charcoal's surface. This process, in which molecules become attached to charcoal, is different from absorption, which is when a solid soaks up a liquid, explains Sciencing. Because activated charcoal has such a large surface area, it is an extremely effective adsorbent.

The adsorption process also allows charcoal to remove odors from wounds. According to Pallipedia, placing charcoal briquettes in a patient's hospital room or covering their wound with a charcoal-based dressing can help adsorb the associated odors.

How Does Charcoal Work for Personal Care?

Can the industrial and medical uses of charcoal translate to your daily personal care routine? Thanks to the unique adsorption properties of charcoal, it is popping up everywhere in personal care. This includes supplements, facial cleansers, and even teeth whitening products. There are also natural toothpaste formulas that include the ingredient.

activated charcoal toothpaste and toothbrush

In the case of Tom's of Maine Activated Charcoal Toothpaste, the formula removes surface stains to help restore your teeth to their natural color and is specially crafted for everyday use. It allows you to gently whiten teeth the natural way, using ingredients you can feel good about.

The applications of activated charcoal have grown beyond the industrial and medical fields to now encompass personal care products. Have you thought about trying charcoal toothpaste? Learn more about natural ingredients by following the Ingredients from Nature board from @tomsofmaine on Pinterest!

Image Sources: Flickr | Flickr | Bridget M. Burns

The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.

Why It's Good

Why use artificial ingredients when natural ingredients from the Earth can achieve the same results? Activated charcoal has powerful capabilities, which is why this increasingly popular ingredient is effective in natural personal care products!