Q: How safe are products with charcoal in them to use on your face? I'm trying the Boscia black facial care line and would love to know more about it!
A: Charcoal is a safe ingredient for the skin, and the main feature of "activated charcoal" is its absorbency. After being treated with oxygen, the particles of carbon are filled with tiny holes that allow for absorption. This is what makes charcoal such a popular ingredient for things like water filters.
In skin care, again its draw is its draw--its ability to draw in oil is a valuable addition to other absorbent materials like clays. Personally, I find its use in cleansers slightly dubious, though. I'm not sure how much value there is in adding charcoal to a mix of cleansing agents (there may be value, I just am not sure how much, if any). It seems like more of a buzzword in cleansers than a truly beneficial ingredient, whereas in something like a mask, a formulation designed to sit atop the skin and absorb oil (in this case), charcoal seems more valuable. Then again, that's also what clays do. I don't have any data on their comparability--I'm sure charcoal is a superior absorbent--but no single ingredient is The Best Ever when so many ingredients in the realm of skin care do almost exactly the same thing.
That's why I try to encourage skepticism of buzzword ingredients: there's almost always another ingredient that will do what yon miracle ingredient with the sparkly graphics promises, and the best way to solve our skin care woes is with an army of ingredients, not a single super-soldier. Clearly I've been watching too many movie trailers, but you get my point. We're back to marketing.
As long as people aren't grinding up charcoal briquettes into DIY scrubs (I tease, but some of these recipes give me nightmares!), charcoal is a fine and safe addition to any routine that would benefit from ingredients like clays. It's just not a miracle ingredient, but almost nothing is.