Activated charcoal (charcoal with added oxygen) is one of the hero ingredients in the skincare world. It might not seem like black gunk leftover from burning wood or coconut shells would be that beneficial to our skin, but that inky residue can remove dirt, oil and impurities. It’s the reason why there are now countless activated charcoal products from deep cleaning cleansers to masks to even whitening toothpastes. Most of us are game to slather on any charcoal-based products in the name of clear skin, but would you also eat it?

Supplements and ingestibles are an interesting up-and-coming category in the beauty world that give new meaning to beauty starting from the inside out. While skin-perfecting vitamins and supplements don’t seem out of the ordinary, chomping on charcoal is a bit perplexing for most of us. So, should we be hopping on the bandwagon?

The Claims

Holistic Nutritionist & Beauty Expert, Paula Simpson, explained to us that ingestibles are beneficial compared to topically applied products because those applied on faces and bodies draw out toxins through the skin. In contrast, those taken orally are able to absorbs toxins within the gastrointestinal tract before they can be absorbed fully into the body.

In the case of ingesting activated charcoal for general health, it’s not actually a new thing like unicorn macarons and seaweed pizzas. Paula explains that activated charcoal has been used traditionally to remove poisons from the body. That’s why charcoal is sometimes used in hospitals. She elaborated, “It acts like a sponge in the gastrointestinal tract, binding to and removing toxins before they can be absorbed into the body. It’s often used to support a cleansing or detoxification plan.” Additionally, there are claims that ingesting activated charcoal can help lower blood pressure, relieve bloating and gas, whiten teeth, lower cholesterol, and cure those head-splitting hangovers. Although, Paula points out that these have little reliable and scientific evidence to support them.

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Ways To Include It

You can also find premixed charcoal in a lot of trendy juices and waters. (Kim Kardashian is apparently a fan of the latter.) Check out your local health food stores, or even larger grocery stores, for options like Juice Served Here 19 Charcoal Lemonade ($10) and Luli Tonix Black Magic ($9) and Dirty Cleanse Lemon Detox Elixir ($14.99).

Just be aware that you can ingest too much charcoal. Paula suggests that you should be having activated charcoal occasionally. So, don’t go replacing your usual Starbucks with charcoal juice. Ingesting charcoal isn’t meant to be a daily thing.

Because of the way activated charcoal supports the body’s natural detoxification process, it can be quite dehydrating. So, Paula recommends drinking lots of water. She writes that some experts suggest having 12 to 16 glasses a day.

The Downsides

Taking charcoal orally can also cause issues such as constipation, gastric distress and potential blockages. Paula cautions that it can also impact the absorption of certain medications and nutrients. So if you’re on any pills, it’s wise to speak to your doctor before adding charcoal to your diet. Until you get the clear, stick with your satisfying peel-off charcoal masks.

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