Life

At the coalface: why charcoal is a girl's best friend

Plastering your skin with something pitch black in order to clean it may seem counter-intuitive, but the benefits of charcoal are undeniable. Katie Wright scrubs up with the ingredient of the moment

Charcoal masks are all the rage right now

IF YOU thought charcoal was only useful for starting barbecues, think again.

The black stuff is the beauty industry's hottest ingredient right now, but we're not talking the same bricks you buy at B&Q.

Activated charcoal is produced with a special heating technique that causes the substance to become porous, meaning it can be used to trap chemicals.

"The first time I saw charcoal was in a Korean doctor's consulting room, he used it to purify the air," says Katalin Berenyi, co-founder of Erborian.

"Then I saw it in Korean spas. It lined the ceilings of the steam rooms and was used to trap impurities."

It can do exactly the same for your skin, which is why we've seen heaps of new product launches with charcoal featuring high up on the ingredients list.

This is beauty at the coal face.

STRIP, PLEASE

Activated charcoal absorbs oil up to 200 times better than any other ingredient, meaning not only do Biore Charcoal Pore Strips, currently reduced to £6.29 from £9.49 for six, Superdrug, suck out all that nasty stuff from your pores, they leave skin feeling less greasy too (www.superdrug.com).

THE MULTI-MASKER

A real all-rounder, Odacite Synergie Immediate Skin Perfecting Beauty Masque, £47, CultBeauty, combines charcoal and clay to minimise pores, fruit acids to exfoliate and enzymes to target hyperpigmentation (launching in September; www.cultbeauty.co.uk).

SEND POLLUTION PACKING

Designed to counteract the effects of pollution, Clinique City Block Purifying Charcoal Cleansing Gel, £18, uses bamboo charcoal to draw out impurities, while glycerin leaves skin feeling soothed and moisturised (www.clinique.co.uk).

GET STUCK IN THE MUD

A satisfyingly thick gooey green, BareMinerals Dirty Detox Skin Glowing and Refining Mud Mask, £32, is best painted on with a brush, allowing its four types of clay and charcoal to get to work for 15 minutes, before removing with a flannel for an instant brightness boost (www.bareminerals.co.uk).

PORES FOR THOUGHT

Part of the new charcoal range, Good Things Pore-fectly Clear Face Scrub, £4.99, Boots, harnesses the oil-absorbing active alongside willowbark and milled rice particles, providing a thorough exfoliating experience (www.boots.com).

GLOBAL GLOW

Formulated with bamboo charcoal from the Himalayan foothills, Japanese green tea and fair trade Kenyan tea tree oil, The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Face Mask, £15, sloughs off dead skin gently, the chunky 100 per cent vegan mask soothing even the most sensitive skin (www.thebodyshop.com).

STOP THOSE SPOTS

Bringing together tomato-derived antioxidants and activated charcoal, Yes To Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask, £12, BeautyBay, will help combat spots if used one or twice a week (www.beautybay.com).

THE SOAP STAR

Black soap? No, really, Erborian Black Soap, £13, and Cleansing Brush, £18, when dampened and used together, produce a light, purifying foam that dissolves make-up and grime. And you can buy the pair for just £24 (www.erborian.com).

IN AT THE DEEP END

Delivering deep cleaning in record time, Biore Self-Heating One Minute Mask, £8 for four, Tesco, heats on contact with water, helping to open pores and allow the all-important charcoal to suck out the nasties that cause spots (www.tesco.com).

LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

Suffering from dull, tired skin? Tom Ford For Men Intensive Purifying Mud Mask, £45, John Lewis, uses clay and charcoal to soak up dirt and grease, leaving a refreshed and brightened complexion when you rinse it off (www.johnlewis.com).

GENTLY DOES IT

Charcoal cleans, green coffee beans deliver antioxidants, and coconut oil soothes – Frank Body Creamy Face Cleanser, £15.95, takes away make-up without stripping your skin or blocking your pores (www.frankbody.com).

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