This Ingredient Looks Scary — But Has Some Pretty Great Uses

I’ve noticed that the soaps and facial masks used in high-end skin treatments have started taking on a dark-as-night hue, thanks to the addition of one key substance: activated charcoal.

You may have seen activated charcoal—basically, regular charcoal that’s been mixed with oxygen to become especially absorbent—kicking around your parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinet in powder form in a small bottle or in capsules. It’s been a folk cure for an upset stomach and a remedy against household poisoning for generations. (Hospitals use it to soak up toxins and drugs from the digestive system, too.) But its use goes back even further. North American Indians used it for gas pains and skin infections, and the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates recommended the use of charcoal for medicinal purposes.

Given its ability to absorb other substances, activated charcoal has some pretty practical everyday applications, too, and these ones will help your skin look better, your mouth healthier, and even your home smelling better. Here are some quick, easy ways to try it yourself.

A number of beauty brands are packaging activated charcoal into masks that remove blemish-causing dirt, oil, and other impurities from the skin. But you can get the same effect for a lot less money (and have more fun at the same time) by doing it yourself.

To make your own dark, purifying mask, combine 1 teaspoon activated charcoal, 1 teaspoon rose water, 1 teaspoon aloe vera gel, and ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Mix it until you have an even consistency. Apply the mask to your skin, allow to dry, and then rinse off.

It may not look too attractive while you’re doing it, but brushing your teeth with a little activated charcoal added to your toothpaste helps fight tartar buildup and removes stains on your teeth. Swish it all around in your mouth before spitting it out to help get bad-breath-causing bacteria off your tongue and cheeks, too.

Activated charcoal’s jet-black hue and ability to form a paintlike substance makes it ideal for creating a matte black eyeliner. Wet a clean, angular eyeliner brush with water or saline solution before dipping it into some charcoal powder. Swirl it around on the back of your hand until it has the consistency of a thin paste before applying.

Activated charcoal is effective at absorbing and trapping bad odors, too. Placing a few tablespoons of activated charcoal in moist saucers and place them around a room for an air freshener that will work overnight.

GiadaWeekly is the digital food and lifestyle magazine from cookbook author and Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis. To get a new issue each Thursday, download the app or subscribe at www.giadaweekly.com. And follow GiadaWeekly on Instagram and Facebook

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