Charcoal is making its rounds again in not just skin care but hair products as well. An ingredient for clearing toxins, more brands are including it in their formulas for cleaning hair and scalp of impurities from the environment. We hear it, see it, and love using it, but what is charcoal and is it really an asset in our hair care regimens? 

What is charcoal?

Mostly pure carbon, charcoal is a certain kind of half-burnt wood and the best charcoal comes from hard wood like beech or oak. The charcoal is made by cooking the wood in a low oxygen environment. Archaeological evidence of charcoal production goes back around 30,000 years ago.

What is the difference between charcoal and activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is similar to regular charcoal but is made specifically for used in medicines to treat poisonings, reduce gas and cholesterol levels, and even to prevent hangovers. The regular charcoal is heated in the presence of a gas that causes the charcoal to create internal spaces or “pores” and that allows the charcoal to trap the chemicals, increasing its absorbing power.

Does charcoal really remove toxins?

I wanted to find out so I enlisted the help of scientific consultant Yolanda Anderson, M.Ed., RPhT to find out.

First of all, what are toxins?

“Toxins can be anything from pollution in the environment to medications that you take even the foods you eat. Toxins lodge in your cells, soft tissues, and muscles, and overwhelm your entire immune system. It is a poisonous non-biological substance (but sometimes proteins can be toxins) that causes disease when introduced in the body."

Does charcoal remove them?

"Activated charcoal, or activated carbon, has oxygen added to it to increase its porosity, thereby, adding to its surface area. More surface area allows for more contact between molecules increasing the rate of reaction. It is used to remove toxins in chemical reactions. Best example is using activated charcoal to filter fish tanks. You can also ingest activated charcoal as a supplement.”

So, activated charcoal does remove toxins and toxins can be more than just environmental pollutants or substances inside our bodies. Toxins can be in our hair or on our scalp so shampoos with activated charcoal serves a useful purpose.

Here are ten shampoos + 1 DIY recipe with the toxin destroying benefits of charcoal.

Apotheke Sulfate free Charcoal Shampoo

Acidity neutralizing, impurity absorbing charcoal shampoo by Apotheke is sulfate free and scented with only essential natural oils.

Ecomax Natural Bamboo Charcoal Shampoo 

Made with bamboo charcoal powder, decyl glucoside (mild non-ionic surfactant), citric acid, cocamide DEA (surfactant derived from coconut oil), and cocamidoproply betaine (Foam booster derived from coconut oil). A natural shampoo created to soothe while stimulating scalp and skin.

Hask Charcoal Clarifying Shampoo

A potent clarifying shampoo using the power of charcoal, lemon, and grapefruit oils to eliminate impurities on the hair and scalp. Water, cleansing agents, and glycerin make up this powerful and effective shampoo.

Myth Bamboo Charcoal Detoxifying Shampoo

Made with DI water and bamboo charcoal, this detoxifying shampoo is potent at drawing out the dirt, toxins and pollutants from your hair and scalp. No parabens, silicones, or fragrances and 85% natural.

Pelican DEI-TAN-SEKI Clay & Charcoal Shampoo

Harness the power of charcoal and clay in this impurity fighting shampoo. Water, cocamidopropyl betaine, and charcoal powder cleans effectively yet gently and even has camellia seed oil for softness.

SheaMoisture African Black Soap Deep Cleansing Shampoo 

SheaMoisture brings a soothing shampoo with this sulfate-free deep cleansing. Charcoal, plantain enzymes, and tea tree oil work hard at relieving itching and irritation.

SheaMoisture Detox & Refresh Hair & Scalp Gentle Shampoo 

This new line from SheaMoisture brings African water mint, ginger activated charcoal, and opuntia extracts to remove dirt, oil, and product buildup effectively. Sulfate free and great for all hair types, this new gentle shampoo will moisturize, sooth, and stimulate scalp circulation for healthy hair.

Sort of Coal - Kuro Activated Charcoal Shampoo 

Better suited for oily to normal hair types, this black shampoo cleanses your hair to get it clean, healthy, and lustrous with the power of activated white charcoal.

Sort of Coal - Shiro Activated Charcoal Shampoo

White charcoal is used in this scalp stimulating, impurity absorbing shampoo. No parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances or dyes, this activated charcoal shampoo is perfect for normal to dry hair types.

Voodoo Bamboo Charcoal Shampoo Bar From Australia with Organic Leatherwood Honey

Mountain spring water, bamboo charcoal, coconut oil, and olive oil make up the backbone to the only shampoo bar on our list. This leaves hair incredibly clean and shiny without the impurities and scalp ailments like dandruff and eczema.

Turn your regular shampoo into a charcoal shampoo

Just open up a capsule of activated charcoal and mix in with a dollop of your favorite shampoo to get the toxin-ridding benefits of charcoal.