What is Activated Charcoal?
While common charcoal is often made from peat, wood and coconut shell, Activated Charcoal differs as it is made especially for medicine, beauty and lifestyle products. It loses any “smoky” smell, becomes a really fine powder and a whole lot of other benefits…
To make Activated Charcoal, the common process is to steam-activate the different types of common charcoal. The coal is heated, and then activated by putting it in a furnace at very high temperatures, normally between 600– 1,200 Degrees Celsius. This is done with steam and in the absence of any oxygen.
During the process all unstable compounds are eradicated, while layers of carbon atoms are stripped off creating a network of carbon pores.
What does that mean?
The pores assist Activated Charcoal to act like a ‘hard sponge’ to capture and trap toxins and chemicals, pretty cool!
The differences between Absorption and Adsorption; why is it important to know the difference?
Now we know how the Charcoal has become activated, but how does it work?
To understand what Activated Charcoal does when we put it on our skin, it helps to understand the difference between aDsorption and aBsortion. Other than the English language giving us a massive headache, there is a purpose for the differentiation and it is important to know if we want to truly understand how this product works for us.
- Absorption is when a fluid is dissolved by a liquid or solid. An example would be soaking up spilt milk with a paper towel, or when we pass a nutrient or medication through tissues walls such as the intestine.
- Adsorption is when atoms, ions, molecules (otherwise known as really tiny stuff) form a substance which can be anything ranging from a gas through to a liquid, all those tiny particles become attached to the surface of an adsorbent. Activated Charcoal is an adsorbent, the charcoal grabs onto a toxin, or the built up dirt and oil in the pores of skin, and attaches them to itself. The charcoal is then removed with water taking the debris with it. It does not pass into our skin (absorption), therefore creating no further blockages that most skin cleansers can create.
Different types of Activated Charcoal commonly used for Skin
The best activated charcoal for skin comes from specific types of wood, and has a few names,
- Binchotan or otherwise know as white charcoal is a traditional charcoal of Japan, it has quite a big reputation, and a long history to go with it. Dating back to the Edo period (1603-1868), Binchotan was created during an era often referred to as the Golden Age, a time where the arts flourished. It was made from the raw material of oak, more specifically Ubame oak. The quality of Binchotan is attributed to steaming at high temperatures as described above. Now, Binchotan is sometimes made with a variety of hard woods. But it has a known reputation for being high quality.
- Bamboo Charcoal has a long history of use as well, first documented in China in 1486 AD, during the Ming Dynasty.
As well as the extensive documented use, Bamboo also has a remarkable microstructure especially known for it’s high absorptive capacity once carbonized. It is commonly said that the surface area of bamboo charcoal pores is 2~3 two times that of other wood charcoals.
Thus making it even more effective after going through the activation process, bamboo is also sustainable, and can benefit protecting the environment from pollutant residue, Win-win.