There’s no doubt the technological and scientific advances we witness today can be a big help in the beauty and hair care industry, however, Mother Nature never ceases to amaze us. Those of you who read my posts here know that I am a big supporter of natural hair brands that insist on, favour and support natural ingredients in their products (or the closest to it) in detriment of chemical ones. In this particular blog post, I am talking about activated charcoal for your curly hair care.
Yes, charcoal my curly friend. You betcha!! No, don’t be silly, I’m not talking about that charcoal. Don’t even think about recycling your used barbeque charcoal. There’s nothing in there for you or your transitioning hair. Activated charcoal is what I’m talking about, and if you do a little search on Pinterest you’ll get all sorts of results for beauty care.
What Is Activated Charcoal?
First, I gotta be honest with you and say the two (charcoal and activated charcoal) are somewhat “related”. Charcoal is obtained by carbonising a carbon rich material such as coal, wood or coconut shells into pure carbon through heating. This is a process that exists for centuries, however, in order to obtain activated charcoal the initial charcoal needs to be oxidised (treated with Oxygen) by being exposed to CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) or steam, or by an acid-base chemical treatment. Be aware that activated charcoal can also be called activated carbon or activated coal.
The whole process of activating the charcoal turns its particles very porous and expansive now capable of adsorption (adhesion). Clear? Nooo?! OK, in other words, the process simply opens millions of tiny little holes in the charcoal activating it. Once the activated charcoal is placed into contact with a liquid or gas the toxins and other chemicals present in them (not all!) are attracted to the surface and “trapped”, ready to be removed.
This powdered natural material (depending on how it is obtained) is widely used in chemical purification processes such as water filters (3) and in hospitals to clean our organism of toxic/poison ingestions (1) and acute intoxications with drugs (2). Other uses for activated charcoal, albeit with a small sample of contradictory studies to prove it, are teeth whitening, bloating and gas (flatulence), high cholesterol or to prevent hangovers (Yes, you read right. Thinking of doing your own test on this one?!).
This black powder is also used for beauty purposes for face masks, mascara or as an eyeliner. Cool right!? So, how can you use activated carbon in your natural hair regimen? Keep reading…
Activated Charcoal For Hair Care
I’m sure you heard of bentonite and rhassoul clay and how amazing they are as no-poo alternatives to shampoo or to deeply clean your transitioning or natural hair of product build-up. Well, activated charcoal works in a similar way, it can be used to clarify and detox your hair and scalp removing toxins and build-up, it helps those with oily scalp and dandruff and it adds volume and shine to your hair.
This is all very exciting, isn’t it? The great part is that if you want to go down the DIY route activated charcoal is easy to obtain and cheap to purchase, you can even find supplement tablets of it. Did I mention SheaButter Cottage, one of my favourite natural ingredient shop, sells this?! Yes, the same one that sells my body art quality Henna and the amazing Broccoli Seed Oil, the silicone substitute!? Curious? Well, if you wanna know more about the company read this.
Psssst! This is just between you and me, but if you subscribe you’ll get access to a discount on your purchase, but only for a limited time. (*Update* the discount is no longer available)
Important! Not all activated charcoal is the same, you have powdered or granulated and, as said before, they come from many different sources thus producing different types of grains, with coconut shells having ultra-fine grains. Avoid those that have artificial sweeteners, colours or flavours as people also use activated charcoal to clean their organism of toxins. Those with light coloured hair may get their hair stained in their DIY mixes, but it should clear with plenty of water.
Activated Charcoal DIY
Topical use: Massage a small amount of activated charcoal onto your scalp and leave for 10-15 min, or has long as you can. Continue with your washing routine. Although it washes off, to avoid darkened fingers you may want to use gloves.
DIY Mixture: Mix a tablet or 1/4 tsp. of activated charcoal in your shampoo or cleansing conditioner bottle, shake to mix everything well and use as normal continuing with your hair wash routine. You can also make the mixture on a need basis and use it immediately, just use a smaller dosage.
Because activated charcoal, much like henna, can make a bit of a mess and stain clothes, floor and the like make sure you have everything covered and use old clothes, especially if do make a topical application. Please don’t a higher dosage, in doubt, use less. One gramme of activated carbon can do its job on a surface area in excess of 500 m2 (5,400 sq ft), and if you use too much you may take ages to wash it all out.
Or… The Ready-Made Version
If this is not your jam or if it sounds tricky and messy I totally get you, and please don’t feel disappointed. You can still have a go at this! While there are many companies in the beauty industry that include activated charcoal in their products, the hair industry seems to be catching up now and is finally becoming aware of its potential. Here are some products from Shea Moisture you can try:
– Shea Moisture African Water Mint & Ginger Detox Hair Care Line (sadly, this line from Shea Moisture is not yet available in the UK).
How will you use activated charcoal? Have you used it before?