Charcoal, Anyone?  Not to start a braai or a bonfire, but to ingest or apply to your skin and hair. I was recently confronted with a wave of both shock and confusion when I saw an Instagram post of a glass of blackish liquid and the caption “charcoal infused water for a morning detox”. Trying to imagine a waitron offering me the option of lemon and ice OR charcoal as an accompaniment to the glass of water I’ve just ordered doesn’t make it seem normal either.

Before you head to the braai stand and collect your charcoal for your glass of water (which i had already deemed a reasonable course of action before I did my own research), read on to understand the health and beauty benefits of ingesting and applying charcoal, as well as the type of charcoal used to achieve these wonderful results.

(Disclaimer: if you decide to go ahead and pop a chunk of braai charcoal into your drink, please refrain from telling the doctor at the emergency room that Maisha Mazuri made you do it.)

Activated Charcoal

Charcoal, which generally consists of a combination of coal, wood, and various other substances is “activated” when it is put under high pressure with added gas or activating agents. Activating charcoal increases its surface area, allowing it to easily absorb chemicals and toxins. It is popularly used by medical practitioners to combat various forms of poisoning, including drug overdose. Toxins are absorbed by the charcoal before they reach a patient’s bloodstream ensuring that no harm is caused to the patient’s body via the bloodstream.

Health & Beauty Benefits

I initially purchased a carton of activated charcoal to ingest, as I believed it would aid in alleviating my infamous bloating and heartburn, but I soon learnt about some blog-worthy beauty benefits of activated charcoal as well.

Anti Bloating & Heartburn Remedy

After about three days of religiously drinking my water and charcoal mixture (morning and night), I noticed a considerable reduction in my bloating and heartburn. I now only consume the concoction when I experience a case of unbearable gas and it works like a charm. To avoid the bland taste and sand like texture associated with ingesting charcoal infused water, there is a pill option available at pharmacies.

Body Detox

Cold pressed juicing companies are quickly introducing activated charcoal to their detox juice ranges with the promise of increased energy, clearer skin and an overall boost in the immune system. To my charcoal infused water, I added a slice of lemon and a teaspoon of finely grated ginger for a total of seven days (and maybe it’s a mind over matter thing, as with many detox fads), but I genuinely felt more energised and cleansed. The recipe is also said to cure hangovers, but my mother reads this blog so I probably won’t be commenting too much on that subject. 🙂

Teeth Whitening 

Although I’ve read some raving reviews, this remains a claim I am yet to try, since I can’t quite imagine dipping my toothbrush in charcoal and applying It to my teeth. The mental image seems less than savoury but I do believe in the teeth whitening properties of activated charcoal, particularly because on more than one occasion I’ve had to endure the “you guys are so privileged, back in my day we used to brush our teeth using ashes from a fire” sermon. To put this to the test, you will need to create a charcoal paste using activated charcoal and (a tiny bit of) water. After your morning/ evening oral hygiene regimen, swirl the paste around your mouth, focussing on your front teeth for about two minutes. (Don’t forget to rinse out with water) The results are said to be shockingly good!

Insect Bites & Stings

A great way to “naturally” remedy small insect bites and insect related irritations, is to apply an activated charcoal paste to the affected area using a clean paper towel. For better results, secure the paste onto the affected area using the paper towel and a band aid and leave on for two hours.

Clear Rejuvenated Skin

As a makeup lover who wears a full face of makeup at least five days a week, I find the toxin absorbing properties of activated charcoal to be most beneficial to my skin. It’s easy for me to get carried away with beauty products and neglect to take care of the surface that lies beneath the Estee Lauders and NYXes so I was delighted to find an easy to make activated charcoal face mask. A mixture of activated charcoal, aloe vera gel and water applied to my face for 20 minutes (once a week), leaves my skin looking and feeling clearer and more supple. If your skin tends to dry out during winter, you may want to add a teaspoon of honey to your mask for added moisture. The mixture aids in reducing the appearance of dark marks, and if there is one thing I am always in pursuit of, it’s flawless skin.

All products are available at Dis-Chem

(Image credits: Pinterest)


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