We’re all made of carbon—well, 18.5% of our bodies’ atoms are, anyway (fun fact: diamonds are pure carbon, so we’re all a little diamond). And to carbon we shall return, which is why we tend to think of it as dust or ash, and that’s not untrue. But for a dark and dirty substance that’s hard to clean, it’s actually a powerfully purifying agent.
The first carbon product that comes to mind is activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is not the same thing as those bricks your dear old dad threw into the BBQ pit on the Fourth of July. It’s derived from heating or burning mineral-rich materials, like wood or coconut shells, and its “activation” happens when the charcoal has been stripped of any and all absorbed molecules, meaning it’s totally free to absorb new matter.
This is what makes it so great for internal detoxification. Maybe you’ve imbibed a few too many and want to downplay tomorrow’s wrathful hangover. Or perhaps you’ve ingested something your body isn’t agreeing with, or you’ve gotten food poisoning. Pop a few capsules of activated charcoal, and it will prevent more of the poison from being absorbed into your stomach lining.
But it’s not just an excellent internal detoxifier. Applied topically, carbon can expand our pores to draw out toxins and build-up, mildly exfoliate, reduce inflammation on the skin’s surface level, and reveal squeaky-clean skin.
Carbon is a fantastic filter for our drinking and bathing water. Tap water from the sink, especially if you live in Southern California, is not safe to drink and not ideal for surface contact. In fact, legal limits for contaminants in tap water have not been updated for nearly 20 years, according to the EWG. Think arsenic, heavy metals, and chlorine.
Over time, these chemicals and toxins wreak havoc on our internal systems, dry out our scalp, and react with our skin and hair to create brittle bonds and damaged barriers. Carbon filters can remove chlorine, organic chemicals such as pesticides, THMs like chloroform, components of gasoline, industrial cleaners, and more.
To be clear, carbon doesn’t simply absorb toxins, but wildly attracts them. And a little bit of carbon goes a long way. It is said that one teaspoon of activated carbon has the surface area of a football field … so yeah, you’re covered. The benefit? Healthier drinking water, of course, a reduced build-up of heavy metals in the body, and much softer, healthy, and hydrated skin and hair.
Because carbon has such penetrative, toxin-absorbing properties, it can target deeper layers of the skin to stimulate collagen production. The build-up in your pores produces inflammation, so clearing that debris naturally reduces inflammation, as well. Altogether, this will produce firmer, plumper skin, reduced fine lines, and even the tone for an all-over glow.
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