Are charcoal facial peels, pore scrubs and toothpaste safe to use?

ANSWER: In the short run, they may brighten your skin and lift stains off your teeth, but in the long run they may contain ingredients that dry out your skin, create an allergic reaction and scrub off protective tooth enamel.


Dr. Tina Alster- Founding Director, Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery,

Dr. Noelle Sherber- M.D. F.A.A.D., Co-owner of Sherber + Rad

Dr. Eugene Giannini- D.D.S., American Dental Association Dentist and Giannini Gray Dental Partners


In recent years activated charcoal stormed social media with a throng of faithful Do-it-yourselfers and beauty specialists saying the ashy product can naturally brighten your skin and bleach your teeth.

Millennials made charcoal popular by posing and posting photos while bearing black face masks and peels. On Instagram and Pintrest one can find variations of at-home charcoal toothpastes all claiming to whiten teeth by multiple shades in five minutes.

Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. 📷 Repost @cathmo__

A post shared by Charbon Noir Cosmetics (@charbonnoircosmetics) on

I got mine from 💫

— Alicia Salome (@salome_alicia) July 20, 2017

Some scientists are skeptical about the fad, so Verify entered the conversation to find out whether activated charcoal is safe for consumers.

Dr. Tina Alster and Dr. Noelle Sherber, both say activated charcoal are meant for certain people who may have oily skin but is definitly not the best thing out there nor is it made for everyone,

"Activated charcoal has been used for certain poisons to rid the body of some toxins...but if you put it on your face everyday it actually may cause more harm than good because it can over-dry the skin," Alster said. "You want to have a certain amount of oil on the skin so you don't make it more susceptible to infections and other irritants."

Over Skype Alster recommended using face wash and a gentle vibrating brush to brighten your face.

Sherber agrees that, while charcoal is good at drawing toxins from the body when administered orally in a hospital setting, clay is a proven ingredient to clear pores of oil and adding charcoal to skincare may not be necessary for best results.

"From a safety perspective, it's unlikely to cause allergy in it of itself but some of these formulations can be harsh," Sherber said when Verify visited her office at Sherber + Rad. "Other ingredients getting mixed in, especially if the mask is made in another country under conditions that are less stringent, that's where I start to worry."

Activated charcoal in skincare and toothpaste is not approved by the Food & Drug Administration nor the American Dental Association. Even though cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA approval before popping up on shelves, they cannot be mislabeled or considered unsafe, even when coming from overseas.

Dr. Eugene Giannini, ADA Dentist at Giannini Gray Dental Partners, says there are much better whitening products available, without sacrificing tooth enamel.

"Teeth don't grow back and that's the problem," Giannini said over Skype. "You're putting yourself at's like sandpaper on your teeth."

In conclusion, we can verify that activated charcoal isn't necessarily dangerous, but it's not regulated by the ADA or FDA. Your face can become dry and irritated and your teeth can become brittle.

What all three experts say is before adding any new product to your hygiene routine, consult your doctor. If the label looks like it's from overseas, investigate the ingredients.


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