4 Unexpected Uses for Activated Charcoal (#2 is My Favorite)



I haven’t ever written an entire post singing the praises of one “thing” (aside from product reviews).

But since activated charcoal has so many wonderful uses that aren’t talked about too often, I really wanted to share them with you!

My first experience with activated charcoal (which I’ll refer to throughout this post as AC) happened about a year ago when I came down with a nasty bout of food poisoning. Instead of seeing a doctor or taking medicine, I decided to consult Dr. Google on what to do. I probably typed in “natural remedies for food poisoning” or something like that.

One of the first things that popped up was activated charcoal (charcoal becomes “activated” when oxygen is added to it, increasing the charcoal’s porosity and surface area).

I had heard of people with alcohol poisoning having to take large amounts of charcoal in hospitals to get it out of their system, so it kind of made sense that it would help to remove the food poisoning toxins from my body. So my husband drove me to Sprouts to buy a jar of activated charcoal, and I took 2 capsules right away.

I don’t remember exactly how quickly I started feeling better, but it was faster than I ever would have imagined it to be. A few hours later, I took 2 more capsules. By the time I fell asleep and woke up the next morning, I was pretty darn close to feeling 100% back to normal!

Clearly, I was on to something with this charcoal stuff.

Because it’s extremely porous in nature, activated charcoal is able to attract and hold onto material and debris within its pores. It isn’t absorbed by the body — but it does bind to and eliminate toxins within the body. Pretty cool, right?

It’s important to note that activated charcoal can also bind to good things that we WANT in our bodies (vitamins, minerals, etc.) and shouldn’t be taken on a regular basis or with supplements/vitamins/prescription medications.

AC is fairly inexpensive and can be a lifesaver in many situations (which I’ll discuss below). And since a little bit goes a very long way, activated charcoal lasts a LONG time. I’ve been using the same jar I bought a year ago and still have quite a bit left (but I’m actually pretty excited to run out so I can upgrade to this ultra-pure stuff).

Here are some of the more unconventional ways I’ve found activated charcoal to be extremely useful.

  • #1: Ultra Cleansing Face Mask. Since my teenage years, my skin has never been all that great. And although I’ve definitely experienced less breakouts since going paleo and making other lifestyle changes, my skin is still far from flawless.

    But activated charcoal is helping to change that.

    Just as AC binds to toxins inside of the body, it does the same on the outside — which is why I LOVE using it as a super deep cleaning face mask. Since I began using activated charcoal as a facial mask (about 2 months ago) I’ve already noticed a major shift in the cleanliness of my skin. My pores appear to be smaller and less filled with gunk.

    To make it, I just mix one opened capsule of activated charcoal powder (or 1/2 teaspoon) with about 8 drops of water (so that it has the consistency of a paste — not too cakey and not too runny). Then mix and apply — easy! I leave the mask on for about 30 minutes before thoroughly rinsing it off with Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

    *WARNING: Activated Charcoal is extremely messy, but it does come off of most surfaces if washed right away. Be careful not to touch your face or let your face touch anything when wearing the mask. In fact, you might want to wear an old t-shirt when handling activated charcoal powder. I also recommend applying the AC mask right before a shower so that it will be easier to wash off.

    And if you have big pores (like me), the Activated Charcoal may temporarily “stain” your pores for up to 48 hours, giving them a darker, more obvious appearance than normal. This isn’t very noticeable and will always go away, but it’s something to consider (especially if you decide to apply the mask before an important event).

  • #2: Zit Spot Treatment. I wrote the rough draft for this post 3 weeks before actually publishing it. And in that 3 weeks, I discovered this use for activated charcoal (one of the few times I’ve been thankful for my tendency to procrastinate).

    After doing some good-for-the-soul indulging over the holidays, I’ve noticed at least one pimple popping up every couple of days since then. It’s been slightly disheartening, but I have no regrets — it’s good to indulge every once in awhile!

    The first time I noticed a new pimple brewing, I decided to slather it with activated charcoal. And I really chunked it on. In the paragraphs above, I mentioned how I usually use one capsule of AC (mixed with water) as a mask for my entire face. But this time, I used one capsule (also mixed with a few drops of water) just for my pimple and the surrounding area. I left it on for about 30 minutes before washing it off, and was shocked by what happened next.

    This next part is kind of graphic and gross, but it’s the truth. And I don’t know how else to describe it.

    The puss from inside of my zit was sitting on top of my skin, and the pimple itself had all but disappeared. The charcoal literally pulled the toxins and puss right out of my skin within only 30 minutes — a process that would have normally taken 2-5 days to happen by itself!

    I was shocked, amazed, and excited. Ever since that day, I’ve used AC as a spot treatment on 4 zits that I’ve had since then (told you I indulged) and the same thing has happened. Every. Time.

    Now do you see why #2 is my favorite? :)

  • #3: Natural Teeth Whitener. I used to be a total Crest Whitestrips junkie. I probably wore them twice a year for about 6 years. And boy, those things WORKED. They made my teeth so white they were almost blinding. But as part of my relatively new decision to cut toxic chemicals out of my life, I have (somewhat reluctantly) stopped using Whitestrips.

    For about a year, I struggled to find a healthy way to make my teeth sparkly and white without the use of products that contain toxic chemical ingredients. And then I found this post from Wellness Mama in which she writes about using activated charcoal as a teeth whitener.

    Natural Teeth Whitening with Activated Charcoal

    Natural Teeth Whitening with Activated Charcoal

    The jist of the post is this: Because of its ability to bind to toxins and other materials, activated charcoal can help to remove discolorations and stains on the teeth, leaving teeth cleaner and more white than they were before.

    For the last few months, I’ve been brushing my teeth with a mixture of about 2 tablespoons baking soda, 2 tablespoons redmond clay, and a few capsules of activated charcoal powder. I only do this at night, and then brush with my usual toothpaste in the morning. I’ve been super happy with the results and SO wish I had taken before/after pictures!

    It’s no Crest Whitestrips, but it’s the best way to naturally whiten teeth that I’ve found so far!

    *Important Note: I only recommend using this mixture once a day and for about 1 week on, 1 week off.

  • #4: Bug Bite Be-Gone. This was probably the most astonishing experience I’ve had with activated charcoal to date. A few months ago, I got a pretty gnarly bug bite on my forearm.

    I have no idea what it was from, but it was huge and red. And it wasn’t going away. After a few days of not being able to move my wrist more than a 1/2 inch in any direction due to the extreme swelling, I decided to experiment with my trusty activated charcoal. I made a paste of AC mixed with a few drops of water and applied it to the bite. I covered it with a very large bandage to keep it from getting all over my bedding and left the paste to sit on my arm overnight.

    When I woke up, the swelling had gone down significantly and I could move my wrist around like a normal person once again! I applied the paste again the following night and didn’t need to do anything beyond that as my bug bite had already healed faster than I’ve ever had a bug bite heal (and I’ve had many — I’m one of those people who bugs love).


Do you think all of this sounds crazy? Or are you dying to add activated charcoal to your personal care routine? Have you tried using activated charcoal in other ways not mentioned above? Let me know by commenting below!

Disclaimer: Bethany McDaniel/From the Pasture is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Please know that I ONLY recommend products that I wholeheartedly support and believe to be of value to my readers.


      • analex says

        Believe it or not , from my own experience ac is the cure to parvo in dogs! I was a little iffy on how well it would work or if it ecen would work but in two days my pup went from lethargic, not eating, blood and vomitting to back up and running full energy and appitite. The vets treatment was 800$ and a 50/50 chance of survival. This stuff is amazing i also use it as a mask and teeth whitener im excited to try the spot on treatment though

  1. Valerie - cocos_paleo_kitchen says

    Hi Bethany! So do you recommend the brand you have the link to? Or from Sprouts? I saw some at Sprouts but wasn’t sure. Thx!!!

    • Bethany McDaniel says

      Hey Val! Yes, I recommend the brand I liked to in the article. It’s made from coconut shells and is very pure!

  2. Shelby says

    I had a root canal on my front tooth and because of that my tooth is darker than the others. Would this make that tooth whiter as well?

    • Bethany McDaniel says

      Not sure, Shelby! I wish I had a better answer for you, but I don’t have any way of knowing for sure. I don’t see any harm in trying it!

    • Dee says

      Hi. Have you tried this yet? Did it work? I have the same darkening issue due to a root canal on my front tooth. Please let me know! Thanks.

    • ShiAnn says

      Unfortunately, activated charcoal will only remove darkness due to staining. When your tooth becomes dark after a root canal, it is because the tooth has died. Bleaching will help a little bit!

    • Kari Seiler says

      I have the same exact problem and to be honest I don’t think it worked at all on any of my teeth. I’m dissapointed but hopefully this works for others!

  3. cassy says

    FINALLY bought the one from your link!
    i cannot wait to try it.. my face is breaking out more than usual. i think its mostly due to PMS since i have been strict paleo from Jan 5. Hope this helps!
    also looking forward to whiter teeth! And hoping it helps with the little red bumps on the back of my arm, thats been a life long struggle and only get really bad is this dry winter weather.

    • Bethany McDaniel says

      Awesome, Cassy! As I mentioned above, it’s especially effective as a spot treatment. Hope it helps! Have you checked out Liz Wolfe’s Skintervention Guide yet? It’s pretty amazing. She provides natural solutions to a number of skin conditions, including acne and those little bumps on the back of the arm! It’s helped me a TON. You can click on the banner on the right of this blog for more info if you’d like!

      Thanks so much for reading! :)

    • J Sutherland says

      Hi Cassy, the little red bumps can be caused by too little lineolic acid in your body. Try eating a couple of eggs a week. When I did that, my arms cleared up completely. I guess you could also buy a supplement for lineolic acid. LOVE the posts on activated charcoal !!! Definitely going to try.

  4. Eva says

    Thanks for this awesome post! I’ve been wanting to try AC for quite a while now. I’m ordering the kind you recommended today!

  5. Joy says

    SO excited to try this stuff out! I’m a college student trying to work natural resources into my beauty/care routine and a friend gave me a little baggie of AC about 8 months ago…and I only kept it around really for like a REALLY bad flu or something where I needed to drink it! I had NO idea of these benefits until your blog popped up on my feed! SO excited to explore this more! Thanks Bethany! :)

  6. Barb Markham says

    Just a little comment from a medical standpoint, “pus”. Puss is a cat. If you want the adjective, it is “pussy” but prefer purulent. Great post and I am using this ASAP!

  7. HoMe says

    You can easily remove the pore stains from your face by using a baking soda/100% pure lemon essential oil toner. Start with a few teaspoons of baking soda (depending on how abrasive you need it) and 8-10 drops of 100% pure lemon essential oil. Add about 16 oz. of water and shake it up. You can soak a cotton ball with it and swipe it over any leftover charcoal residue. Works instantly! This is also good for an anytime exfoliator, just be sure to use sunscreen as you may be more sensitive to damaging rays for a few days afterward.

  8. Lynn says

    Please be sure to buy baking soda at the Natural Health Store as regular baking soda at the supermarket has aluminum in it. People believe that baking soda is so healthy to use but you must be very careful what baking soda you use especially when using for your teeth.

  9. says

    I was a white strips junkie for years too! But in 2012 I started developing major tooth sensitivity every time I tried them. I read about the activated charcoal trick (also on Wellness Mama) and can’t believe how well it works.
    My skin has cleared up so much ever since I removed grains and dairy from my diet years ago, but will definitely try this as a spot treatment for the rare breakout that pops up from time to time.

  10. KAtie says

    Just used it as a spot treatment after the shower for my cystic zits. It did EXACTLY the same thing you were talking about and I cleared to gunk out. WOO!

  11. jj says

    Your so cute even with ac all over your face! I will give this a try. Thanks! Congratulations on Baby June she’s beautiful!! My 6th grandchild was born on June 4th. A little girl also…Colby Jo

  12. Lilli says

    Sitting on my bed with a face covered in charcoal, in a dressing gown and feet covered in an intensive moisturiser. Pampering bliss :)

  13. says


    I would definitely try this AC on my zit. I never thought that this AC could be this fast effective when treating zit. Thank you for sharing.


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