Both activated charcoal and clay seem to be pretty popular in the skincare world today. Being completely natural, safe, and gently detoxifying there is no wondering why! They are both known for drawing out excess oils, bacteria, and toxins from our skin, making them impressive additions to our body care products!
Activated charcoal is carbon that can be made from coconut shells, nutshells, peat, or wood. It is activated by steaming it in extremely high temps. This process expands the surface area by creating millions of pores on the charcoal, enabling it to hold onto many times its weight in toxins. Being negatively charged, charcoal attracts and traps positive charged toxins (chemicals, dirt, bacteria, etc).
Bentonite clay, made from volcanic ash, is also negatively charged in its natural state and draws toxins in the same way, where they are bound until disposed of. Clays also contain a range of nutrients and are often used in facial scrubs and masks for their gentle detoxifying properties. Check out my Calming & Cooling Peppermint Rose Marshmallow Facial recipe, if you’d like!
Does it really work?
You’ll have to tell me! Soap is a wash off product and there aren’t any studies that prove the effectiveness of charcoal or clay in soap. I absolutely LOVE and gravitate toward my charcoal and clay bars, however I don’t notice any difference with my skin between them and my standard bars. This doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t working, though this may be a decision you have to make for yourself! The entire purpose of soap is to clean – which it does by reducing water tension and drawing dirt and oils out of the skin.
What I am positive of, however, is that crafting and creating with natural additives that offer color, texture, and potential benefits make the crafting process that much more fun and inspiring! And with the potential to draw toxins from my skin, I’m all for them! These earthy additives are much more appealing than artificially colored micas and oxides. Don’tcha think?
If you’re not quite ready to experiment with making soap, you can check out my collection of clay and/or charcoal bars in my Etsy Shop!
NOTE: If you’ve never made soap before I highly recommend reading about it, understanding it, and watching videos about cold process soap making. Understanding the soaping process and terminology beforehand will make you more comfortable, give you the tools you need to troubleshoot any issues, and will help you create successful bars of soap without having excessive experience. The links below are great places to start.
Soap Making 101 – The Nerdy Farm Wife
Equipment – SoapCalc
Lye Safety Guidelines – Soap Queen
Glossary of Soap Making Terms – Soap Making Essentials
How to Make Cold Process Soap – YouTube Video – How2Soap
Soap Calculator – SoapCalc – this is great if you’re looking for soap bar quality and fatty acid composition.
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Charcoal and Clay (2 lbs, 6% superfat, 33% water)
- 2 tsp clay (bentonite, french pink, green, etc)
- 2 tsp activated charcoal
- 3.2 oz shea butter
- 8 oz coconut oil (76 degree melting point)
- 3.2 oz avocado oil
- 1.6 oz castor oil
- 16 oz olive oil
- 4.39 oz lye
- 10.56 oz water
- 1 oz of essential oils (Modern Soap Making has an excellent usage rate guide)
- .5 oz peppermint
- .25 oz pine
- .25 patchouli
- Digital scale
- Immersion blender (this one is my favorite)
- Silicone spatula
- Heat resistant glass jars/measuring cups
- 8 cup minimum for entire soap batch
- 2 cup – for lye mixture
- 4 cup for dividing soap
- 4 oz for essential oil blend
- 32 oz soap mold
- Rubber gloves
- Protective eye gear
- Make your lye solution. With your protective gear on, and using a non-reactive, heat proof container, slowly stir the lye into the water until it dissolves. Place it in a safe place. I use my kitchen sink, it’s deep, out of the way, and will contain any possible spills. I also use a fan behind me, while stirring the mixture to blow any wafting fumes through an opened window.
- Melt your fats. Combine and warm your fats (coconut, olive, avocado, shea, castor) until melted. I like to use a make-shift double boiler. Remove from heat and pour into the large bowl you’ll be using to mix your soap. I use a 1 gallon pail, leftover from my coconut oil purchases.
- While waiting for your lye solution and your fat mixture to cool to about 90-100 degrees, you can prepare your essential oil blend, and measure out the charcoal and clay. I measure my essential oils by weight on the scale.
- Making soap! Add the lye solution into your oil. Using your immersion blender, stir and pulse alternately, until you’ve reached a light trace.
- Add your essential oil blend to the entire batch. Mix well.
- Divide your batch into 2 equal portions – approx 2.5 cups each.
- Add the charcoal to one bowl and the clay to the other. Hand stir until combined, then pulse quickly with an immersion blender to ensure thorough mixing.
- At this point you could use the pot swirl method, in which you’ll pour one color back into the other and swirl very lightly before pouring into your mold. For this batch, I chose to layer the two colors directly in the soap mold. Pour a little of one, then the other, etc. Swirl it up with a spoon after, if you wish!
Let sit for 24 hours before un-molding and cutting. Allow these bars to cure for 4-6 weeks before use.