RhynoD: “Activated charcoal” is carbon – which, you know, is what charcoal is made out of, mostly. They press it into smaller bits with more surface area.
Carbon like that has a lot of porous area where chemical *adsorption* can occur. Adsorption is like absorption, kind of, in that your material is “sucking up” something from a liquid or gas. In the case of adsorption, atoms and molecules stick to the surface area of your material. Charcoal, particularly activated charcoal, has a *lot* of surface area, so it can adsorb a *lot* of stuff and it can do it quickly and efficiently, and also cheaply.
That’s why they use charcoal to pump your stomach when you have alcohol poisoning. The carbon sucks up all the alcohol, then they remove the saturated carbon from your stomach, bringing the alcohol with it. What carbon remains to go through your digestive tract contains the alcohol so you can’t absorb it into your blood. [^^Or ^^not ^^maybe?](https://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/7hmd8m/eli5_how_does_activated_charcoal_work_and_why_has/dqs6r6a/) ^^I ^^dunno, ^^point ^^is ^^it ^^sucks ^^up ^^poisonous ^^stuff ^^in ^^your ^^stomach.
It’s also used in aquariums to suck up waste in the water so it can be removed when you change your filter. It’s especially good at removing heavy metals, which are sometimes present in your water at concentrations that are not high enough to hurt you but high enough to hurt your livestock. Similarly, it’s used in water purification systems (like your Brita filter) to similarly suck up some stuff in your tap water that you are trying to filter out. EDIT: And some gas masks, and industrial air pollution scrubbers, and a number of similar filtering applications. It’s quite good at actually sucking up toxic chemicals. Just, you know…not out of your face.
That tendency to suck up heavy metals has created a mystique about it, that it sucks up “toxins”. If it can purify your water, why not purify your skin? It can suck up “toxins” out of your face! (Pro tip: it doesn’t.)
nanoH2O: Take a piece of wood. Now heat it to very high temperatures in the absence of oxygen (no combustion) – this creates a very pure carbon, a charcoal. Now, expose this to an “activating” agent (like carbon dioxode) that creates a very porous structure that gives it a lot of surface area. The more area you have means you can adsorb (sort of like a sponge) more contaminants. Activating also alters the surface such that it is more attractive toward, specifically, organic compounds. Examples of organic compounds that would be of interest include oils and grime in your skin, tea/coffee stains on your teeth, and taste/odor compounds and organic contaminants in your drinking water (think fridge filter). Activated carbon is in the adsorbent family of treatment options. There are other options, but carbon is cheap and it can be sustainable if one uses resilient sources like bamboo or waste products such as coconut shell. A great invention would be turning waste plastic into activated carbon, something many are working on!
*How much surface area? The amount of AC that fits in your palm (or half a banana, if you must) is equivalent in surface area to about five football fields.
BrightenedGold: Serious question. Does activated charcoal brushing powder actually do shit? On amazon i always see before and after pictures. I figured your average joe would just upload two seperate images. But these people always have a single image divided up. Seems to professinal. Seems fake. Not buying it. Seems like its all a scam.
jsprada: Carbon is porous and acts like a filter that small tidbits will stick to.
It doesn’t actually do anything, for your skin, better than washing.
The reason it’s so popular in skin care is because of marketing.
TheKidInMe: The charcoal serves to absorb toxins and stains but will not actually whiten your teeth. Teeth color comes from the color of “dentin” which is a layer underneath the surface of your teeth. Things like whitestrips will bleach/stain the dentin white. Almost everyone has naturally off-white/yellow natural teeth. Active charcoal will just get your teeth as “white” as your teeth naturally are, but won’t give you that Hollywood smile.
cyanaintblue: Charcoal is also used for brushing teeth along with lime. Powdered charcoal with lime juice. Very effective and amazing results.
finfinshalomin: They sell products with activated charcoal the foam white and wipe clear….. charcoal is black, but consumers are morons so….