Following the masses has never really been my thing, and I happen to work for a company that feels the same way. As the undisputed leader of the clean beauty movement, Beautycounter makes the cleanest, safest and highest-performing products on the market. But trailblazers can’t just sit back and make safer versions of products that already exist. We take innovation as seriously as safety and performance, which is why we continue to make new products that you didn’t even know you couldn’t live without.
I remember back in 2016 when Beautycounter first debuted the infamous Charcoal Cleansing Bar and Counter+ Charcoal Facial Mask. I was struggling with acne and I had no idea that a little lump of coal would transform my skin. I wasn’t the only one, and as #chargoals went viral, the industry followed suit as it always does. But as other charcoal products began to emerge the whole concept of ‘Clean Beauty,’ a term coined by our CEO Gregg Renfrew, was effectively misunderstood in these new formulations.
Activated charcoal is a powerful medium for removing impurities. Its enlarged surface area is covered with minute pores, allowing for optimal levels of adsorption. Not to be mistaken for absorption, adsorption involves the adhesion of a substance to the surface of a solid. If I lost you there don’t worry–in a nutshell, charcoal has a large surface area and impurities adhere to its surface!
This whole concept is pretty awesome until you forget about the fundamental properties of charcoal and mix it with known carcinogens, allergens, and other impurities. It doesn’t make any sense! How can charcoal do its job of removing impurities on your skin when it’s already busy removing impurities from itself?
Furthermore, adsorption is unique because molecules only adhere to the surface and thus can be re-released. So as charcoal penetrates deeply into the pores, your skin becomes more vulnerable to the absorption of these questionable ingredients. If I lost you again, below are a couple of examples to explain the problems at hand.
Every time I give a client a charcoal face wash they have poor results if they are using makeup or other skincare items with questionable ingredients present. The charcoal deeply penetrates the skin and draws out impurities, but the other products are putting those impurities right back in. So they end up breaking out instead of healing! When we remove the questionable ingredients, the client heals and the desired effect is achieved. Every. Single. Time.
Similarly, if you use a charcoal bar with fragrance, PEGs, and EDTA in the formula, the charcoal is not going to be as effective because it is already adsorbing the toxins in the formula. It will also be likely to deposit those toxins as it deeply penetrates the skin.
SO THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION IS: WHY ON EARTH WOULD SOMEONE PUT QUESTIONABLE INGREDIENTS IN MY CHARCOAL SKINCARE PRODUCTS?
Perhaps they don’t know better, or maybe they don’t have the technology to find alternative ingredients that perform just as well (if not better). Or maybe they just don’t care. Let’s face it, these questionable ingredients are easily obtained and they are cheap as hell. Most companies put profits above everything else! As a B Corporation, we always put the people and the planet over profits, so we prioritize funding the adequate research to find safer ingredients as well as using the safest stabilizers and binding agents to make those products come together.
Because all lumps of coal were not created equal, I’m going to help you make the best choice whether you choose Beautycounter or another safer brand. Please note that these concepts apply to all facial masks and other personal care products.
What NOT to look for (in other words throw these ingredients in the trash):
- Fragrance, Parfum or Natural fragrance – I could spend days talking about the fragrance loophole but I’ll summarize by saying that the federal government calls this a “trade secret,” and we have zero rights to know the ingredients that are hidden under these blanket terms. You will never see phthalates or most endocrine disruptors and allergens listed on a label because they are concealed under the fragrance loophole. I only choose to support companies that fully disclose the ingredients used to make their products smell good, and I only use products that use fragrance from a truly natural origin (but don’t forget that natural is not a regulated term so it still means nothing when printed on a product label).
- PEG compounds – Per the Beautycounter Never List, Polyethylene glycol compounds are used as “thickeners, solvents, softeners and moisture-carriers.” During the manufacturing process PEGs are contaminated with by-products ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens. (1) If you do some research of your own, which I highly recommend, you can also see links to eye and skin irritation. Check out www.epa.gov or www.ewg.org to read it for yourself.
- SLS & SLES (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate) – These surfactants can cause skin irritation and trigger allergies. Once again, they can also be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which is a carcinogen. (1)
- Disodium EDTA – “This chelating (binding) agent is added to cosmetics to improve stability. It may be toxic to organs.” (1) NBD, right? Wrong! It is a very big deal, especially for pregnant women and those with autoimmune issues..
What TO look for:
- No questionable ingredients – Once again I’m reinforcing the list above!!! When I work with clients who have eczema, psoriasis, acne or rosacea, removing Never List ingredients is always first on my list. You will spend a fortune on products and pharmaceuticals to heal your skin with no lasting success until these ingredients are removed.
- High-Quality Charcoal – When formulating the charcoal bar Christy Coleman, Chief Artistic Officer & Product Developer for Beautycounter, insisted that they only source Binchotan charcoal. Made from carbonized Ubame oak, a prized Japanese lumber valued for its ability to hold heat and yield a long burn, binchotan charcoal is made under very specific conditions.This skill can take years to perfect! (2) This charcoal is of extraordinary purity and is nearly 100% carbon! Most charcoal products on the market are made using Bamboo charcoal, which is much cheaper and less pure.
I also must add that the ingredients listed above were also linked to my cystic acne and my son’s eczema. When I eliminated them all from our laundry products, cleaning products, and personal care products we both stopped having issues!
As always, I urge you to choose Beautycounteror another safer option. The industry is trending towards safer products but there are a lot of frauds out there. Just like with food, labels can be extremely misleading and are often crafted in a way that will trick the consumer into thinking the product is safer when it is not. Terms like “natural, organic, green, paraben-free and non-toxic” are not regulated by the FDA so you cannot rely on that alone. Read the ingredients for yourself! Even if you don’t use Beautycounter, our Never List is a wonderful source so take advantage of it!
Go to www.beautycounter.com/olgathorn and read Our Story to find credible sources.
Other Charcoal Products I love:
“The Never List.” Beautycounter – The Never List. 3 Feb. 2020 https://www.beautycounter.com/olgathorn?goto=/the-never-list.
“A Kiln, a Branch and the Sea: The Making of Binchotan Charcoal.” Rikumo Journal. 3 Feb. 2020. https://journal.rikumo.com/journal/making-of-binchotan-charcoal.