Charcoal Soap Background
One of the strangest requests we’ve had from our customers was for Charcoal Soap. I remember it clearly, even though it was years ago, because two of our longtime customers both asked for charcoal soap in the same week. I had never heard worked with activated charcoal before or even knew what it was, but that was enough to get our attention and launch a sequence of experiments that led to our best-selling charcoal facial soap.
Since “Why is charcoal good for your skin?” is still one of our most common questions at the Portsmouth Farmers Market, so we decided to write a longer article all about charcoal soap for you here!
Coal, Charcoal, and Activated Charcoal: What are they and which one goes in Charcoal Soap?
Before talking about the benefits of charcoal soap, let’s talk about the difference between coal, charcoal, and activated charcoal. (Forgive nine-year-old rock collecting me for doing a happy dance at everything we’re about to learn together 😊).
I was helping my father-in-law raise and level his 19th century barn this summer, and we kept pulling lumps of old coal from beneath it, leftover from when they used coal to heat homes in our area of NH in the 1800s. Coal was used to heat homes, because it’s highly combustible and readily available after NH forests had been stripped to make room for farm land. Here’s an old map of Rollinsford that shows when it was just fields for as far as the eye could see. Lacking wood, they used coal, a sedimentary rock composed mostly of carbon, to heat their homes.
These days, you’re probably more familiar with charcoal, another carbon compound, especially if you enjoy grilling with it when you barbecue. Unlike coal, which is a naturally occurring mineral, charcoal is made from wood, coconut shells etc. They turn into charcoal when the water and other volatile constituents of the wood are heated to 750 degrees Fahrenheit in an environment with minimal oxygen. Fun fact: If you want to make charcoal using ancient methods, all you have to do is build a large fire in a pit (high heat) and then cover the pit with mud (minimal oxygen). When you dig it up later, charcoal will be what’s mostly leftover.
Activated charcoal is the kind of charcoal used to make charcoal soap! It’s activated by hitting regular charcoal with hot air or steam, which increases its porousness and thereby its surface area. Charcoal is an excellent binding agent, which is why it’s used to help cleanse toxins from the digestive system or even in toothpaste to cleanse teeth. More surface area means more cleansing! In charcoal soap, it’s used to cleanse the pores of your skin by binding to the dirt or oil.
Charcoal Soap: Does it work?
We’re going to be completely honest here. A cursory search of the Internet reveals there haven’t been many scientific studies done in terms of peer-reviewed experiments on the efficacy of charcoal in personal care products. What we do have is anecdotal evidence from our own customers who keep using it and leaving reviews. We don’t offer anything in exchange for the reviews but find them enormously helpful for readers like you who might be trying charcoal soap for the first time. Here’s a few charcoal soap reviews!
Charcoal Soap Reviews
My go-to face soap (Sheli on Dec 09, 2021)
I have very "normal" but sensitive skin and regular face cleansers and soaps are too much (causing dryness and skin reactions). This one is just right!
Great Face Wash for Dry Sensitive Skin (Melanie on Aug 21, 2020)
I use this as my face wash and it's fantastic! I have dry skin, which gets even worse in the winter and it's very sensitive- prone to redness especially. This soap cleans without stripping all the natural oils and leaves my skin feeling soft.
So refreshing! (Bethany on Aug 20, 2020)
I bought this soap for my pre-teen daughter mostly for face washing but she also uses it for her body. The scent is so nice but also light enough that she isn’t overwhelmed. My gardener friend was gifted a free soap (by me but really Joy Lane Farm) and she loves that her hands get super clean and leave them feeling super soft in the process...because you know gardeners hands get dirty! Highly recommend!
Charcoal Soap with Tea Tree Oil, an added bonus!
Our charcoal soaps are made with the same goat milk and olive oil formula we use for all our cold process soaps. The goat milk is high in fatty acids, vitamin A, and other nutrients that make it exceptional skincare. What’s different about our charcoal soap (other than having charcoal of course!) is the addition of tea tree oil. Charcoal soap is our only soap that has it. Tea tree oil is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and excellent for treating acne. That’s why we use it in our charcoal facial soap! We also blend in a healthy amount of lavender oil for a pleasant, 100% natural scent. Give our charcoal facial soaps a try and let us know what you think! You can find them here!
<3 Joel and Katy
Hi Joel and Katy,
I absolutely love your lotions and have gifted them to friends who rave about how luxurious they are.
I’m wondering about the charcoal soap – is it ph balanced?
Keep making your great products!
Joy Lane Farm replied:
Thanks for such a nice comment! That’s a great question! Our shampoo bars are pH balanced, but our cold process soaps have a pH between 9 and 10. The reason is the chemistry behind the soap. All cold process soaps are made by combining fats (in our case plant oils and goat milk) with a strong base (sodium hydroxide). The chemical reaction between the two produces three soap molecules and one glycerin molecule. The reason the pH can’t be balanced is that the process can be reversed. Just like adding sodium hydroxide produces soap molecules, adding a neutralizer, like citric acid, would undo them. Thanks again!
Hi Joel and Katy, I was interested to find some bars of your charcoal soap in my latest bags of end pieces, especially when I saw that it’s recommended for acne. I have Parkinson’s-related rosacea, and have been trying to calm the redness with products recommended by my neurologist and dermatologist, mostly to no avail. I’ll write back if it helps. Thanks so much for offering it. [just commenting to you; not a review for posting yet]
Joy Lane Farm replied:
Thanks for trying it! We would LOVE to hear how it works for you!
Joel and Katy