The uses of activated charcoal as both a skin beautifying and health enhancing ingredient have been widely publicised in the media recently, as consumers are encouraged to drink it (in water) add it to their facial masks, and even brush their teeth with it. But what is driving this surge of interest among consumers?

In the case of charcoal, like many ingredients touted as superfoods, what’s old is becoming new. For centuries, ancient Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine used activated charcoal to improve intestinal health given its ability to absorb toxins and carry them out of the body. But while it may be have been an established ingredient in the East, Charcoal is still novel in the West, and its purifying properties are responsible for the hit it has it become among both beauty experts and health professionals.

The common narrative that is driving the transferability of superfoods, like charcoal, into the beauty and grooming sector is the idea that ingredients effective in nourishing the body are also capable of delivering benefits when applied topically. As consumers seek to achieve optimum health and wellness both inside and out, ingredients that already hold the reputation of being ‘good for you’ are becoming increasingly evident in personal care formulations. Consumers use familiar ingredients as a basis by which they can navigate their way through the beauty and grooming space, purchasing only products that align with their wellness goals and that are able to protect and preserve their health.

Products which represent the penetration of charcoal into a range of categories within the beauty and grooming space include the Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Peel-Off Mask; the White Charcoal Mattifying Treatment Primer by Boscia, and the “Simply Coal” Body Deodorant by The Apothecary.

It is also the rise of the ‘clean’ eating movement, and subsequently the ‘clean beauty’ trend, that is intensifying the rate at which superfoods, like charcoal, are penetrating the beauty and grooming space. As unprocessed ingredients hold an allure for health-conscious consumers, products formulated with the lowest number of ingredients possible are appealing. This is driving the inclusion of superfoods within personal care formulations, given that their ability to deliver multiple benefits using fewer, yet “real” and naturally beneficial, ingredients.

Further, in the case of charcoal, while 17% of global consumers believe it will have a positive impact on their health, around a quarter of consumers believe it is an effective ingredient in beauty and grooming products according to GlobalData’s 2017 consumer survey. This indicates that while the familiarity and perceived efficacy of charcoal is still emerging, as consumers take a more holistic approach toward beauty, unfamiliar and exotic natural ingredients will hold greater appeal. This creates important opportunities for beauty and personal care brands to inspire their products with these experimental principles through the inclusion of emerging superfood ingredients while also acting as a differentiator in an increasingly competitive marketplace.