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Incredible for Instagram beauty selfies! #OneFaceOnly

Born and bred in Singapore? Then you’d no doubt have memories of popping a pill or two of activated charcoal for tummy-ache; hey, odds are you’ll probably find bottles of the sooty stuff tucked away in your first-aid kit at home.

All of which is why it’s so amusing to see this revered remedy being trumpeted by the great Goop herself as some sort of “clean” beauty breakthrough.

As late to the party as Gwynnie might be, though, she does have a point. Charcoal is a crackin’ good choice if you’re looking for a deep clean and the sort of “poreless porcelain princess” complexion (a friend’s words, not mine!) that I’ve been blessed with. 


Here’s why. Activated charcoal – emphasis on the “activated” bit; never use charcoal straight from the BBQ pit, please – comprises bits of woody debris that have been heat-treated into an extremely porous form of carbon, “carbon” being of course a crucial component of pretty much anything on earth.

The result? A spongy, near-miraculous material that’s super for sopping up all manner of germs, gunk and grease. Think of charcoal as being somewhat like hyaluronic acid, that hydrating hero ingredient famed for being a moisture magnet – only this time, charcoal draws the bad stuff away from your skin. “Charcoal is known to absorb 100 to 200 times its weight in impurities, making it an excellent natural ingredient to help purify and deep-cleanse skin,” adds Wendy Brooks, director of global product development at Origins.

So we’ve established that charcoal’s great for getting under the skin and clearing out unwanted riff-raff clogging up your pores. Any caveats? Just one: Proceed with caution if you have very dry skin, as charcoal’s deep-cleansing properties might prove too astringent for your particular skin type.


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Right, then. On to product recommendations. Where can we find charcoal in our cosmetics? There’s Origin’s cult fave, of course: Its Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask is massively popular in beauty circles for its decongestant and oil-absorbing prowess. With detoxifying White China Clay and lecithin thrown into the mix for a beautifying boost, I like layering this rinse-off mask on bare skin twice a week as an intensive pore-tightening treatment.

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Then there’s the incredibly intriguing Care-Na Hot Cool Gel from Japanese brand Orbis, which boasts mattifying charcoal powder and soothing witch hazel extract in a jelly-like emulsion. This heat-activated exfoliator goes on “warm” to soften your skin before – yes, you guessed it – seguing into a “cold” finish to tighten the appearance of your pores. Very cool.

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Or rummage in your shared beauty cabinet to “borrow” your brother’s loot. I find Garnier Men’s TurboLight Double Deep Cleanse Duo Icy Foam to be one of the most purse-friendly facial cleansers for my money. Just a dollop of this charcoal-infused cream is plenty to produce soapy suds that get straight to work, sweeping away dullness and blackheads without leaving your face uncomfortably tight and stretchy in the way inferior products tend to do.

Raring to give it a go? Feel free to experiment, if only for the Instagram-friendly thrill of smothering your face in black goo. You and your pores can thank me later!

Garnier Men TurboLight Double Deep Cleanse Duo Icy Foam, $9.50, is available at Fairprice, Watsons, Guardian and selected departmental stores. For more information, follow Garnier Singapore on Facebook.  

Orbis Oil Cut Care-Na Hot Cool Gel, $21.50, is available at all Orbis counters and stores. For more information, follow Orbis Singapore on Facebook.

Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask, $50, is available at all Origins counters and stores. For more information, visit and follow Origins Singapore on Facebook.