Dirty Cleansers: Why You Should Be Washing up With Charcoal, Clay, Mud, and Grit

Photo: Stocksy/Mari Marija

These days, the road to purifying your pores might look more like a mud run. White charcoal, black soap, clay masks, and skin-saving muds are hotter than ever.

Why are these facial cleansers having a moment? They’re detoxers. “Activated charcoal has been treated with oxygen, which gives it the ability to act like a magnet for toxins and impurities,” explains Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, DC.

And that same serious pulling action is the appeal of coveted skin-perfecting clays, exfoliating black soap, and more. They all deep clean without over-drying, calm both acne and redness, and give you a healthy glow—all in one go.

Originally posted March 3, 2014. Updated August 7, 2017.

Here are five hot-and-dirty soaps, cleansers, and masks that will give you cleaner pores.



Morihata Binchotan Facial Soap, $31

The charcoal craze ignited here, with this cult-fave soap made from Japanese white charcoal called binchotan. (Binchotan comes oak branches, if you want to get skin-care geeky about it.) The idea behind using charcoal powder comes from its ability to purify and detoxify what it comes in contact with, and do it naturally. Its also a time-saver since it exfoliates, moisturizes, and acts as an antibacterial all in one wash.

Shamaunti activated-charcoal-cleanser

Shamanuti Activated Charcoal Cleanser, $36

Here micronized charcoal is suspended in a glam, almost iridescent liquid cleanser that smells herbal, not clinical. "I’m not a bar person when it comes to washing my face," says Shamanuti's Beth Hopkins, who’s in awe of charcoal's ability to “pull out what doesn’t belong there." It helps decongest skin, calm redness, and heal pimples. "And it does it virtuously—it doesn’t strip it and leave it dry. It's a chemical attraction that just lets your skin function better,” says Hopkins.

Osmia black clay soap

Osmia Black Clay Facial Soap, $24

If you have skin that reacts even when you put water on it, or you're a little scared to exfoliate but you really need some pore-cleansing action, try this handmade treatment soap. The combo of black hematite clay from Australia and dead sea mud mixed with coconut milk and fruit butters make it more gentle on normal to freakout-prone skin. Plus, it makes your regular soap look downright lazy and lasts about three times a long.


Shea Terra Organics Rose Hips Black Soap Deep Pore Facial Wash, $15.29 and Shea Terra Organics Authentic African Black Soap, $8.49

Tammie Umbel's popular African black soap comes from its innovators—"the Nigerian Yeruba people, who still create ash from plantain peels and cocoa pads, then blend it with oils, such as shea butter. Many other black soaps are just dye with added ash," warns Umbel. "And those can't help acne, aging, or inflammation."

Her facial wash and bar soap both work as instant-gratification exfoliants (expect a healthy pink glow) and deep pore cleansers. They've even helped customers kick their acne meds, she says. The rose hips cleanser is a bit more hydrating, while the bar can be used all over. (Think: backne and workout-related body breakouts.)


May Lindstrom Skin The Problem Solver, $100

Back slowly away from your tube of Queen Helene. This luxe, mix-it-yourself detoxing mask is a knock-out. Its raw cacao, bamboo charcoal, and "soil nutrients" (like Fuller's Earth clay) heats up on your skin while it performs its blemish-fighting, radiance-boosting magic. And while a little bowl and your fingers are fine for slathering it on, it feels way more like a sumptuous spa ritual when you use this pretty ceramic bowl and paintbrush.

If you're trying to make the switch to an all-natural beauty routine, here's where to start. Plus, the skin products dermatologists would never use.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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