Michael Todd Charcoal Detox Deep Pore Gel Cleanser Review

michael todd charcoal cleanser michael todd cleanser front michael todd cleanser

I have been using the Michael Todd Charcoal Detox Deep Pore Gel Cleanser for about 3 months. This cleanser is for oily and acne prone skin and claims to remove dirt, oil and makeup without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. It also claims that the absorbent activated charcoal penetrates into pores to draw out impurities and blockages. This product is certified vegan, uses 70% organic ingredients and is made in the USA. Directions state to shake well before each use.

The packaging of this product could be improved. It comes in a bottle with a pop-off type lid.  I prefer products with a pump, or better yet, an airless pump that reduces the risk of impurities and bacteria entering the product. *Please see note below.

I use a dime size amount of this cleanser morning and night by massaging onto my face and neck for about a minute. At  night I use this with my Clarisonic Mia. This gel cleanser feels nice on the skin and doesn’t lather much. I find that too much lather such as a foaming cleanser can make the skin feel dry and tight. It rinses nicely with no residue and the skin feels soft, oil-free and clean with no tightness.

Looking over the ingredient list (I won’t go over each ingredient, but will mention some perhaps unfamiliar ingredients or ingredients that stand out to me), aloe leaf juice is first. Aloe contains two hormones,  auxin and gibberellins, that have anti-inflammatory properties and can help minimize acne and promote cell growth. Being a rinse-off product, these benefits might be minimized as opposed to a leave-on product. Tea tree oil also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This cleanser uses a number of plant extracts that could be irritating to the skin; wintergreen, orange, lemon, lavender. I, however, have not experienced any irritation. Bilberry, sugar cane and maple extracts are the ninth, tenth and eleventh ingredients and are sources of AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) used as exfoliating agents to aid in cell turnover. Oily skin needs help exfoliating. I was surprised to see activated charcoal toward the bottom of the ingredient list at number nineteen of twenty-eight. Being called “charcoal detox cleanser”, I would have expected it to be towards the top. *Please see note below.

The name of this product, Charcoal Detox Deep Pore Gel Cleanser, to me, implies that this detoxes the skin. This cleanser claims that the charcoal is able to penetrate the pores and draw out impurities. Activated charcoal, when taken internally at the right time as an emergency treatment, may help with food poisoning or a stomach flu as it absorbs most toxins and poisons before they can harm the body. It is also used in water filters. Can activated charcoal draw out impurities and detox the skin? I looked at PubMed for any articles relating to charcoal detoxifying or purifying skin and could not find any. I did find that charcoal can help with odors of blistering skin and skin loss related to wounds such as open ulcers from diabetes, for example. So it seems that charcoal will not help with intact skin (from what I could find).

It may be that cleansers such as this with activated charcoal rely on other good ingredients that cleanse, exfoliate and help heal the skin such as the aloe juice, sugar cane extract and tea tree oil.

This cleanser has retinyl palmitate and beta carotene. Acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer can combine to water and oil to create a smooth consistency and can also be used as a stabilizer. Benzyl alcohol is second-last on the list. This type of alcohol can be problematic in high amounts, but nothing to worry about in this product.

Throughout my few months of using this twice a day, my skin hasn’t been irritated and does not feel dry after use. My skin is very oily by the evening and this washes away the oily feeling without leaving a dryness. I don’t usually wear makeup, but when I do this cleanser is able to wash it away. Compared with other cleansers I have used in the past, this one seems to indeed be helpful for my oily skin and helped clear up some bumps and congestion on my forehead.

Despite activated charcoal popping up in many skincare products, I could not find any science-based evidence that it works to detox the skin and purify pores. It might be a logical jump though; if activated charcoal can absorb toxins/poisons from the body to prevent further harm, it might pull out impurities and toxins from the skin. Perhaps clever marketing? In any case, I like this cleanser, I don’t find it very expensive and it lasts a long time. I like that it has no artificial colors or fragrance. It does have a smell that may bother some. It is pretty strong in the jar, but when taking a bit to spread on the face, it wasn’t so bad. I couldn’t put a name to the smell and when I asked my husband, he said it smelled like lilacs in acid…a pretty good description actually. I don’t mind the smell though and it is being washed off anyway.

*Note: Since buying this, I note on the website that the packaging has been changed to a pump. The ingredients have also changed a bit. The activated charcoal is third and twentieth on the list. Why that would be I am unsure, and it looks like they took out the benzyl alcohol. On the Michael Todd website, it states that they are always improving formulations and ingredients and the ingredients on the website should be taken as up-to-date.

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