This Miracle Combo Rescued my Hair, Skin, Teeth, and Shoes
Activated charcoal and baking soda!
I cannot wait to share this 2 ingredient recipe with all of you! This combination can save space in your travel bag, the cost of multiple, redundant hygiene products, and at least a few bottles of wasteful packaging. The best part is, it will make your teeth, hair, and skin SHINE! I have so many other uses to share of these two products, but today I’ll share a few of the most useful ones.
2 weeks ago, I travelled cross-country for the week and packed in a hurry, leaving behind some essentials. When staying at hotels, I always bring my own refillable containers with shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and soap, to prevent using the small, disposable plastic bottles provided by most hotels. This swap also prevents me from experimenting with new products on my body and having unfavorable outcomes like breakouts, overly dry skin, or rashes.
After checking in, I opened up my upcycled cosmetic bag from GlobeIn (this subscription was one of the best gifts I have ever gotten!), which is made out of plastic sachets from landfills, to find that my toothpaste was nearly running out and I did not pack face wash or a facial scrub. I also realized the next day that my hair needed to be washed (I usually go a few days between washes) and that my shoes, ballet flats that had been hibernating for the past few cold months, were smelling like… well, shoes.
Lucky for me, the baking soda & charcoal-based mix that I did remember to pack would solve all of these problems! I had originally brought it along to use as a teeth whitening powder, but it ended up providing me with so much more value.
I should first reassure you what activated charcoal isn’t: the charcoal blocks used on your grill. Charcoal is carbon; activated charcoal is a combination of bone char, coconut shells, peat, petroleum coke, coal, olive pits or sawdust in powder form that has been processed at very high temperatures with oxygen to reduce the size of its pores and increase its surface area, in powdered form. When ingested or applied, the porousness contributes to the powder’s negative charge, which attracts (and pulls away) positively charged chemicals, such as gases and free radicals, and from the body. This characteristic makes charcoal an effective additive or base for a detoxifying solution, and the perfect ingredient for the situation that I was in.
It can be purchased as a powder or in capsule form. I prefer to purchase the powder, as the packaging has less waste, and its easier than breaking capsules open to use them.
What is baking soda?
Sodium bicarbonate is one of the cheapest and most versatile DIY ingredients that I can recommend. Its adsorbent properties allows it to pull stains from the teeth and odors from shoes, alkaline pH allows it to neutralize acidic substances (orally or topically), and antiseptic properties make it a great cleanser for your home or body. Baking soda can be purchased as a powder in the baking aisle at your local grocery store.
Here is my multi-purpose baking soda & charcoal mix, and how I used it.
Charcoal + baking soda + coconut oil (stored separately) + essential oil of choice (optional)
Whitening toothpaste AND Dry shampoo & conditioner AND Exfoliating face wash AND!!! Shoe deodorizer
One quick disclaimer: coconut oil is comodogenic, which means it can block your pores. It has also been known to make coarser hair more dry and brittle. I can use it in moderation without experiencing any breakouts, and it work well in my hair, but make sure coconut oil is safe for you.
Whitening Toothpaste Recipe Together, use 2 parts coconut oil with 1 part baking soda, just a few pinches of charcoal, and a few drops of lemon essential oil for this recipe. Scoop the mixture onto your brush and add water until you have your desired consistency.
Benefits of charcoal and baking soda for teeth Charcoal’s high absorbency, is attributed to its negative electrical charge which allows it works to bind to positively charged substances and free radicals exposed to the mouth, and can essentially pull stains from the teeth, whitening teeth when used long-term.
Baking soda is beneficial in toothpaste for its alkalinity (pH of 9-11), which neutralizes the acidic pH of the foods your mouth is exposed to. It is also far less abrasive than charcoal. Coconut oil’s best benefit here is that it creates the creamy toothpaste-like texture, and it is also antifungal (particularly against the infection candida) and antibacterial.
Use charcoal (on your teeth) with caution While there has been no formal research confirming the teeth-whitening affects of teeth, the FDA has approved it for many health uses. It is important to know that activated charcoal is a harsh abrasive which can damage your dental enamel (The FDA recommends a Relative Dentin Abrasivity score of under 200 for dental products; activated charcoal scores 70-90). My personal preference is to use activated charcoal in moderation only, such as this emergency situation, and use a similar combination (of baking soda, coconut oil, and lemon essential oil only) to brush my teeth. I will share another post just on toothpaste, and custom ingredients (like bentonite clay, a natural alkaline polisher) to add to your DIY toothpaste or powder for your dental needs.
When I can’t avoid it, I use Tom’s toothpaste, which is natural, sustainable, and responsible, especially compared to other brands. Toothpaste packaging is extremely difficult to recycle and most toothpastes include ingredients that I prefer not to use. SLS can cause canker sores, titanium dioxide serves no purpose except to make the toothpaste white in color, and glycerin strips the mouth’s natural mucosa. Making your own toothpaste is also much cheaper in the long run, especially if you already have these ingredients in your home.
Dry Shampoo Recipe Activated charcoal (powder) and baking soda both work in the same way to adsorb (pull and adhere to) dirt, oils, and odors, or other unwanted molecules on the scalp. Essential lemon oil adds fragrance from a natural, safe source. Rosemary oil is another great alternative which promotes hair growth. When mixed together ( I recommend 1 part charcoal to 2 parts baking soda, with a few drops of oil), this powder can be sprinkled onto the hair and massaged into the scalp. Hair will smell great and scalp will feel clean!
In-Shower Shampoo & Conditioner Recipe The same combination of charcoal, baking soda, and essential oil can be mixed with water to form a paste, and used as a regular shampoo. This combination is very clarifying, and I recommend using coconut oil in your hair as a conditioner (apply for up to 5 minutes in the shower after rinsing out the shampoo). After washing and conditioning, use extra dry shampoo if your hair feels too oil, and extra coconut oil as a leave-in conditioner if your hair feels too dry.
Coconut oil is also a great conditioning treatment to use before the shower.
Benefits of coconut oil for hair Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory properties due to the smaller medium-chain fatty acids that it is comprised of, which is beneficial for scalp health. The size of these fatty acids also makes the oil molecules easy to penetrate the hair shaft deeply to provide moisture. The antioxidants and vitamins and minerals (vitamin E, vitamin K, zinc, and iron) present in coconut oil have multiple benefits for the hair, including antifungal properties, improved scalp health, oxygenation of hair follicles, and hair strength.
Exfoliating facewash recipe The combo of equal parts baking soda and charcoal (I use about ½ tablespoon each), rubbed into enough coconut oil to make a paste (I use ½ cup) makes for an excellent exfoliating face wash. Without adding any water, rub this onto your skin. If you have sensitive skin, aloe vera is a great addition to this recipe. I also add 5-10 drops of tea tree oil here to fight my breakouts. You don’t need both baking soda and charcoal to make this recipe complete, and if your skin does not tolerate coconut oil well, use another carrier oil like jojoba oil.
Benefits of these ingredients Again, the porousness of activated charcoal adsorbs molecules, atoms and ions from your skin (pulls them from the skins and adheres to them until you wash the charcoal away), including acne-causing environmental toxins and dirt. Mixed with water, charcoal paste is also effective as an acne spot treatment or face mask. Baking soda has antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, (alkaline) pH balancing, and exfoliating properties for skin. It will leave your face feeling squeaky clean, literally, and very smooth from the exfoliation.
The Vitamin A and C in aloe vera gives it anti-aging properties (these vitamins promote collagen/elastin and have antioxidants which fight free radicals in the skin) and can lighten acne marks and scars, the salycylic acid, auxins, and gibberellins, have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and the saponins in aloe vera have antiseptic properties. Overall, aloe vera is great for anti-aging, acne-fighting, and scar-lightening.
The Vitamin E and B3, and zinc in jojoba oil also provide anti-aging, acne-fighting, and skin-lightening benefits.
Recipe I sprinkled this combination powder directly into my shoes and let them sit overnight. In the morning I poured out the mixture and wiped it with a towel (sorry hotel laundry service!). Surprisingly, the charcoal did not leave any black stains in my shoes, and the shoes were odorless! I may recommend creating DIY shoe freshener bags (pour the powdered mixture into a cloth bag) so you can reuse it easily without creating a mess.
Odor-Killing Benefits By now, it should be pretty clear how this combination works. Adsorption from the activated charcoal pulls odors from the inside of shoes or whatever it is exposed to. This is the same reason why activated charcoal can be used as a water filter, air purifier, or air freshener (sold in little bags on Amazon, but why pay more when you can do it yourself?). Baking soda is an odor absorber and can be sprinkled over most smelly surfaces to neutralize the smell. This makes it a great ingredient for DIY deodorant, multipurpose house cleaner, or an additive to your trash can or cat litter.
What are your miracle products? Can you find any cheaper, more effective, or easier alternatives to activated charcoal + baking soda? Let me know!