By Ngozi Bolin, Founder, Shinkafa Inc.
Anyone who has been following the trend in charcoal can rattle off for you what that wonderful ingredient or medicine, depending on how you view charcoal, can do for the skin, hair and health. However, before I start giving my two pennies about charcoal, it is important to note that while the public is now generally aware of charcoal, those uses have existed for hundreds of years and beyond.
So, you are like, well… why am I hearing about it all now. It is simply that it has finally come into its own. However, with this level of exuberance comes the human instinct to binge and discard. I say this to be cautious about treating charcoal as a fad. It most certainly is not. It should be the staple of a well-rounded personal care for those that are in the most need for its properties.
What is charcoal? It is simply what is left over after you burn your wood for cooking. Scientifically, it is the lightweight black carbon and ash residue hydrocarbon produced when water and other volatile elements are removed from animal or plan substances. There are different kinds of charcoal. There is the common charcoal made from coal, peat, wood, coconut shell or vegetation. There is sugar charcoal made famous by Henri Moissan in his attempts to create synthetic diamonds. There is activated charcoal, which is just like the common charcoal but is specifically made for medical use, cosmetics and for filtration. In medicine charcoal is used as a dietary supplement for gastric problems and it is the first line of defense in cases of poisoning. Red Colobus monkeys of Africa eat charcoal for self-medication because their leafy diets are high in cyanide. These are some really smart monkeys! There are also lump charcoal, extruded charcoal, bamboo charcoal, and there the charcoal used in art like vine, powdered and compressed charcoal, etc. Charcoal can be white charcoal or black charcoal. White charcoal is prevalent in Japanese cooking. Black charcoal is the most widely used in all its types.
As a child growing up in war torn Biafra, with little to eat and certainly no modern personal care products available, I learned quite early how to use things that we could readily find in nature. One of those things was charcoal. As the war raged with sounds of bombings and war planes in their constant drum, personal hygiene was essential when we emerged from our safe bunkers. It was necessary to cleanse and get ready for another bunker hibernation.
During those years, charcoal was essential for teeth cleaning. You just pluck a chewing stick, dip in the charcoal and you are on your way to clean, healthy and white teeth. For washing, we combined charcoal with clays while coconut and palm nuts produced magnificent oils for moisturizing and for hydration. The husk of the coconut made an excellent loofah.
So, in crafting Shinkafa, it was important, indeed imperative for me, that this wonderful ingredient play a part in what we do. It is in one of our body washes, in one our shampoo and in our face masque. For people with difficult, oily combo skin or hair, charcoal is an essential because it is a magnet for toxins, draws out impurities like oil, dirt, sweat, opens clogged pores, removes dead skin cells and thus makes it ideal for those prone to oily skin or oily hair or overall problem skin or hair.
In crafting the Shinkafa Charcoal Body Wash, our goal was to take into account not only the lavishly detoxifying, deep cleansing, and skin-softening hydration of the wash, but to make sure that it was also suited to those with chemical sensitively like myself. The effect is a superb removal of impurities while leaving a very supple hydration and radiant glow. For the skin, in addition, charcoal draws bacteria, chemicals, dirt, toxins and other unwanted particles to the surface of the skin, helping you achieve a smoother and healthier skin. So, an ingredient that was key to my early hygiene is still doing wonders for the skin and for all ages. I remember one of my doctors recommending detoxing with charcoal wash, when my husband, children and me dealt with mold in a home we lived in. It was a complete reaffirmation and total vindication of all that I believed was possible with charcoal as an ingredient when paired with quality, effective and nourishing supporting ingredients.
My target for Shinkafa’s Anti-Frizz Charcoal detangling Keratin Shampoo was and remains those with very oily hair that need to wash their hair at least daily for medical or other reasons. So, it was important in addition to incorporating charcoal in our unique formulation that we also have biotin, vitamins, keratin, amino acids as well as strong detangling and anti-frizz properties. In other words, that shampoo had to detoxify, restore, cleanse, strengthen and hydrate, de-frizz, and all without harmful chemicals. It also means we are completely sulfate-free and paraben-free. For the hair, charcoal unclogs the pores of your scalp allowing the hair follicles to stimulate hair growth. Charcoal also cleanses the scalp doing wonders for those with dandruff and itchy scalp. It is especially helpful to those with very oily and those with very dry scalp as it brings balance to the scalp for healthy hair and scalp. We are absolutely pleased with the results and believe our superior and effective ingredients with the addition of charcoal to be a pivotal aspect of that success.
The face masque is where charcoal as an uber ingredient does an incredible amount of work in a very short period of time and especially with acne. My vision was simply to eliminate acne. What I got was a very satisfying product which is clay-based, purifies the skin, deals a knock-out punch to acne and other blemishes by unclogging the pores, eliminates dead skin cells and tightens the skin and leave a very smooth and refreshed skin. Some of the ladies that use this product have taken to using it on their necks, tummies and hands. It makes me chuckle quite a bit with they tell me these things, but, their point is that if their face is being tightened then, any other sag can be tightened as well. While one cannot argue with that logic, that effect is only a bonus and not the main thrust of the face masque.
There is no better gentle purifying cleanser than charcoal. When used properly in formulations, the results are long lasting and magnificent.