Activated charcoal soap has been all the rage for a while now. And, for good reason since activated charcoal has great skin benefits. Learn how to make this soap in 2 different ways: one is a black soap with great detox power, and the other is sporting fancy swirls and a divine masculine scent. They're both amazing!
I have to say that using soap for cleansing my face wasn't always my jam. You see, back when I went to dermatology school our teachers would always say to never ever use soap on our face. I'm pretty sure that they weren't thinking about homemade soap though. Because that stuff's amazing even for my dry skin type.
Cleansing my face using my own soap is now part of my skincare routine. In the wintertime, I use my gentle facial soap. In the summer, however, when humidity is skyrocketing, definitely charcoal soap.
In this post, I've compiled two different versions of charcoal soap. The first is perfect for a beginner to tackle and is a straightforward classic charcoal soap. The second features a more advanced swirl technique with a unique woodsy essential oil blend using an upcycled mold.
You can mix and match these two recipes to your heart's desire. As long as you carefully follow the instructions and lye safety precautions.
Interested in making charcoal soap without lye? Check out my easy melt and pour charcoal soap recipe.
Benefits of Charcoal Soap
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been through a process of high temperatures where oxygen has been forced into it. Making it more porous and able to absorb toxins. Here's what it can do for your skin:
- remove impurities and help with deep cleansing
- absorb excess oil from oily skin which otherwise could lead to clogged pores
- help clear blackheads and blemishes
- gently exfoliate and reduce pore size
- may help brighten skin
- in combination with tea tree oil which is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory it can greatly improve acne-prone skin
Activated Charcoal Soap Recipe
If you've never made cold process soap before, make sure to familiarize yourself with lye safety precautions and necessary steps in my "How to make soap at home - Beginners Guide" before you dive in.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure here.
- stick blender/immersion blender
- accurate digital scale
- round silicone soap mold or:
- for upcycled mold (optional): empty Pringles can, freezer paper, tape
- 2-3 heat-resistant containers: one to make the lye solution, one to blend up your soap, and (a smaller one to separate out the part of the soap that will be colored black, for swirled soap)
- 2 small plastic cups
- 1 small glass cup
- sharp kitchen knife
makes 8 bars of soap
- lye (sodium hydroxide): 3 oz / 84 g
- distilled water: 5.5 oz / 156 g
- coconut oil (30%): 6.3 oz / 180 g
- shea butter (20%): 4.2 oz / 120 g
- cocoa butter (14%): 3 oz / 84 g
- olive oil (25%): 5.3 oz / 150 g
- castor oil (6%): 1.3 oz / 36 g
- sesame oil (5%): 1 oz / 30 g
Additives (facial soap):
- tea tree essential oil: 21 g
- kaolin clay: 1 Tbsp
- activated charcoal powder: 3 tsp
Additives (swirled soap):
- lime essential oil: 7 g
- cedarwood (virginia) essential oil: 8 g
- vetiver essential oil: 8 g
- kaolin clay: 1 Tbsp
- activated charcoal powder: 1 tsp
How to Make Charcoal Soap for Face
For this soap I used the round silicone soap molds for ease of use. You can use the upcycled mold and follow the instructions outlined in the swirled soap section further down.
- Gear up for safety: put on gloves, goggles, wear long sleeves and make sure you're in a well-ventilated area
- Measure lye into a small plastic cup
3. Measure water into a medium-sized container
4. Create a lye solution by carefully adding lye to water while stirring. Be careful not to inhale any fumes while doing this! Set aside to cool.
5. Measure and melt coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter over low heat in a boiler or water bath, or on 30-second intervals in the microwave
6. Add olive oil and castor oil
7. Add kaolin clay and charcoal powder
8. Measure and add essential oils
9. Using a stick blender mix the clay, powder, and essential oils into the base oils until you see no more clumps
7. Wait until lye solution and oils have cooled down to about room temperature (bowls feel warm to the touch not hot)
8. Combine lye water and melted oils and by stick blending until the batter starts to thicken (thin trace), continue stirring with your spatula until the batter reaches medium trace (pudding consistency)
9. Pour the soap batter into the mold
10. Let the soap rest in a safe spot
11. After 36 hours release soap from the mold by pulling on the sides of the mold first, then pushing from the bottom
12. Cure soap for 4-6 weeks, then store in an empty shoebox away from heat and humidity for up to 12 months
How to Make Charcoal Swirled Soap (Soap Recipe for Men)
Mysterious, woodsy, yet bright and refreshing is how I would describe the scent of this wonderful charcoal soap. Certainly more a masculine kind of scent, but one that might appeal to men and women alike.
In order to get the dramatic round swirl, you'll need a round deep mold, that's why I'm using the old Pringles can. You can use the round silicone mold mentioned above, but your swirl pattern will be slightly different.
Preparing the mold
- Cut out a piece of freezer paper about 7 x 9 Inches
- Cut the bottom of the Pringles can off using a serrated knife so that the remainder measures about 7 Inches tall
- Firmly tape the cap on (you don't want any soap batter seeping out at the bottom)
- Line the can with freezer paper - the waxy side facing inward. Pringles cans have an aluminum interior that can react with lye, so you don't want to skip this step
Making the soap
Follow the instructions outlined above up to step 7. By then you should have your lye water solution, oils, and mold ready.
7. in a small plastic cup mix 1 teaspoon of charcoal powder with 1 tablespoon of water, safe for later
8. Into a small glass cup measure out essential oils
9. Add essential oils and kaolin clay to base oils. Using your stick blender mix until no more clumps are visible.
10. Wait until lye solution and oils have cooled down to about room temperature (bowls feel warm to the touch not hot)
11. Pour lye water into base oils (pouring down the shaft of the blender will help reduce air bubbles)
12. Stick blend until oils are just emulsified and then continue stirring using a spatula until you reach medium trace.
13. Separate out a third (280 g / 10 oz) of batter and add 1 teaspoon of activated charcoal dispersed in water, whisk thoroughly
14. Create an "in-the-pot swirl" by pouring the black batter into the white. Pouring the batter in three different spots from high up so the batter reaches all the way down. Take your spatula and go through each black spot only once moving in a circle.
15. Pour the batter into the mold aiming for the middle, then tap it down to release any air bubbles
16. Let the soap rest in a safe spot
17. After 18 - 24 hours release from mold by pushing from the bottom, remove the paper, and cut into bars using a sharp knife
18. Cure soap bars for 4-6 weeks, then store in an old shoebox away from heat and humidity for up to 12 months
You always have all kinds of great ideas to try! Thanks for sharing!
Aww, thank you Mary!
I'm glad you enjoy it <3
Thanks for the recipe. Have to get some Kokum butter, which I am having a little trouble finding here in Aussie, so May have to end up using cocoa butter instead. So looking forward to making this and the two other ones you have on this page
I have really enjoyed the tutorials but I'm yet to try it.
I've not come across kakum butter and sesame oil here in Ghana before, so please what can I use instead?
you could try to use more shea butter instead of the kokum and maybe sweet almond oil instead of sesame oil. Whenever you make changes to a recipe, you HAVE to run the entire recipe through a lye calculator since the amount of lye needed will be different. I use Soapcalc. Happy Tinkering!
If I want to add EDTA in my soap for its use with hard water.at what stage should I add
Hi, I’m not sure. I’ve never used EDTA in my soaps.
Hi Celine! I cannot wait to try it. Did you superfat though and at what percentage?
Sorry I just found the infos. I definitely need some glasses now😄
Thanks again for sharing.
Hi Celine! Great Recipe! Thank you!
Just one query
Don't the lye & water have to be the same weight?
This recipe uses a lye solution that consists of 38% lye and 62% water. You can make a 50/50 lye solution, but you have to be very precise in your measurements and have to be ready to work fast since the soap will become solid quickly.
Henry B Molina Jr
Hey do you know if you can break the recipe down for me if I were to use a melt and pour soap base?. I have all the other ingredients needed.
Hi Henry, for the same amount of melt and pour soap base (30 oz/ 840g) you would use 5 g cedarwood essential oil, 5 g vetiver and 4g lime. Let me know if you have more questions!
Hi, Celine I am so happy to find you . I have learnt a lot , I'm eager to make my rose clay and coconut milk soap. Can I use it on my whole body?
Hi, yes you can 🙂
Hi, I love your recipes! Just wondering what I can substitute for the sesame oil, it is a strong smelling oil, or is it not too noticable in the finished product?
It’s a very small amount, the smell isn’t noticeable. You could substitute with sweet almond oil.
Let me know if you have any questions:)
Celine, Iam not new to soapmaking, but I’m somewhat of a novice. I’ve been making soap for about 2 years now. How do you clean up your tools, bowls,etc. I usually wait until next day, then wash everything. Now I find out I have completely clogged up my sewer pipe with soap!! The plumber said I must be putting grease down my sink, andI told him I never do that. Once we got it cleared, you could see it was soap residue. I want to continue making soap, bit I REALLY dontwant want to log up the works again? Any hints?
Hi Holly, I ususually wait 3-4 days until the saponification process is really complete. Then I scrape off as much of dry soap as I can with a knife or old credit card and rinse the rest. I hope this helps.