New fads in health and wellness come and go as quickly as your Twitter feed. It’s hard to keep up, and few of us do the research. One of the latest trends in beauty that has intrigued us is white charcoal, the highest quality of activated charcoal – you’ve probably seen it in the form of the Charcoal Lemonade Juices highlighted on GOOP, or in the form of facial treatments that your bestie has been raving about for months. We were as curious as you are about finding out the truth about the effectiveness of white charcoal (or Binchotan as it is called in Japan), and tried a few of Rikumo‘s most enticing products to give you an honest review. Tried and tested by our editors.

First things first: what is white charcoal?
White charcoal is oak that has been steamed at very high temperature to become activated charcoal (the kind that is safe for consumption and is used to detoxify the body in hospitals). It’s an ingredient that has been used for centuries in Japan. It’s not the same thing as what you use for your grill (please don’t throw regular charcoal into your water jug, it’s toxic!).

How does it work?
Extremely porous, white charcoal has an insane amount of surface area that attracts all sorts of bacteria, humidity, impurities and chemicals. It’s the material used in your high-tech water filters and air purifiers.

Does activated charcoal work as a healthy supplement to detoxify?
While activated charcoal is used in hospitals to treat patients who have ingested seriously toxic substances, few studies have proven its effectiveness to “cleanse” the body of daily toxins. It only works on substances that have not been absorbed into the body, so unless you just ate something really unhealthy, it probably won’t have the desired effect.

That said, white charcoal really does have some benefits! Here’s how!
A stick of Binchotan in a jug full of tap water will help get rid of bad smells and tastes, as well as eliminate chlorine and residue you might find coming out of the faucet. We loved making this easy addition to our hydrating routine. It indeed made our water a lot cleaner tasting and pleasant! Anything that gets us to meet the suggested 8 glasses per day is definitely a plus.

Next we tried the Binchotan Tooth Brush, which supposedly helps with bad breath by eliminating bacteria. We didn’t see a huge difference between our normal tooth brush and this one, although we did see some positive changes in overall fresh breath. We especially think that this is a great toothbrush to take on a trip either with your love interest (no morning breath!) or for business.

Lastly, we dived right into the Binchotan Facial soap and Body Towel. Both gorgeous products! The soap left a cooling fresh feeling, desirable with face washes, without too much tightness or dryness. We definitely recommend it for a thorough face cleanse (i.e. after you’ve had a full face of makeup on). The body towel was perhaps one of the best exfoliating accessories we’ve tried- textured enough to properly exfoliate the face, but not so coarse that you’d be left with an embarrassing red face. The white charcoal infused threads are anti-bacterial so you don’t have to worry about mildew.

As a whole, we think that white charcoal has its benefits. Great as a water purifier (which means you can ditch bottled water), and also effective as an ingredient in beauty products such as facial soaps. We’re still on the fence about it as a dietary supplement – probably best to skip out on the Charcoal Lemonades and use that money for something that’s truly tried and tested.