Activated charcoal is undeniably one of the hottest trends of 2018. You can find the formerly elusive ingredient in everything from lattes to ice cream to face masks to toothpaste, and odds are if you haven't tried it yourself then someone you know has. While there's no denying that activated charcoal gives food an interesting look, you should also be aware of its potential dangers before digging in. 

What is activated charcoal?

Activated charcoal is essentially what it sounds like: wood (or coconut shells in the case of food) heated at a high temperature to create charcoal which is then oxidised to become "activated". Activated charcoal is incredibly porous which led to its original use in water filters and in the medical field for poisoning and drug overdoses. There have been recent claims that activated charcoal is great for detoxing and hangovers but there has been little scientific evidence to support this. Multiple companies are capitalizing on the recent popularity and misconceptions about this ingredient, potentially causing more harm than good.

Why is it popular?

Activated charcoal initially gained traction in both the food and beauty industries for social media and aesthetic purposes — I'm sure you've seen videos of people using jet-black toothpaste or photos of "goth"  soft serve on your own newsfeed. Because activated charcoal has little-to-no flavor on its own it's really only used to color other items, giving them a trendy and minimal appearance that's perfect for Instagram. It's also associated with being a "detox" product and you'll commonly hear it cited as a hangover cure or as a way to lose weight — spoiler alert: it won't do anything. 

Why is it dangerous?

Even though it's commonly advertised as being all-natural and good-for-you, consuming activated charcoal can actually have some seriously negative effects. Because of how porous activated charcoal is, it winds up absorbing everything else that's in your gut. This includes important vitamins, minerals and even medications. That's right, if you're on birth control and overdo it with the charcoal ice cream you could actually negate the effects of the pill — they don't write that lil tidbit on the side of the cone now do they?

It's recommended that you avoid consuming activated charcoal routinely, whether that be through activated charcoal tablets or in your food. So if I were you I'd put this trend where it belongs: in the trash.