Ages ago, in the first half of the 20th century, charcoal was a common ingredient in everything from toothpastes to soap to indigestion pills. As Americans began using new, "modern" synthetic products, charcoal went out of vogue, consigned to the world of unreliable folk remedies from your great-aunt and the sketchy back aisles of fetid hippie-run co-op grocery stores. Which is sad, because charcoal is a very effective cleanser, non-acnegenic, and totally biodegradable. Plus, unlike a lot of synthetic surfactants we use to clean ourselves, when it gets into your water system, it doesn't take eight trips to the processing plant to make the water potable again, and there isn't nasty chemical run-off.
Thankfully, then, the "green" trend has brought charcoal products back from the brink. Charcoal's effective as a topical ointment for zits, makes a really nice exfoliant, and on oily skin, there's nothing more naturally effective as a cleanser. If your skin has become sensitized lately to your product regime, or you're looking for a cleanser or acne solution so non-toxic you can eat it, make like Great-Aunt Edna and check out charcoal.
Source: Flickr User jbcurio