It’s pitch black, it’s burnt to a crisp, and it’ll clear up your skin like nothing else. Charcoal is having a moment, and no one does it better than emerging brand Binchotan.
Binchotan (pronounced "bin-choh-tahn" by the very few people pronouncing it correctly) is a type of charcoal that the Japanese have been producing, and using, since the Edo period. The process of making this high-end carbon is fascinating and labor intensive. “Basically we take Japanese oak and burn it for around two weeks straight at a really high temperature, then rapidly cool it by piling on dirt and sand," explains Tom Stokes, who runs Rikumo.com, the major US importer of Binchotan products. "It preserves the shape of the wood, but the wood shrinks to half the size.”
Even more fascinating is how the stuff works: “It preserves all the pores in the structure of the wood, which makes these tiny little nooks and crannies," says Stokes. "One cubic centimeter of charcoal has roughly 500 square meters of surface area—an incredibly high ratio—which means tons of holes [that] cells can get stuck in. It takes out carbon-based molecules, water-soluble molecules that might stain your teeth or chemicals that might make your skin break out.” That means that when you’re washing your face, it does a lot more than a normal product can do, chemically absorbing the dirt, oil, and pollution accumulated over a day.
Right now, Rikumo’s range of Binchotan products includes facial soap, a face mask, toothbrushes (continual best-sellers), body-scrub towels, and a whole lot of charcoal purifiers. They look great in a bathroom and are highly recommended for men who live in big cities or deal with oily or shiny skin. The products are already being sold in high-end retailers like FSC Barber and Liberty UK, and Stokes is confident the Binchotan market will continue to grow.
“We’re making guys more aware of charcoal,” he says. "What could be more manly?”
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