Japanese Charcoal Soaps

I’ve recently discovered charcoal soap from Japan to cleanse my face with. There are several different varieties from different manufacturers. I purchased three different kinds of charcoal soap through Amazon.com. The easiest way to find them is to do a search on Amazon for Japanese Charcoal Soap. Other brands of soap will come up in this search as well, but these are the brands I purchased.

Nippon Kodo Charcoal and Clay Soap: Nippon Kodo is one of the oldest incense manufacturers in Japan, having been in business for over four hundred years. They also distribute a brand of charcoal soap. The soap is made by a company called Pelican, and it’s called Pelican Deitanseki soap. But because Nippon Kodo distributes it, it’s also referred to as Nippon Kodo charcoal soap. It’s a little confusing. The Nippon Kodo soap has the added benefits of bentonite and kaolin clays, so it’s great for oiler skins. My skin is combination, and it works very well on my skin too. The soap makes a rich lather and rinses clean. After I use it my face feels smooth and amazingly, exfoliated, even though there’s no grit in the soap or the lather. There are various sellers on Amazon who carry this soap, and the price can vary from $11.25 to $11.95. Nippon Kodo Co., Ltd. is donating 20,000,000 Japanese Yen (equivalent to US$250,000) and candles as relief supplies to those affected by last month’s tragic earthquake and tsunami.

Sumi Haigou Settuken Charcoal Bar Soap: At $7.97 for a package of three, the Sumi Haigou Settuken charcoal soap is the best value. Unlike the Nippon Kodo soap, the Sumi soap does not contain clay. It consists of charcoal in a bamboo vinegar base. This soap is grittier than the Nippon Kodo, so if you have sensitive or acneic skin it may be a little too harsh for you. Like the Nippon Kodo, it makes my face feel clean and smooth.

Hinoki Deitanseki: The Hinoki Deitanseki charcoal and hinoki oil cleansing bar is also made by the Pelican soap company. Although the wrapper differs from the one distributed by Nippon Kodo, it is basically the same bar. Both the Nippon Kodo and the Hinoki Deitanseki contain charcoal, kaolin and bentonite. The Hinoki Deitanseki advertises the addition of Japanese Cypress Hinoki oil, which gives the soap its fresh, slightly pine-scented fragrance, but the Nippon Kodo smells exactly the same. Again, very confusing. But this soap sells for $9.50 on Amazon, which is cheaper than the Nippon Kodo soap.

Pelican also makes a Hinoki Deitanseki Moisturizing Soap with Rice Bran and Hinoki ($9.50). It’s a more moisturizing alternative to the charcoal soap. I purchased a bar of this soap too, but I haven’t tried it yet. Maybe I’ll save it until next winter, when I want a more moisturizing soap. I’ll write a review of it when I try it.

The general consensus after trying all three of these soaps is that they are all basically interchangeable. They all work just as well on my skin. Most of these charcoal soaps are a bit unwieldy. The bars are long and thin and won’t fit into a traditional soap dish, with the exception of the Sumi Haigou Settuken. The Hinoki Deitanseki also comes in an adorable three-pack of travel or trial size soaps for $6.50. The packaging on all of the soaps is beautiful. In particular, the Nippon Kodo and the Hinoli Deitanseki soaps feature rice paper wrappers printed in ink to look like traditional Japanese caligraphy.

After using these soaps I’ve become an instant convert to Japanese charcoal soap. My skin hasn’t broken out from using any of the bars, and they don’t dry out my skin. I really enjoy using them and they make my skin look great. Japanese charcoal soaps may be the best-kept beauty secret. Now the secret’s out!


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