Monday, March 2, 2009

MAX Sumi Haigou Sekken

When I first heard of charcoal soap, I though, "Huh, interesting," but I wasn't completely sold yet. It wasn't until I saw that the soaps were black did my curiosity peaked :) I know, what was I thinking, how can charcoal soap not be black, right? I guess I just didn't make that connection :P

There are several brands and varieties of these soaps, of course, but the more readily accessible one is MAX Sumi Haigou Sekken. I say that because this soap can be found online at shops like,,, etc., going for $7-10 for a packet of 3 huge bars of 135g each. It can also be found at your local Asian grocery store, and probably for cheaper too! I got mine at the local Asian grocery for $5, so if you are interested in trying these nifty soaps, check yours first before buying online!

By the way, there are a variety of these black charcoal soaps, like the bamboo charcoal soap (bamboo heated at temperature so high it carbonizes, try Nihonkan po Kenkyusho Takesumi Soap), or the charcoal and Kaolin clay soap (try Pelican Deitanseki Soap), so the possibilities are endless if you want to explore further. These soaps all contain medicated charcoal, which is supposedly gentle but can deep cleanse by drawing impurities from the pores. They can be used to both the face and body, great for oily or acne skin, are exfoliating but non-drying, and even somewhat whitening. Ambitious claims, huh?

This particular soap, the MAX Sumi Haigou Sekken, has a mixture of charcoal and bamboo vinegar and is supposed to be deep cleansing (the charcoal) but is moisturizing (the bamboo vinegar) at the same time. Its packaging is fairly simple: translucent milky white plastic so you can see the 3 bars of black soaps inside. All the descriptions on the packaging are in Japanese with 1 single line of English at the very top that says "Sumi (charcoal) Soap" in red capital font. Unless you read Japanese, I guess you'll just have to remember what it looks like and look out for it. I know I do :)

So how's this soap? I guess I'll have to say it's amazing. Best soap I've ever used. The bar is a smoky charcoal color, so it's not black as I thought. When it's wet, wherever the water touches lightens up to a milky gray, then the spot would dry back to the dark charcoal color. It whips up a thick and creamy lather but rinses well and leaves no residue behind. It'll turn your bath puff somewhat gray so you'll have to rinse the puff out after use (as you would regardless). The best part is that my skin feels so soft and yet so squeaky clean! Even hubby, who never really gives a damn what soap or body wash we use in the shower, exclaims upon lathering up, "Hey, this is really nice soap! I like it a lot!"

Yup, that sums it up nicely. In fact, the soap's so gentle I'm considering using it on my face! I'll be sure to update this post when I do. Oh, and the scent, you're probably wondering if this soap smells like charcoal too - it doesn't :) In fact, it's got a very faint scent of "cypress," they say, that dissipates rather quickly. Whatever, I just know it smells nice and woodsy and I really wish it would last a bit longer than the few minutes that it does.

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