Minerals are the main source of life on our planet, and are imperative to our survival. Minerals are necessary for all processes in the body, including the assimilation of vitamins, fats, proteins, and carbs as well as biochemical functions that occur. Minerals help with everything from muscle contractions to the production of hormones. A natural source of all the minerals used and consumed by humans, for a variety of purposes, is clay.
After a lot of research and studies, we realized that clay is an underused item in skin/body care. The thought of using clay on the skin is nothing new. The use of clay as a beauty product is as old as humankind. Throughout history, clay has been used topically to soothe the skin or internally for medicinal purposes. There are a plethora of references available about deliberate eating of clay or dirt referring to the practice for therapeutic and even religious purposes. Marco Polo described how in his travels he saw Muslim pilgrims cure fevers by ingesting “pink earth.”
Still today, in societies that have not lost touch with nature, clays are used for preventative care, remedies, and minerals. These practices are still followed across cultures, communities, and countries today.
American Indians use clays for their ceremonial healing procedures. African tribes use clay similarly. In his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Dr. Weston A. Price discusses several native cultures including those in the Andes, Central Africa and Australia who consumed clays in various ways. Many would carry balls of dried clay in their bags, and dissolve a small amount of the clay in water, to drink with meals, to prevent poisoning from any toxins present.
Clays differ in structure and composition depending upon the source. Just like there are no two identical fingerprints, it is impossible to find two identical clays. They come from different sources, each source with its own unique mineral compositions. Clays consist of tiny particles that can absorb large amounts of water. As a result, many clays can expand immensely upon hydration. Clays can absorb minerals and organic substances, such as metals.
Each clay type has its own beneficial uses, dependent upon its origin, chemical composition, and properties. Clay contains some antibacterial properties as well. Minute particles envelope bacteria and deprive it of nutrition and oxygen. This property makes clay a natural antibacterial agent.
MODERN USES FOR CLAY
Clays have a well-deserved place in health and beauty routines. Widely used in spas, clay slurries are prepared by mixing with water (geotherapy), mixing with sea or salt lake water, or minero-medicinal water, and then matured (pelotherapy), or mixed with paraffin (para- muds).
In geotherapy and pelotherapy, the application form can be face masks, cataplasms, or mud baths, depending on the body area to be treated, and the temperature of the clay can be either hot or cold. Mud baths are used in spas and in beauty when the mud is applied by submerging part of the body (bathing the arms, hands, or feet) or the whole body in a bowl or bath filled with a mixture of clay and water.
Clay minerals can be topically applied as dermatological protectors or for cosmetic reasons as Creams, powders, emulsions used as cosmetic products, applied on the external parts of the body, embellish, modify the physical appearance, and/or preserve the Physico-chemical skin conditions. For example, as reported by Carretero et al., clays with a high absorption capacity are present in creams, powders, emulsions for giving opacity, removing shine, and covering physical skin imperfections. Moreover, the ability to adhere to skin forming a protective film makes these materials able to absorb the excess sebum. For this purpose, the phyllosilicates group (such as palygorskite and sepiolite, in liquid preparations, kaolinite, smectites, and talc) is considered the most suitable. In the case of pharmaceutical applications as dermatological protectors, clays are generally used in the form of powders, creams, and ointments to protect skin against external agents, and also in the case of exudations and liquid excretions.
As functional ingredients in hair care cosmetics and in skincare mask formulations, clay minerals are used due to their high absorbency level of substances such as greases, toxins, etc.). Therefore, they are recommended for treating cutaneous inflammatory processes, such as seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, chronic eczemas, or acne. In particular, in the case of hair care applications, the addition of sulfur-containing minerals in shampoo formulations is considered an effective remedy against dandruff and seborrhoea.
Clays and clay minerals are potential candidates as natural UV-protection agents in sunscreen formulations through mechanisms of absorption or reflection of UV radiation. Hoang-Minh et al. studied the protective role of kaolin, smectite, mixed-layer series-dominated clay, and mica-dominated clay against ultraviolet (UV) radiation, in the range 250–400 nm, due to the bulk Fe2O3 content that lowers the UV-transmission level. Additionally, UV protection depends on the expandability of the clay or the combination of clay minerals with mixed ointment. Besides the direct use of clays as sunscreen, clays and clay minerals being used as delivery systems in cosmetic products, in order to improve the stability of an organic sunscreen like PABA (p-aminobenzoic acid, a UV-B absorber in the range 200–313 nm), these new systems also open a novel horizon in the use of clays in this field as a promising, good, efficient way to protect other chemical filters. Moreover, as reported by Perioli et al., these formulations allow a very low sunscreen release avoiding the close contact between skin and filter preventing at least cutaneous reactions and allergy problems.
Clay minerals were used for their beneficial effects on human health as active agents or excipients in many pharmaceutical preparations, utilized in different contexts. In particular, as active agents, clays can be orally administered (for example in gastrointestinal protectors, osmotic oral laxatives, and antidiarrheals) or topically applied (dermatological protectors). As excipients, clays can be considered as a multitasking system, being lubricants, carriers, inert bases, viscosizing agents, stabilizing for suspensions and emulsions, as protection against environmental agents, for adhesion on the skin, and as grease adsorption agents, also as heat release controllers, and so on Interestingly, clays are also used in synergy with other rheological modifiers for influencing the stability and/or other properties of health care products.
Clay Minerals and Clays
There is some misunderstanding in literature regarding “clay minerals” and “clays”. If the first ones are a mineralogical term referring to part of a family (the phyllosilicates) consisting of hydrated aluminosilicates containing considerable amounts of Mg, K, Ca, Na and Fe and less common ions such as Ti, Mn, or Li, the latter word “clays” is frequently used in the same sense and, sometimes, it also refers to natural materials composed of very fine-grained minerals, with some plasticity when mixed with water and hardening on drying .Clay minerals and clays are used in Pharmaceutical Technology and Dermo pharmacy as excipients and as substances with interesting biological activity in solid (tablets, capsules and powders), liquid (suspensions, emulsions) or semisolid (ointments, creams) formulations .Overall, in nature, it is possible to find clays of different colours: red, green, yellow, purple, blue, white, depending on the presence of iron and its chemical state. For example, if it is bivalent iron, the clays have a green colour, while, if it is trivalent iron, the colour turns to red; when the clay is white instead, it does not contain iron
Furthermore, among minerals used in pharmaceutical formulations that can be classified in different groups, i.e., oxides (for example rutile), carbonates (such as calcite, magnesite, etc.), sulphates, chlorides, hydroxides, elements (sulphur), sulphides (greenockite), phosphates (hydroxyapatite), nitrates, borates (as borax), there are phyllosilicates (smectite, palygorskite, sepiolite, kaolinite, talc, mica) . Among the various important properties of these clay minerals, there are the high specific surface areas, great sorption capacity, favorable rheological characteristics, chemical inertness, and low or null toxicity, with the further advantage of lower price. However, although the use of these natural minerals could be considered safe and rich with positive properties, the presence of some elements, even if in trace quantities, may pose a potential threat for the patient due to their natural origin.
What are some benefits of integrating clay into our skincare routines?
Integrating clay into one’s skincare routine is a must! Clay has been used for centuries in many parts of the world to detoxify the skin by drawing out impurities like dirt and/or makeup. It also works by cleansing unwanted bacteria and fungus from the skin. Clay draws these toxins out while bringing essential vitamins and minerals deep into the skin’s layers. Due to these actions, clay is excellent for reducing excess oil or sebum which can lead to acne and/or breakouts. Clay also gently exfoliates the skin, sloughing off dead skin cells that can make the skin look dull and tired. Lastly, as clay is gently rubbed onto the skin, our lymphatic system is activated and circulation is increased, helping to bring a fresh glow to the skin. So, our question is, why not integrate clay into your skincare routine?!
Now that Monsoon season is upon us & the days are hot and humid, we find ourselves staying indoors & naturally making more time for self-care rituals that support us in feeling whole, grounded & nourished. A great example of a weekly ritual that you may want to incorporate into your self-care routine is the use of a Clay Mask.
“In Ayurveda, the doshas (functional energies) play a dynamic role, constantly changing in response to the weather, environment, and stress. Each skin type corresponds with one of the ayurvedic doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). Getting to know your doshas and creating manifestations with intention will make it easier to balance them. Some have dry or more mature skin, also known as Vata skin Perhaps you more closely align with the pitta skin type – sensitive and prone to redness or breakouts. Or maybe you have really oily skin, and more closely identify as a Kapha skin type. Whatever type of skin you have, we have you covered.
Facial Masks almost always have a type of earth-based clay in them to help detoxify & cleanse the skin; however, sometimes it is difficult to determine which clay will best benefit your particular skin type. Below we will share with you our insight of popular clays that you may find in the ingredients list of many:
- Kaolin clays are good for dry to normal skin
- Bentonite and Rhassoul clays are good for normal, combination or oily skin
- Illite clays, like French Green clay, are best for oily skin.
Although it is important to know your sources of clay and to learn the benefits and risks of use, clay can be a great addition to your health and beauty routines, with some amazing benefits!
For Pitta Skin (Sensitive Skin) and/or Tridoshic Skin (Balanced Skin)
Suitable for normal, combination, or oily skin
A common clay used for skin conditions, as well as spa and beauty treatments, is called Bentonite clay. Bentonite clay was discovered in large amounts in Fort Benton, near Rock River in Wyoming. Named after a formation there called Benton
Shale, bentonite clay is formed after volcanic ash has weathe
red and aged in the presence of water. Bentonite is part of the Smectite clay f
amily, which are clays that have a three-layer structure that gives the clay a tremendous ability to swell when water is added.
Known as a “swelling clay” because when combined with water, it swells open like a sponge. It can absorb 40-50 times its weight and becomes very slippery and almost gel-like.
Bentonite also has a high cation exchange rate; i.e. when mixed with water Bentonite bentonite produces a negative electromagnetic charge, it acts like a magnet in and on our bodies. It has the ability to absorb & remove positively charged toxins, heavy metals, impurities & chemicals from the skin & body.
Bentonite clay, a powerful healing clay, is composed of volcanic ash, with a high percentage of montmorillonite, a group of soft minerals. The presence of iron and magnesium ions give Bentonite Clay a subtle greenish-grey color. The name Bentonite is sometimes used interchangeably with Montmorillonite. However, although they have very similar mineral properties, they are not exactly the same.
There are other clays that are composed of a large amount of montmorillonite. These clays are often called Sea Clays, Fuller’s Earth, Red Montmorillonite, Green Montmorillonite, and others. There is no real standard for the way in which clays are named which can become very confusing for the consumer.
There are a few types of Bentonite clay that are named after the dominant element in them. There is sodium bentonite, calcium bentonite, aluminum bentonite, and potassium bentonite, each with unique benefits.
Bentonite clay also brings oxygen to the cells & has an alkalinizing effect. When it is used topically, it helps calm & smooth irritated inflamed skin. Some conditions that benefit from topical use include acne/blemishes, eczema & psoriasis.
Bentonite clay is now used in a variety of homemade skincare products. Some are made into products such as hair and face masks, homemade re-mineralization clay toothpaste and tooth powders, baths for drawing heavy metals away from the body, skin-calming lotions, deodorants, soaps, and even makeup.
Bentonite clay works well on all skin types but is especially helpful for normal, oily, combination, or acne-prone skin Pitta Skin (Sensitive Skin)
Benefits of Bentonite Clay
- Bentonite clay is packed with minerals including calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium, copper, iron, and potassium.
- Refreshes skin by removing dead skin
- It has astringent properties hence recommended for oily, acne-prone skin.
- Bentonite clay has exfoliating properties, and helps reduce the appearance of pores and blackheads.
- Helps with oily, congested, and acne-prone skin types
- Bentonite is a very absorbent and adsorbent clay that provides gentle exfoliation and works well to draw out most skin impurities and excess oils, unclog pores and tighten skin
- Promotes blood circulation to the skin which helps the healing and regeneration process
- Softens skin
- It is often used in shave soaps for the silky slip that it provides
- Helps ease irritations and calm itching caused by cuts, burns, eczema, and psoriasis
Hair Care Benefits
- In haircare, bentonite clay is rich in minerals that encourage hair growth.
- Bentonite helps draw out impurities, helps remove dead skin cells from the scalp, cleanses hair follicles, restores hair’s natural balance, and helps remove product build-up.
Body Care Benefits
- Consuming One teaspoon of edible Bentonite clay with 6-8 ounces of water may adsorb toxins or other unwanted substances from the digestive tract. Bentonite clay should be at least 2 hours before or after taking any medications. Because it can adsorb other molecules, bentonite clay may bind to some medications and reduce their effectiveness.
- A study on rats has shown that Ingestion of edible grade Bentonite clay may also help in controlling cholesterol levels.
- Using bentonite clay in armpits and foot soaks helps to detoxify the body.
- Bentonite clay is useful in treating rashes including allergic ones. Mix bentonite clay with water to form a paste and apply it to the affected area. Cover with a clean bandage or gauze pad. Repeat several times per day until the rash is gone.
- Clay can be mixed with water into a paste and placed onto a cloth to make a “clay pack” (poultice) or clay bandage. This clay bandage can be used on the stomach to manage acid reflux, eliminate toxins from the stomach, liver, intestines, and kidneys. It also improves bowls’ movement. Putting a Clay bandage on the stomach also helps in reducing belly fat and tightens the skin.
- Clay bandages also help in regulating cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
- Clay bandage also helps in dealing with various inflammations- Arthritis, joint pains, Back and neck problems.
- Clay packs also help in dealing with burns, insect bites, allergies and rashes as it has the tendency to remove toxins and has cooling effects
Perfect for Kapha- Pitta Dosha (Acne and Unclear Skin)
Kaolin clays are good for dry to normal skin
The primary component in kaolin clay is the mineral kaolinite, a hydrous aluminum silicate formed by the decomposition of minerals such as feldspar.
Kaolins are non-swelling clays and do not absorb like other clays–they adsorb which means they do not soak up impurities like a sponge, but rather hold them on their surface like a magnet.
Kaolin is often used as the clay for china pottery. Its name comes from a Chinese word that means “high ridge.” The high ridge is a reference to the hill in south-eastern China where the clay was thought to be originally mined. Although white Kaolin is often called “China Clay,” the best deposits are not located in China. White kaolin clay is also known as “White China Clay,” but can be found in a variety of natural colors depending on its combination with other trace minerals. For example, Kaolin clay can be pink, red, or orange in combination with naturally occurring iron oxide, or a yellowish pink when in combination with feldspar. Pink or rose kaolin can be from naturally occurring iron oxides or sometimes it is a combination of white kaolin mixed with red kaolin.
When added to soap, kaolin imparts a silkiness to the lather, acts as a gentle exfoliant, mild cleanser, and can also add natural color. An interesting side note-kaolin was used as the main ingredient for the original formulation of the diarrhea remedy, Kaopectate.
Skin Care Benefits:
Kaolin Clay works well on all skin types but is especially good for sensitive skin.
- White clay is the softest and least drying to the skin. It is best for people with dry and sensitive skin and can even be used in all-natural body powders and all-natural baby powder, instead of corn starch, to prevent diaper rash or chafing.
- It is the mildest of all clays and is suitable for people with sensitive skin
- Helps draw out oils without being harsh on the skin
- Since it does not draw oil like other clays, it is very helpful for people with naturally dry skin
- Stimulate blood circulation to the skin which helps brighten skin
- It has a larger particle size which can provide gentle exfoliation and cleansing.
Skin Care Benefits Based on Colour:
Kaolin clays can be found in many colors. Again, the area from which the kaolin is mined will determine its mineral content which in turn determines the color and how it acts on the skin. Although all of the kaolin’s are gentle clays that share the properties described above, their properties, especially the ability to draw oil from the skin, vary a bit based on the trace mineral content and thus the color.
Hair Care Benefits
- White kaolin is considered the mildest and least drawing of the kaolins. As the hues deepen, so does its ability to draw oils and impurities from the skin.
- In haircare, gentle kaolin, rich in silica, helps clean the scalp without drying.
- It calms inflammation, helps moisturize and revitalize dry, damaged hair. It improves circulation in the scalp and removes dirt and impurities from the hair follicles which helps strengthens the roots.
- Softens hair
FRENCH GREEN CLAYFor Kapha Skin (Oily Skin) and/or Acne-Prone Skin Best for normal to oily skin and scalp When used topically, French Green Clay has numerous benefits. It removes excess oil, unclogs pores, while simultaneously softening skin & tightening pores. It aids in the optimal function of oil glands & also boosts blood circulation while removing dead skin cells. French Green Clay is a type of Illite clay that is highly absorbent but non-swelling clay. They have a three-layer structure which gives French Green Clay or rather Illite clays a stronger drying and drawing effect. The color of French Green Illite Clay comes from a combination of iron oxides and decomposed plant matter, mainly kelp and other algae. The active minerals in green illite clay include dolomite, magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, aluminum, silicon, copper, selenium, and cobalt as well as a small percentage of montmorillonite. French Green Clay is a fine odorless powder with a soft texture and a light green color. When mixed with water its rich green color is revealed. It is uniquely detoxifying to the skin because it has an ionic charge. This charge acts like a magnet to extract toxins & remove them from the skin & body. The texture of French Green Clay is Slightly grainy but feels smooths and soft when pressed between the fingers
Skin Care Benefits
- French green clay is highly absorptive and adsorptive; it acts as a magnet for impurities. It stimulates blood flow to the skin, removes oils and impurities. As the clay dries, it causes the pores to constrict, producing a firmer feeling skin.
- Toning action stimulates the skin by bringing fresh blood to the surface
- Helps with oily, congested, and acne-prone skin types
- Helps to remove excess oils, unclog and shrink pores and tighten skin
- Exfoliates dead skin cells
- French Green Clay has also been known to be effective on allergic reactions which have manifested on the skin.
For Vata Skin (Dry Skin)
Rhassoul Clay is best for dry skin.
Rhassoul, or also known as Ghassoul, gets its name from the Arabic verb “rhassala,” meaning “to wash.” The main component of this ancient clay is magnesium silicate.
It is a natural mineral clay extracted from deep deposits inside the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and unlike many other clays, has not been exposed to surface contaminants. It is part of the Smectite group of clays, like Bentonite, which means it has a tremendous ability to swell when water is added.
Rhassoul clay is a very fine, dusty-colored, odorless powder. It has a silky and soft texture when rubbed between the fingers
The molecular structure of Rhassoul clay gives it a unique ability to absorb excess dirt and oil, as well as extract impurities from the skin. It is extremely rich in trace minerals especially silica, magnesium, potassium, and calcium minerals that are beneficial for the skin and has been used for centuries as a cleanser and conditioner for the skin and hair.
Our Rhassoul is untreated and naturally dried with a silky texture. Once extracted, the clay is washed with water to eliminate impurities, then spread out to be sun-dried. The product is then purified and powdered. No solvents or diluents are used in the processing.
Some of the many benefits of this clay include improvement to skin texture, elasticity & skin clarity as well as reducing dryness & flakiness. This clay has proven to extract impurities from the skin & unblock pores, even stubborn blackheads.
This Fall, as the weather transitions & the days & nights become colder, the brisk, dry, rough, & windy qualities of the environment may begin to affect your skin. Due to the vata-type conditions in our atmosphere, people usually tend to experience more vata-type skin conditions during this time of the year. Therefore, during vata season, it is important to hydrate & protects our skin from becoming overly dry.
Skin Care Benefits:
- The high concentration of natural minerals in Rhassoul can help replenish depleted minerals in your skin, resulting in a firmer and more even-toned complexion.
- Helps reduce skin dryness and nourish the skin
- Helps even out skin tone and reduce blemishes
- Helps unclog pores and remove impurities without irritation
- Provides gentle exfoliation to remove dead skin cells to reduce flakiness and improve skin clarity and texture
- Helps to remove excess surface oil
- Stimulates circulation
Hair Care Benefits:
- Recommended for sensitive scalps, normal to oily hair, and dandruff, rhassoul was used to shampoo hair in Ancient Rome and Egypt.
- Although it is great for oily hair, Rhassoul also prevents dryness by nourishing and cleansing the scalp without stripping away the protective sebum.
- The mineral content of Rhassoul clay and the higher ratio of silica, magnesium, potassium, calcium, and other trace minerals . . .
- Improves elasticity
- helps unblock the scalp pores
- stimulates the scalp
- reduces flakiness
- aids in detangling
- enhances the texture, volume, and manageability
- leaves hair soft and moisturized
Chemical Composition and Impurities