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However, just looking for “clay” on the ingredient list doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about its benefits.
There are many types of clay used for various kinds of skin care products, but we’re going to focus specifically on just two. Kaolin clay vs. Bentonite clay — what’s the difference, and which is better?
Clay has been a popular skin care ingredient for hundreds of years, and it continues to be found in a wide variety of different skin care products. But why is it used, and what makes it so popular?
For people looking for ways to purify, cleanse and detoxify their skin, clay offers a more natural way to do that. In general, clay is used for its absorbent properties. It is said to pull toxins, oil and other debris out of the skin so that you can rinse them right off the skin.
The result is more clear, clean and balanced skin.
Kaolin clay is a mild type of clay made up of a mineral known as kaolinite, which can be found all over the globe. You may also see it referred to as white clay.
The original kaolin clay was harvested from a hill in China, Kao-ling, which was the only source of the clay for hundreds of years. However, kaolin clay now comes from multiple sources, including the United States, Brazil, China and Pakistan.
Kaolin clay is known for being very finely powdered, soft and usually off-white or pink in color.
The clay is composed of tiny minerals and crystals (including feldspar, quartz, silica, copper, magnesium and zinc). It has a relatively neutral pH level of around 4.5, which is close to the skin’s natural pH of 5.5.
There are a few other names you may see kaolin clay listed under on an ingredient list. Although these are “subcategories” of kaolin clay, each effectively works the same way.
Kaolin clay is one of the most gentle types of clay, making it excellent for sensitive-skinned people. Because it also tends to absorb less liquid and oil than other types of clay, people with dryer skin can use it without fewer side effects.
However, that doesn’t mean that it’s less effective at giving the skin a deep cleanse. Here are a few additional benefits of kaolin clay:
Bentonite clay, also known as calcium bentonite clay, comes from volcanic ash and is manufactured mainly in the United States. Its name comes from the primary bentonite clay producer in the U.S., volcano-rich Fort Benton, Montana.
Bentonite clay is cost-effective, although it is far more intense for the skin than kaolin clay. However, bentonite clay has a much higher pH level than kaolin clay.
While kaolin clay is close to the skin’s natural pH of 5.5, bentonite clay sits at around 8.5. This makes it slightly more “basic” on the pH scale, which can help people open their pores even further to accept more product.
As opposed to kaolin clay, bentonite clay has powerful oil absorption properties. It is believed that this type of clay can absorb more than its own body mass in water. That makes it an excellent ingredient for people with extremely oily skin.
Other benefits of bentonite clay include:
Although deciding which clay to use comes down to your personal skin care needs, we think kaolin clay is more beneficial. Why? We put kaolin clay on top because it’s more gentle and accessible for all skin types, so you don’t need to worry about how your skin may react.
That’s why we included kaolin clay in our Clay Time charcoal mask, which is perfect for exfoliating and clearing the skin.
In addition to kaolin, the mask also uses 1% salicylic acid, charcoal and lavender to help your skin look — and feel — its best. Just a few minutes is all it takes 2-3x a week. It’s also the perfect product for a DIY spa day to amp up your self-care.
Clay masks are easy to use, which is part of their allure. However, there are a few tips that you should be aware of that will take your self-care day to a whole new level. The best part is, it only takes a few minutes to set yourself up for success and make sure your skin has what it needs to look its best.
The first and most important step you should take before using a clay mask is to cleanse your skin thoroughly. Although clay masks are great at drawing impurities out of the skin when your skin is dirty, it has to work through a layer of debris to do that.
Cleansing your skin removes the layer of dead skin cells and other debris (including makeup) that often sits on the skin’s surface so that your clay mask can get right to work.
Also, remember that you don’t have to apply your clay mask all over your face every time. For instance, if you’re having problems with excess oil in your T-zone, you can use the mask just on that specific area. Or just apply the mask as a spot treatment directly to the areas that need it the most.
After your clay mask has stayed on your skin for the recommended amount of time (make sure to read the label carefully and don’t allow it to sit for too long), wash your mask off with lukewarm water. Although it may feel good to use hot water, it can excessively dry the skin.
And finally, once your skin has been rinsed, you can take advantage of your open pores and apply your serums and moisturizer. Although both products can be effective without using a mask first, your skin will likely be relaxed and ready to accept products after one.
It’s not just kaolin clay vs. bentonite clay, however. There are a few other types of clay that you may see when you check out the ingredient list of your skin care products.
And although they are mostly safe every once in a while, don’t overdo it. Using products that absorb too much of your skin’s natural oil, even if you have an oily skin type, can dry it too much and cause dehydration.
Sea clay is also frequently found in skin care products. This type of clay is also dark green in color and is one of the oldest types of clay you can find on the skin care market.
When you choose the right type of clay, nearly anyone can use the ingredient safely. However, if you struggle with overly dry skin, you may want to avoid using them regularly.
When used frequently, clay can strip too much of the skin’s natural oils away from its surface. For someone who doesn’t have excess oil to spare, that can lead to dehydrated, tight, uncomfortable skin.
Kaolin clay vs. bentonite clay — which one is the best for you to include in your skin care routine? Although clay masks were not designed to be used daily (as they can be overly dying), kaolin clay comes out on top due to its ability to be used even by people with sensitive skin.
When you start using products with kaolin clay, follow our tips to get the most out of it. That way, your skin can look and feel its best without being subjected to the overly drying effects other types of clay can cause.
Kaolin - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
Kaolin | Al2H4O9Si2 | PubChem (nih.gov)
Bentonite Clay as a Natural Remedy: A Brief Review | NIH (nih.gov)