Clay Masks For Hair: Benefits, Best Clay Types & How to Use

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Clay masks for hair

What if I told you that you can totally revamp your hair using naturally occurring clays? Yes- the same clays that are popularly used in skin care routines.

Because I have been seeing the hair industry going bonkers with clay masks, I got a little curious and decided to dig into the science of clay and how it can be used in hair care. I particularly wanted to find out how these clays work to detoxify, cleanse and moisturize hair.  

I am currently using Bentonite clay in my natural 4C hair care regimen. So far, I mostly have good things to say about this clay except that washing it off is not a walk in the park!

So, get your hot cup of tea or coffee, get comfortable and learn all you need to know about clays for promoting hair growth.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Here is what we will cover:

Introduction to clay for hair

Clay is a naturally occurring earth that is rich in mineral elements and is obtained from different sources such as volcanic ash, sediment, soil or rock.

The main benefits of using clay in your hair care regimen include: (i) detoxifying hair (ii) removal of dirt and excess oils that build-up on hair and scalp, (iii) enhancement of moisture content of your scalp and hair strands and (iv) boosting of nutrient supply for optimum hair growth.

The chemical composition in different clays vary but typically they are all absorptive, especially Bentonite clay.

This means those with dry or sensitive hair need to be careful when using clays for cleansing as they may lead to excessive drying of hair. Kaolin clay has a less drying effect hence a good option for those with dry and brittle hair.

In this article, we will focus on 6 types clays that can be used on hair: (i) Bentonite clay, (ii) Rhassoul Clay, (iii) Kaolin Clay, (iv) French Green Clay, (v)Fuller’s Earth Clay, and (vi) Australian Pink Clay.  

The science of clay on hair: What does clay do to your hair?

The basic principle by which clay works on hair is Adsorption and Absorption. It is the adsorptive and absorptive nature of clays that makes them powerful products that can be used to either remove bacteria, detoxify or remove product build-up from the hair.

“Adsorption is the process of attraction, binding, and accumulation of molecules or particles to a solid surface in a condensed layer.”

“Absorption results when a substance diffuses or penetrates into a liquid or solid forming a transition zone or layer, often with a new composition, adjacent the substrate.” (1)

In simple terms, Adsorption is when something stays on the surface of another thing while Absorption is when something penetrates through or into another substance.  

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Clay is both positively and negatively charged. The large surface on both sides of the clay structure have negative ions while the small edges have a few positive ions.

What happens when you mix clay and water?

Water is dipolar, meaning that is has both negative and positive charge. Adding water to clay makes the clay to swell and increase the surface area . The Positive clay ions are then attracted/adsorbed to the negative ions and Negative clay ions adsorbs/sticks to the positive side. This leads a powerful activated paste that has numerous benefits to the hair.

So, what happens when you put the clay on your hair?

Several chemical and physical activities happen when you apply clay to the hair. In summary: (i) mineral components such as Magnesium, Silica and Potassium are absorbed into the hair strands, (ii) electro-magnetic activity of the negative and positive ions destroy bacteria and remove toxins and finally, (iii) the hair is clarified when the clay removes oils and products build-up.

Here is a detailed explanation of how these processes happen:

Detoxification: Detox is the process of removing toxins and heavy metals like mercury, lead, fluoride among others from the body and in this case, hair. Depending on the charge of the toxic substance, the principle of ‘opposite charges attract’ apply in the detoxification process.  

If the toxin is positively charged, then the negative clay charge adsorb/stick on the positive charge of the toxic substance hence binding and sticking together. When the clay is washed off, the ‘bound’ toxins come off with the clay.

Removes bacteria: The clay-water mixture has a lot of negative ionic energy. So when you have bacteria in your hair, the electric fields of these ions cause electrolysis on the walls of the bacteria which leads destruction of these bacteria.

Clarifies the hair: This happens through the absorption nature of clay. When clay dries and contracts on hair, the pore spaces that are created as a result of drying and contraction soak up and trap oily build up thus clarifying the hair.

What are the best clays for hair?

The best clays for hair are those that are loaded with beneficial minerals that : (i) will nourish the hair, (ii) have adsorption and absorption capabilities to get rid of toxins and heavy metal from the hair, (iii) clarify the hair and (iv) remove harmful bacteria from hair. Such clays include: Bentonite Clay, Kaolin Clay, Rhassoul Clay, Fuller’s Earth Clay among others that we shall discuss in this article.

Below is a detailed list of the best clays for hair. These clays are readily available and are used widely both in the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries.  

1. Bentonite Clay or Montmorillonite Clay

Bentonite clay is naturally occurring and forms from volcanic ash. It was first found in Montmorillon-France hence the name Montmorillon.

It acquires its name `Bentonite’ from Fort Benton in Wyoming where it occurs in large amounts.  

It is mostly used in medicinal and cosmetic formulations but it is also used in hair care treatment. It can either be used externally as a hair mask or internally by ingesting the clay.

There are many types of Bentonite clay depending on the elements that each predominantly contains. The common types include: (i) Calcium Bentonite clay which is what is popularly known an ‘The Indian Healing Clay’, (ii) Potassium, (iii) Aluminium and (iv)Sodium Bentonite Clays.

Bentonite clay is rich in calcium, magnesium, iron which are great for your hair’s growth and development.

The clay is mixed with water to get a desired consistency then applied on hair. A better alternative to making the paste is using Aloe Vera juice or Apple Cider Vinegar.

Adding these two will make the paste’s pH closer to that of hair but also you will benefit from the benefits associated with using Aloe Vera and Apple Cider Vinegar on hair.  

You can conveniently purchase the Bentonite Clay, Aloe Vera Juice and Apple Cider Vinegar online from Amazon using the links below.

2. Kaolin Clay

Kaolin clay, commonly known as the ‘White or China clay’ was first discovered at the Kao-Ling Mountain in China. Of all the clays, it is the most gentle and most commonly used in dry and powdered cosmetic products.

Kaolin is an excellent source of silica, a naturally occurring element that can help with thinning strands. (2)  

Whilst it has the ability to cleanse the hair and scalp of dirt and excess oils while boosting moisture content, it is not the best if you have oily hair.

It’s mostly suited for dry hair because it gentle and does not further drying of hair. It also has the ability to soothe an inflamed scalp.

Kaolin works well in the improvement of blood circulation within the scalp enabling the hair follicles to obtain maximum nutrient supply which would in turn lead to maximum hair growth rate. Koilin also strengthens your hair roots preventing hair loss.

Kaolin is available in various colors depending on the site mined and its mineral content. The most common colors available are white, yellow, red and pink.

3. Rhassoul Clay

Rhassoul clay is also known as Ghassoul clay.  It is a reddish-brown naturally occurring mineral clay that is mined from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco since the 8th century.

Rhassoul is drawn from the Arabic word Rhassala meaning to wash. For centuries it has been used by the Moroccan women as a cosmetic ingredient.

It is composed of Silica, iron, magnesium and sodium minerals. The Silica content in Rhassoul clay is higher than that of Kaolin clay.

The natural Silica in Rhassoul clay acts as an exfoliator hence unblocking the scalp’s pores by removing dead cells from it. It has an ability to draw dirt and excess oil from hair stands as well as the scalp.

The Magnesium and Sulfite content aids in hair strengthening and enhancement of hair sheen. In addition, this clay is very effective in soothing the scalp and providing relieve from scalp conditions such as dandruff.

When applied to the hair, it results in a softening effect thus relieving you of a hectic detangling process.  Rhassoul clay restores moisture of your scalp and hair strands reducing hair loss as a result of dryness.

You can use Rhassoul Clay by making a paste from water but if you want to make it more potent you can add other ingredients such as Essential Oil, Honey and Rose Water.

4. French Green Clay

French green clay or Sea clay is mainly found in France but can also be found in China, Wyoming, Montana and Europe.  Its green color, an indicator of quality, is usually due to decomposed plant matter and iron oxides.

It contains magnesium, calcium and potassium which are great for hair. The French Green clay is works best with oily hair types as it has strong absorptive properties.

When applied on hair it effectively removes dirt, product build up and dead cells unblocking clogged pores hence healthy hair growth. It also eliminates dandruffs from your scalp leaving it healthy.

5. Fuller’s Earth Clay

Fuller’s Earth clay or Multani mitti is produced by the corrosion of volcanic ash and was originally found in Pakistan.

 Its name comes from the historic act of cleaning and thickening of wool cloth by clay ‘fulling’. The person involved in this activity as well as its selling was known as a fuller hence the name Fuller’s Earth clay.

 It is composed of calcium, magnesium, silica and iron minerals.

Fullers earth clay offers bountiful benefits when incorporated in your hair care regimen. These include

  1. It has amazing oil absorbance properties therefore a perfect choice when dealing with oily hair.
  2. It offers nourishment to your hair follicles hence they are able to grow at a healthy rate.
  3. It is able to clean your scalp by acting as an exfoliator setting it free from dandruffs.
  4. The minerals it contains strengthens your hair strands reducing hair fall.
  5. Fullers Earth clay has antiseptic properties hence it can serve as a cleanser.

6. Australian Pink Clay

Australian pink clay is found in the southern and western part of Australia.

It is a rich source of silica. It works great in absorbing impurities and toxins which may be responsible for your hair damage.

Australian pink clay helps in restoring moisture and balance of your hair and scalp. It also smoothens the hair’s texture.

Benefits of clay on hair

  1. Clay has the unique ability to remove toxins from your hair and scalp. Heavy metals and toxins are adsorbed to the clay particles and washed off during the cleansing process.
  2. Nourishes the scalp and hair strands. Clay is packed with minerals such as Silica, Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium. All these nourish the hair providing the essential nutrients needed for hair growth.
  3. Soothes and relieves your scalp of flakes and dandruff. Healthy scalp equals healthy hair growth.
  4. Bentonite, Kaolin, Rhassoul among others deeply moisturizes your scalp and hair strands. Works magic on damaged hair by reversing the damage.
  5. When applied to the hair, clay enhances the hair’s natural curls by encouraging them to clump together. It also improve the natural sheen of hair by clarifying the strands.
  6. Clay has the ability to establish a pH balance between the hair strands and scalp.
  7. Enhances hair growth. With the benefits mentioned above (moisturizing, detoxifying, clarifying, improving blood circulation and soothing the scalp) the overall effect is healthy hair that will grow and flourish.

How to apply clay on hair

Using clay in your hair care regimen is very easy. You can make a simple paste of your favorite clay using water or you can add other ingredients such as Apple Cider Vinegar, Aloe Vera Juice, Rose Water, Honey and essential oils. Here is a step by step process on how to use clays on the hair.

Ingredients

  • 3-5 heaped spoons of clay (Bentonite/Kaolin/Rhassoul)
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 2-3 tbsp of honey (optional)
  • 3-4 drops of an essential oil (optional)

Method

  1. Using a wooden/plastic or Ceramic bowl add the clay into bowl. Do not use a metallic bowl or spoon to prepare the mixture because the metal will alter the charged particles in the clay
  2. Add warm water to make a thick paste. Add in Honey and the essential oil. Ensure the paste is not too runny and not too think. It should cover the hair without running off. You can play around with the quantities of the ingredients, you find the paste too runny, add in more clay until you get a desired consistency.
  3. Apply the paste to sectioned hair. Proceed to cover the hair with a plastic cap and leave in the treatment for about 20-30 minutes. Ensure the clay doesn’t dry on the hair.
  4. Thoroughly rinse off the clay mask using warm water.

If you are unsure of where to purchase the clays and other products mentioned in this article, here are links to Amazon where you can conveniently get all the products.

Lastly, I earlier mentioned that you can use Apple Cider Vinegar and Aloe Vera Juice in place of water to get a much more potent paste. You can learn more about the benefits of both of these ingredients in these articles: Apple Cider Vinegar and Aloe Vera Juice.

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Best clay masks for hair

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