Bentonite clay is finely-weathered volcanic ash, slowly formed over thousands of years by exposure to water. The resulting material is soft and porous and has therapeutic healing and skin-cleansing qualities. Clay is an important ingredient from ancient folk remedies that's gaining favor among a new era of consumers looking for more natural, from-the-earth alternatives to synthetic chemicals in grooming and skincare products. In fact, it's one of the hottest ingredients in natural skincare products today, and here's why.
The history of clay as a folk remedy is as old as the hills
The name “Bentonite” came from its discovery in Benton Shale deposits near Rock River, Wyoming, in 1898, though bentonite clay is found the world over, and it is especially plentiful in Wyoming and the Western United States. But clay's use in folk medicine goes all the way back to prehistoric times. Neanderthals were thought to use clays for wound healing. It is said that Cleopatra used clay to improve her complexion. Mudbaths in volcanic-ash-rich waters, for example, were perhaps the ancient precursors to today's health spa experiences.
Its chemistry is what makes bentonite clay so good for skin
Bentonite clay is a hydrous aluminum silicate that contains sodium, calcium, potassium or magnesium. Sodium and calcium bentonite clays are most common types of bentonite clay, and their uses differ according to their chemical composition. Sodium bentonite clay absorbs many times its mass in water. Calcium bentonite clay readily absorbs oils. Both types of the clay have uses in grooming and personal care products.
Some common uses for bentonite clay for skin:
- It is excellent for cleansing, as it draws grime, bacteria and toxins away from the skin.
- Because it can draw toxins and bacteria, it’s soothing and healing for skin.
- Bentonite Clay also draws and holds oils, making it an excellent medium for delivering the benefits of healing essential oils and herbal extracts, which tend to evaporate quickly; adding clay to balms or skincare preparations can help hold these herbal ingredients so they have time to do their good work.
It has a smooth, soft texture that's skin-friendly
Part of what makes bentonite clay so good in skincare products is its texture. It seemingly disappears into a wide range of preparations, from water-based lotions and body washes to oil-based balms and (of course) powders. And it is soft, not gritty. When you see bentonite clay listed on a label, you can know that it will be gentle on the skin.
At Fieldworks Supply Company, we've developed a whole line of balms, cleansers and shave products that feature bentonite clay. And because it's a versatile ingredient with many skin benefits, you can expect to see more personal care and grooming products featuring bentonite clay in the future.