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Long before AHAs, BHAs, stem cell treatments, hyaluronic acid and countless tubes, bottles and jars filled with unpronounceable ingredients became the trend du jour, beauty enthusiasts relied on one simple ingredient to take care of most skincare issues: kaolin clay.
Mined since the Stone Age, this ingredient has been used in beauty routines for hundreds of years — mostly by women in Asia. And there's a reason why it's remained popular to this day. Here's how kaolin clay benefits the skin.
All clays were formed long ago through the gradual weathering of rocks. Each type contains different minerals, and it's these minerals that give clays their unique characteristics and benefits.
Kaolin is a white, soft, fine clay that takes its name from the Kao-ling hill in China where it was first mined (hence its other moniker: China clay). Historically, it's been used for everything from pottery to coating sheets of paper. Today, you can find it all over the world and, in fact, it's one of the state of Georgia's largest natural resources.
Kaolin is primarily made up of the mineral kaolinite, which gives the clay a fairly neutral pH. Don't be alarmed if you see clay that goes beyond its typical off-white shade: Other minerals added to the mix during the natural weathering process can tinge it red, yellow, blue or brown.
In cosmetics, kaolin clay usually starts as a powder. That powder combines with oils or other liquid ingredients to create a paste that's perfect for use as either a cleanser or a mask. Its neutral pH, easy absorption and soft, gentle texture makes kaolin clay a suitable option for most skin types, including dry ones.
Here are some of its top uses in skincare: