Skin Science

Kaolin Clay Benefits: Meet Nature's Multitasker

by Anubha Charan
January 15, 2023

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.

What Is Kaolin Clay?

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.

How Kaolin Clay Benefits Your Skin

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:

  • Deep cleanses: Because of its unique molecular structure, kaolin has the ability to absorb deep-seated impurities like dirt, grime and pollution. It gives skin a deep cleanse — however, unlike some other clays, it doesn't dry out the skin, making it incredibly useful for those with a dry complexion.
  • Gently exfoliates: Kaolin clay's texture is slightly abrasive yet extremely gentle. This makes it an excellent exfoliant that sloughs away dead cells without causing redness or irritation.
  • Refines pores: Its powers of deep cleansing and exfoliating make kaolin clay a great option for minimizing the look of pores.
  • Absorbs excess oil: Kaolin's absorbent properties help it soak up excess shine without completely stripping your skin of natural oils. This leaves skin looking balanced, glowing and nourished.
  • Soothes irritation: Whether you're dealing with a bug bite or an uncomfortable rash, kaolin's healing properties can bring immediate (if temporary) relief to inflamed or irritated skin. It also soothes inflamed pimples, so your skin can heal without redness and itching.

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Skin Science

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