What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of exfoliating, cleansing, and balancing oil production in the scalp? Is it shampoo? Or maybe a cleansing conditioner? While those might be your first choices, allow us to introduce to you the wonders of kaolin clay.
Kaolin clay has been used for centuries, dating back to ancient China where it was first used to make porcelain. Now, kaolin is infused with all sorts of skin and body products. When used on the skin, kaolin clay can help draw out excess oil, bacteria, dirt, and debris from our pores. And when used on hair, kaolin turns into an all-natural powerhouse ingredient that helps exfoliate, cleanse, and mop up any excess oil on the scalp (as well as getting rid of those impurities left behind by excess products). And the best part? Unlike most clays that just seem to suck all of the oil out of your pores, kaolin is quite gentle and leaves your hair feeling soft and bouncy. So, if you’re looking for a clean, sustainable, and eco-friendly hair product to add to your routine, keep reading to learn all about kaolin clay.
Type of ingredient:Exfoliator and cleanser.
Main benefits:Soothes the scalp, calms irritation, strengthens hair, absorbs oil.
Who should use it:In general, kaolin is beneficial for most hair types, however, those with dry, coarse, or damaged hair might see the best results.
How often can you use it: It’s safe to use once to three times weekly.
Works well with:Kaolin works well with essential oils like peppermint or rosemary to improve scalp health.
Don’t use with:In general, kaolin is typically used alone or with water and doesn’t have a reaction with most ingredients.
Benefits of Kaolin for Hair
Kaolin clay has been used to help calm and cleanse the scalp, balance oil production, and smooth damaged hair. It has a really lightweight, powdery texture, which makes it easy to mix or to use on its own as a dry shampoo. And thanks to its ultra absorbent qualities, it helps soak up excess oil without disturbing your scalp.
- Cleanses and exfoliates the scalp: Kaolin clay can be used to cleanse and exfoliate the scalp. Shab Reslan, a certified Trichologist and New York City-based hair stylist adds, “It can also be used on the scalp to help remove excess build-up that is left behind by your daily products.”
- Great pH Balance: Excess products, oil, silicones, waxes, and chemicals like hair dye and relaxers can affect the pH of your scalp and hair. But luckily, kaolin clay can help balance and strengthen hair. “The pH balance of kaolin clay (4-5) is also very similar to that of our hair (4.5-5.5) and can therefore help lower the pH of chemically processed hair by strengthening it,” Reslan says.
- Change hair texture: If you have tightly coiled hair and you want to loosen your curl pattern without harsh relaxers or texlaxers, kaolin clay is a great option. “One of the benefits of using kaolin clay on the hair is that you can change the texture of the hair. Specifically, if you use kaolin clay on shorter hair and constantly manipulate it, doing so can sometimes change its texture, resulting in looser curl patterns.” says Evie Johnson, a certified Trichologist and Mizani Technical Director.
- Absorbs oil: “Kaolin clay historically is used to mildly absorb the excess oil without stripping the skin/scalp in addition to giving more volume and fullness,” says Dr. Sunitha Posina, M.D, Board-certified Internist from New York City.
- Detoxifies: If your scalp and hair are in need of a deeper cleanse than your regular shampoo can do alone, it’s a good idea to add it to your routine. Dr. Posina says, “It is a detoxifier that is rich in minerals and nutrients and one of the clays with a gentle cleansing and exfoliating actions.”
Hair Type Considerations
Our experts agree that kaolin clay is suitable for most hair types, but especially those that are looking for excellent exfoliation and want to help rid hair of excess product build-up and oil. “Unlike other types of clay, Kaolin isn’t super drying and is suitable for a variety of hair types.” Johnson says. “However, Kaolin clay seems to work best on high texture types, like 7/8 which is equivalent to 4b/4c hair.” Dr. Posina adds, “It is great for people with fine hair, sensitive or dry scalps. Not to say that it is not suitable for other hair types, but it would be contingent on the other ingredients in the hair product.”
The condition of your scalp is something to consider when thinking of adding kaolin to your hair care routine. Reslan says, “It’s ideal for those with oily and flaky scalp conditions, but it should be avoided by anyone with a dry or irritated scalp.”
How to Use Kaolin for Hair
Kaolin clay is found in a number of different hair care products, most commonly detoxifying masks, hair pomades, and shampoos. If you are a DIY kinda person and you’re up to the task, kaolin clay can be easily incorporated into masks or used on its own.
- Apply directly to the scalp: Both Shab and Johnson recommend applying kaolin clay directly to your scalp for the best results. “Kaolin clay can be used for both the scalp and the hair. If used on the scalp, you must wet the hair as well as the scalp before applying the kaolin clay to the scalp, allowing it to sit for 20 to 30 mins,” Johnson says. “The clay will get a little hard, but that’s fine. Rinse, and follow up with your choice of shampoo and conditioner.” Reslan adds, “Kaolin clay can be used as a weekly or bi-weekly scalp purifying treatment to help maintain a clean and balanced scalp. It can be applied as a clay by mixing the powder form with water and applying directly onto your scalp prior to jumping in the shower and washing your hair. It’s a safe and gentle alternative to a scalp exfoliant or detoxifying product.”
- Apply to your hair: If your hair needs a bit of TLC, you can use kaolin clay directly on your strands. Johnson recommends, “If you are using the Kaolin Clay on the hair, wet and section the hair and apply kaolin clay, allowing it to sit on the hair for 30 to 40 mins. Depending on what you want your results to be, using manipulation will cause your texture to change slightly. After you let it sit for your desired time, rinse and follow up with your shampoo and conditioner of your choice.”
- Use products with kaolin clay: Products like the Strands of Faith Miracle 3-in-1 Clay Wash ($25) or the Living Libations Flowers in Her Hair Dry Shampoo ($45) are great options for people who want to include kaolin clay into their routine. “You can use hair products that have kaolin clay either in the shampoo, conditioner or hair masks,” says Dr. Posina.
- Make a DIY Mask: Making a kaolin clay hair mask is simple. Dr. Posina explains, “You can make a hair mask by mixing it with a small amount of water and hair oil for a nourishing mask. You can also mash up an avocado + hair oil + kaolin clay for a hydrating mask.”
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