We Ask a Derm: Should We Use Bentonite Clay for Skin Treatments?

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bentonite clay for skin woman applying face mask
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If you’ve ever tried the Indian Healing Aztec Clay Mask, chances are bentonite clay has been on your radar for quite some time. The clay has been a staple beauty ingredient for centuries, known for removing excess oil, dirt and bacteria from skin. Whether you use it as a face mask or a rash treatment, bentonite clay has plenty of uses in your routine. Need further proof? We tapped two dermatologists to explain the skincare benefits of bentonite clay. 

Meet the Experts:

What is Bentonite Clay?

Bentonite clay is made from a fine, mineral-based powder found in volcanic ash. When mixed with water, the powder turns into a paste, which can then be used in many beauty remedies. The clay was first discovered in Montmorillon, France, which is why it's sometimes referred to as Montmorillonite clay. However, it's more commonly known as "bentonite clay" because the largest sources of the ingredient can be found in Fort Benton, Wyoming.

Benefits of Bentonite Clay for Skin

The clay has a host of benefits that include: 

  • Cleaning the skin. “Clay is a popular ingredient because it absorbs sebum and has antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties,” says Dr. King. As a result, Nazarian recommends bentonite clay for oily or acne-prone skin, as it helps to clear the surface and control oil production. 
  • Soothing irritated skin. Studies show that its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties can help soothe and heal irritation caused by breakouts, diaper rashes or skin infections (i.e. poison ivy). A 2014 study even highlights that 93 percent of infants saw an improvement in their diaper rashes after three days of using bentonite clay. 
  • Releasing mineral properties. Bentonite clay releases minerals like calcium, iron, copper, zinc and magnesium that can help brighten dull areas, soothe irritation and protect the skin.
  • Reducing the appearance of enlarged pores. As the clay works its magic in removing sebum and lingering dirt on your skin, it provides a tightening effect that minimizes the look of enlarged pores. 
  • Exfoliating the skin. “Its abrasive properties can be helpful for physical exfoliation, which can remove dead skin cells and keratin debris. The results? A decrease in sebum production, dead skin cells and blackheads,” explains Dr. King.

Side Effects of Bentonite Clay

There is little to no evidence that suggests bentonite clay is harmful for your skin. However, you should still do a patch test on your inner forearm beforehand, especially if you have sensitive skin or are trying it for the first time. To be extra safe, we recommend consulting with your dermatologist before implementing the clay into your routine. 

Another way to reduce any potential risks or unwanted side effects is by purchasing bentonite clay from a reliable source like Ulta Beauty, Whole Foods and sometimes even Amazon. Always check the clay’s color (it should be gray or cream), whether or not it has an odorless scent and the type of bentonite (aka calcium vs. sodium) you're purchasing. The type is super important, as calcium bentonite clay tends to be gentler, which can be helpful for sensitive skin.

How to Use Bentonite Clay on the Skin

There are plenty of products in the market that feature bentonite clay. But if you’re in a DIY mood, here are some quick remedies to try at home:

  • A face mask. This is the most popular DIY use of bentonite clay, as it removes impurities, reduces inflammation and treats breakouts. To whip up your own mask, mix equal parts powder and water in a small bowl. (Note: You can adjust the consistency to your liking by increasing the amount of water you add in). Once you create a paste, apply an even layer to your face and wait 10 to 20 minutes before rinsing. Both dermatologists recommend using this face mask one to two times a week if you have oily or acne-prone skin. However, those with dry and sensitive skin should stick to using it no more than once a week, as it might be too drying. To add even more benefits to your face mask, consider mixing in some tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar or turmeric powder. 
  • A body detox mask. Bentonite clay is a great treatment for your body. Apply it to your armpits to brighten up any hyperpigmentation or use it as a foot mask to soften the soles. A great combo to try is equal parts bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar, which has antibacterial and astringent properties (like malic, amino and alpha hydroxyl acids) to balance out the skin. Similar to a face mask, you’ll want to leave the concoction on for 10 to 20 minutes to avoid drying out the skin. Rinse and slather on a moisturizing lotion to finish. 
  • A poison ivy treatment. OK, it’s not great to get poison ivy. Luckily, a bentonite clay treatment can help soothe irritation and reduce any redness on the spot. First, wash the affected area with a gentle soap before applying a paste (again, equal parts bentonite clay and water) directly to the skin before covering it with a bandage. You’ll want to rinse off and reapply the mixture every few hours until the swelling and itching subsides. 
  • A diaper rash cream. This combo is sure to soothe some of your baby’s discomfort. Mix equal parts bentonite clay and water before applying the paste directly to the rash. You can also add shea butter or another soothing ingredient like coconut oil to keep the area moisturized. Note: Please consult with a doctor before applying any DIY mixture to your child’s skin. 

Looks like there might be an at-home spa day in your future. 

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Associate Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, Aspiring Beauty Guru

Chelsea Candelario is an Associate Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the internet...