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Kaolin Clay: Everything You Need to Know

by Aidan Moran |

When it comes to highly purifying and gentle cleansers, there are some incredibly effective natural resources that offer significant benefits over more common, chemically-enhanced products. Kaolin clay is one of these all-natural ingredients that enhance a clean beauty, toxin-free, vegan skin care regimen - it’s also excellent for all skin types when used as a cleanser, exfoliator, blemish treatment, and more!

What is Kaolin Clay?

Kaolin clay, which has also been referred to as white clay or China clay, is primarily made up of the mineral kaolinite.  The name ‘kaolin’ derives from the ‘Gaoling’, a Chinese village located in the southeast province of Jiangxi. The mineral in its purest form is a bright white color, but the clay usually have a colored hue depending on the mineral content of the areas where they are mined.  Reddish hues, for example, are caused by higher levels of iron oxide deposits, while a green hue is due to decomposed plant matter. It is one of the most commonly occurring minerals on earth, having been mined everywhere from China to the United States to Brazil.

lump of green clay on a wood paddle

Today, kaolin clay is used for pottery and paper in addition to health and beauty. In fact, the clay is thought to have been one of the first materials used to make pottery. Kaolin clay is used medically for reducing inflammation and treating internal sores or ulcers, particularly in the digestive tract. It is also one of the most effective bases for facial masks and scrubs.

smiling woman with red exfoliating scrub on cheeks

Kaolin Clay Benefits

For cosmetics and skincare uses, kaolin clay has some important detoxifying and stimulating effects.

The clay is a gentle cleanser for any skin type, extracting impurities and absorbing excess oils without causing inflammation or redness. Many people use kaolin clay for acne and for treating breakouts.  Kaolin clay has been used for centuries to absorb excess oil from the skin, preventing breakouts before they begin.  It's also perfect for helping to restore skin that's been damaged by frequent outbreaks of acne. Some have found that regular use helps to balance their skin’s oil production, reducing oily skin symptoms. Kaolin clay becomes a smooth paste when combined with water, and its tiny crystals gently exfoliate and refresh the skin. Since it is so gentle, kaolin clay is a fantastic cleanser and detoxifying treatment for sensitive skin.

With long term use, kaolin clay can cause your skin to appear more toned and tightened, reducing fine lines and wrinkles. There are also special types of kaolin clays, such as Brazilian red and crude clays that have clinical studies showing extreme improvement in elasticity and firmness.


Kaolin Clay Uses for Skin Care

Kaolin clay has skin benefits for any skin type. Kaolin clay and kaolin clay powder can be used on its own when combined with water or other natural ingredients to create highly effective, chemical-free skin cleansers, masks, scrubs, and more. The following are some of the most common things kaolin clay is used for:

  • Gently cleansing skin (excellent alternative cleanser for those with sensitive skin)
  • Reducing oily skin
  • Purifying and detoxifying the pores, removing dirt, grime, pollution, germs, etc.
  • Soothing sensitive and easily irritable skin
  • Effective weekly acne treatment
  • Exfoliating skin and removing dead cells and flaky, dry skin 
  • Improving skin elasticity and delaying the signs of aging
  • Reducing skin irritations such as bug bites, rashes, poison ivy, and others

Kaolin Clay vs Bentonite Clay

Bentonite clay (also known as Aztec clay) is a light gray colored clay, also frequently used in cosmetics and as clay masks.  It’s highly absorbent properties have led it to be frequently used as a treatment for acne caused by oily skin. With all the different types of clays available on the market, it can be confusing to know which one is best for your skin.  Several important characteristics to look at when comparing these clays are their absorption levels as well as their pH levels.

Water Absorption levels of popular clays:

  • (Kaolinite) Kaolin Clay: 65%
  • (Illite) French Green Clay: 150-200%
  • Bentonite Clay: 300 – 700%

The higher the absorption level, the more moisture the clay takes out of your skin.  Bentonite clay can absorb 300-700% of its mass in water, while Kaolin clay absorbs only 65%.  This means that bentonite clay will not just absorb any excess oils, but all the necessary fluids necessary to keep skin moist and healthy.  Kaolin clay is able to help with acne by reducing the level of oil without leaving your skin dry and unhealthy.

pH levels of popular clays:

  • Bentonite (aka Aztec Secret): 8 - 9.7
  • French Green (aka Illite Clay or Sea Clay): 7.75
  • Fuller's Earth: 7.5
  • Rhassoul Clay (aka Red Moroccan or Red Clay): 7 - 7.5
  • Dead Sea Mud: 7
  • Kaolin (all colors): 6

The pH level of your skin is important for the overall health of your skin.  When the pH level is too high, your skin is unable to properly combat the harmful microbes and free radicals that speed up the aging process.  The higher the pH level of the clay you use, the more damage it will do to your skin in this regard. Kaolin clay has a much lower pH level than Bentonite and other clays, meaning it’s far less damaging to the pH level of your skin.

[Learn more about the differences between Bentonite and Kaolin Clay]

Kaolin Clay Colors

Kaolin Clay Mask - Teadora

Rose (Pink) Clay: The minerals that give this clay its lovely natural color include copper, selenium, manganese magnesium and zinc.  It tends to have the pH level closest to human skin, meaning it is perfect for those with sensitive skin or those with sensitive or delicate skin.

Red Clay: The red clay gets its color primarily from high levels of iron oxide near where it is found.  The iron helps to instantly soften skin, making this variant one of the best for aging or damaged skin.  Clinical studies have shown that the red kaolin clay can lead to a 37% increase in skin firmness and improve skin elasticity by up to 173%.

Green Clay: The color of green clay comes from larger deposits of ancient plant matter in the areas near where it is found, in addition to levels of iron oxide.  This variation of kaolin clay has the highest absorption level, meaning that it is the best kaolin clay for acne and for people with excessively oily skin.


Buyer Beware: Many of the kaolin clay products available through online retailers like Amazon are actually commercial grade clay, which isn’t manufactured with skin in mind.  Using this clay can actually cause more damage to your skin. All of our Brazilian kaolin clays are manufactured specifically for cosmetic use and will help rejuvenate your skin for a luminous complexion.


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