When crafting handmade soap, one of the most versatile ingredients to add is clay. With an array of therapeutic benefits for skin and creative options to customize soap recipes, clays can be an excellent addition for soapmakers. There are several types of clay commonly used in soapmaking, each with their own distinctive properties. Some clays help purify and absorb excess oils, while others provide unique minerals and visual appeal. By thoughtfully selecting the right clay or clay blend for your particular soap recipe and skin needs, you can take advantage of these diverse gifts from nature. This article explores the qualities of top clays for soapmaking and key considerations when formulating the perfect clay-enhanced soap.

Types of Clay Commonly Used in Soapmaking

Bentonite Clay

Bentonite clay is composed mostly of montmorillonite and derives its name from the Fort Benton area in Wyoming, where it is commonly found. With excellent absorption properties, bentonite clay helps remove impurities, excess oils, and environmental contaminants in soap recipes. It also gently exfoliates the skin. Its small particle size makes it a suitable thickening agent. Bentonite works well in melt-and-pour soap bases, hot process soap recipes, and cold process formulations where it can accelerate trace.

Kaolin Clay

Kaolin clay, also called China clay, contains the mineral kaolinite, which gives it a soft, chalky texture. Kaolin clay, with its mild absorption qualities, lightly exfoliates and nourishes skin with nutrients like silica and magnesium. Its fine particle size and light color make it an excellent choice to use as a natural colorant in white or lightly colored cold-process soap recipes. Kaolin also aids in the consistency and lather quality of soap.

Rhassoul Clay

Mined from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, rhassoul clay contains a blend of minerals like silica, magnesium, and iron that help purify skin. With a flaky particle structure, rhassoul clay gently exfoliates and leaves behind a nurturing layer on the skin that does not feel overly drying. This makes it a wonderful addition to sensitive skin soap recipes. Rhassoul clay has buffering properties to lower a soap batter’s pH, which aids in a gentle cure.

Other notable clays

Some other clays worth noting are illite and montmorillonite clays, which have similar mineral compositions as bentonite but slightly different properties. Fuller’s earth clay is an absorbent clay that can add skin-enhancing benefits to soap. Red and yellow clays bring vivid, natural colorants to handmade soap, while green, blue, pink, purple, and grey clays offer soft, natural hues. Multani mitti clay contains healing minerals used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.

Key Properties of Clays for Soapmaking

Absorption and Purification

The layered mineral structure of most cosmetic clays allows them to draw in and trap substances. By pulling excess oils and environmental contaminants deep into their platelets, clays help purify skin through gentle absorption while avoiding a stripped or overly-dried feel. Bentonite, rhassoul, and Fuller’s earth clays especially excel at absorbing impurities. Using 5–15% clay in cold or hot process soap recipes assists the bar with lather quality, hardness, and richness by balancing the oils.

Color and Visual Appeal

The natural mineral composition of clays lends them gorgeously rich and vibrant hues, making them ideal natural colorants. Red, yellow, and pink clays deliver striking pops of color, while green, blue, and grey shades offer softer, more elegant tones. Clays like rose clay, purple Brazilian clay, and rhassoul clay lend themselves to visually intriguing speckled or marbled textures.

Skin-Enhancing Benefits

Clays nourish skin in recipes thanks to an abundance of minerals like silica, iron, magnesium, calcium bentonite, and sodium bentonite. Sensitive skins benefit from anti-inflammatory and soothing clays like kaolin, rhassoul, white cosmetic clay, or French green clay. Oily and acne-prone skin enjoys the deep cleansing power of bentonite, yellow Brazilian clay, or multani mitti clay to unclog pores. Using a clay blend allows you to customize for multiple skin needs.

Selecting the Right Clay for Your Soap Recipe

Consider Sensitivity and Safety.

When working with pure clays, it is vital to assess for skin sensitivities by performing a patch test on the inner arm prior to adding them to soap recipes. Always use cosmetic-grade clays from reputable suppliers. Some clays, like rhassoul, French green clay, kaolin, and bentonite, tend to be gentle enough for most skin types, yet a patch test helps confirm this, especially for sensitive skin. Additional ingredients like spices, coffee, or eco-glitter paired with clay may increase irritation risks for reactive skin. Carefully weigh skin safety for soaps that will be used frequently or sit directly on skin.

Match Properties to the Soapmaking Method

The soapmaking process you use can determine which clay properties suit your needs best. For cold-process soap, clays that accelerate trace, like bentonite, ghassoul, or French green, work well to quickly thicken the batter. In hot process and melt-and-pour soap, absorption matters less, so clays with superior skin enhancement like rhassoul, white kaolin, or pink work well. Consider bars with nature-inspired visual appeal by using cold process swirl techniques using vivid red, cocoa powder, turmeric, cinnamon, or pumpkin spice clays. Analyze your target soap properties and skin goals, then selectively blend compatible clays.

Clays make excellent additions to handmade soap by offering customization potential through their diverse properties and mineral composition. Carefully selecting the right clay or complementary blend helps soapmakers enhance the visual allure, richness, skin benefits, and overall quality of their soap recipes for crafters and consumers alike to enjoy.

Categorized in: