clay in soap making

You can use clay in soap making as a natural and gentle exfoliate, but you can also use it for skin care, poultices, masks and as a colorant. Clay is one way to make great special purpose facial soaps. Historically, clay’s are created with the forces of the earth’s core and magma, that heat, move and cool down, creating differing types of rock, minerals, crystals, and clay.


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pretty green soap tinted with green clay

Most clays are found where they settle after eons of freezing and thawing and water movements. Some clays mix with other clays and this mixing and moving creates fine grained earthy materials that we can use in our soaps, cosmetics, and other purposes.

The chemistry of clay is that it is a silicate, which is created with a blend of silicon, oxygen, and one or more minerals, and water.  These clays are often found in layers in the ground above or below underground rivers or watery levels. The one common feature of clays is that most tend to be drying to the skin.  Which is connected to one of clays best features, its ability to absorb impurities.

Bentonite Clay is actually edible (get the food grade stuff from the Health food store), where it absorbs toxins in your intestines, AND you can use this clay to make an all natural toothpaste. When clay is in a soap bar, you cannot feel the clay exactly, but you can feel a thicker lather. Once your skin is rinsed off, you can feel the gentle exfoliating effects left behind.

About clay in soap making:

When you go to add your clay in soap, if you were to dump the clay right into the pot, you will be chasing lumps of clay around.  It is best to put aside a 1/2 – 1 cup of soap base at the start of trace, add your clay to this amount, and mix well.  In a 20 bar recipe, start with 1 tablespoon of clay. A small whisk works very well for this.  When well blended, add this back to your soap base and mix throughout.   When using clays for coloring, make sure to add superfatting at trace to counteract the clays drying effects. 

All clay in soap making is very fine, so be careful to not create a clay ‘cloud’ and inhale lots of the particles.

The differences of the individual clays:

French Pink Clay:

  • considered the mildest of the clays
  • works with all skin types including sensitive and mature
  • cleanses and detoxifies at the skin level
  • exfoliates dead skin cells
  • can treat acne and sun damaged skin
  • can increase blood circulation to the skin
  • most often found in body wraps, face masks, scrubs and cosmetic powders
  • this clay is a blend of kaolinite, iron, illite, montmorillonite and calcite
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another pretty soap tinted with pink clay


Kaolin Clay, aka China White Clay:

  • this clay is composed of kaolinite, silicon oxide, aluminum oxide, iron oxide and titanium oxide
  • very mild clay, good for dry or sensitive skin
  • improves circulation to the skin
  • exfoliates and cleanses
  • found in facials, natural deodorants, poultices, scrubs, mineral makeup and body powders
  • kaolin has been used in a shaving soap at 1 T for every 4 pounds soap base

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Red Clay, aka French Red Clay:

  • contains hematite iron, copper oxides, kaolinite, illite, montmorillonite and calcite
  • may look like dirt or rust
  • good for normal to oily skin types
  • great for cosmetics
  • also good for detoxifying facial masks, body wraps, bath powders, makeup, scrubs and poultices
  • as a soap colorant, 1 tablespoon per 4 pounds of soap base for a brick-red color

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Green Clay:

  • this clay is composed of iron, silica, aluminum, magnesium, calcium, titanium, sodium, and potassium
  • usually mined while wet, then crushed,  sun-dried, then ground and micronized
  • stronger pulling action, detoxifying action, to skin
  • increases skin circulation, tighten pores, and tone skin
  • great as a poultice for sore muscles, sprains, arthritis, insect bites, stings, and mineral bath
  • used often in cosmetics, body wraps, soap, facial masks, skin cleansers, and facial powders
  • for soap making colorant,  to start with, add 1 tablespoon for a 95 ounce soap base recipe
  • example of this clay as a colorant is the image at top of the page

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Yellow Clay, aka French Yellow Clay:

  • a gentle clay, good for dry or sensitive skin
  • make of minerals and iron oxides, but no aluminum
  • detoxes at skin level, drawing out impurities
  • removed dead skin cells and acts as a toner
  • also used in body wraps, facials, etc
  • clay in soap making as a colorant, start with 1 T for every 4 lbs of soap

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Rhassoul Clay:

  • stronger than the other clays
  • contains silica, aluminum, iron, sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium
  • the high ion exchange allows for a stronger absorption, to reduce redness and flakiness
  • improves clarity and elasticity of skin
  • found in spa products, including masks, etc
  • good for an oily complexion
  • in soap making, good for a oily scalp shampoo bar
  • for that shampoo bar, add 1 T of this clay for every 4 lbs of soap base

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Bentonite Clay:

  • the perfect clay for a shaving bar (I used this for my shaving bars)
  • it creates a barrier between your skin and the razor
  • can be taken internally – make sure to get the food grade version from the health food store
  • not a clay exactly, but volcanic ash
  • it is the aluminum phyllosilicate element that makes this a super detoxifier
  • good for curing acne and rashes, plus eczema, psoriasis as a poultice
  • also for bacterial and fungal infection
  • often used in facial creams, etc, but also for teeth cleaning and bleaching
  • for shaving bar, add 6 T of this clay
  • found in only once place in the US, being Fort Benton, Wyoming

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Fuller’s Earth Clay:

  • a gentle detoxifying clay for all skin types
  • often used in acne creams, skin lightening, oily skin products
  • often mixed with bentonite clay to give it a finer texture
  • I did notice a rougher texture to this clay, so I always used the bentonite clay for shaving bars

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Glacial Bay Organic Clay:

  • found in only one place, being Glacial Bay, British Columbia, Canada
  • unique combo due to the tidal silt of this area
  • hand harvested and solar dried
  • the uniqueness of this clay is bringing attention from natural skin care companies, healthcare companies and researchers
  • contains 30 minerals and trace element
  • unparalleled absorptive ability
  • can be as fine as a mist
  • feels silky when applied
  • improves skin circulation while detoxifying


Zeolite Clay:

  • a super skin detoxifier
  • rich in silicon, calcium, potassium and iron
  • fine and light clay, with a pinky-brown color
  • good for normal and oily skin, can use on all skin types
  • often added to other clays to bump up the detox abilities
  • used in wraps, body washes, bath soaks, masks, cleansers, and anti-acne products
  • for clay in soap making, start with 1 T of clay per 4 lbs of soap base (for anti-acne bar)

I use bentonite clay in soap making in my Rose Geranium Shaving soap recipe.

Here’s an article on the good and bad of eating clay.

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