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Kaolin Clay Benefits & Uses [The Definitive Guide]

by | Last updated Feb 26, 2020 | Published on Jun 7, 2019 | Types of Clay

Kaolin clay is distinctly recognizable as a fluffy white clay that is when mixed with liquid creates a lush smooth paste.

This white clay has been nicknamed “China Clay” even though it can be mined all across the world.

It is a very common ingredient in commercial masks, cleansers, and cosmetics.  But it also has many other industrial uses like coating paper.

Clay masks are typically very absorptive, especially bentonite. That means those with dry or sensitive skin might not be able to enjoy the cleansing benefits of clay masks due to over drying.

But Kaolin clay is an exception and is gentle enough for all skin types.

In this guide, we only cover external uses and benefits of kaolin clay, mostly for beauty and cosmetic purposes.    

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Our “definitive” guide of Kaolin Clay is super thorough, so feel free to skip to one of these sections below: 


What is Kaolin Clay?

Kaolin clay is a mineral called Kaolinte, one of the most common minerals.

It has been nicknamed White China Clay, but can also be called Kao-ling, after a mountain in Jiangxi province of China where Kaolin has been well known.  The name Kaolin is derived from the word Gaoling, meaning high ridge.

Used by the chinese in porcelain products, it was first discovered by a french missionary and sent to europe in 1727.  It’s considered one of the most important prehistoric clays in pottery.

Despite being named China Clay, Kaolin can be mined all around the world, including these countries (wikipedia):

Top 3 Producers:

  • United States
  • Brazil
  • United Kingdom
  • Malaysia
  • Pakistan
  • Vietnam
  • Bulgaria
  • Bangladesh
  • France
  • Iran
  • Germany
  • India
  • Australia
  • South Korea
  • China
  • Czech REpublic,
  • Spain
  • South Africa

How is Kaolin Clay Made?

Kaolin clay is simple a mineral called kaolinite.  The 4 types of minerals in the kaolinite group are dickite, kaolinite, nacrite, and halloysite.

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Kaolin clay is a 1:1 clay mineral (read more about clay structures in how clay works).

The Bentonite is from the smectite family of minerals. It’s a super small particulate, less than 2 micro meters.  That’s the smallest of the 3 particles in dirt, sand or silt.

Size of Clay Particles Compared to Sand, Silt and Gravel

For kaolin clay to form, chemical weathering of aluminum silicates needs to take place.

It’s often mined beneath the earth surface, here’s what a quarry looks like:

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When it’s mined, it’s often in a semi hydrated state and can be removed from the earth in chunks like these:

Kaolin Clay when mined from source | Kaolin Chunks

Using a sundried or heat method, the kaolin clay is cleaned and dried.  Then it’s milled into a fine powder and looks like this beautiful fluffly clay:

Kaolin Clay | Gentle Cleansing and Exfoliating White Clay

The powder above is from our facial clay assortment pack, sourced from France.

What are the minerals in Kaolin Clay?

The Kaolinite mineral is made up of hydrated aluminum silicate using this empirical formula Al2Si2O5(OH)4.  Those minerals in the formula are:

  • Silicon (Si2)
  • Aluminum (Al2)
  • Oxygen (O5) and Hydroxide (OH)4

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To be considered kaolin clay, the clay musts contain 10-95% of the mineral kaolinite. (source).

The kaolin clay in our clay assortment pack has a 85% kaolinite mineral concentrate.  Our kaolin clay is mined in France.


Kaolin Clay Buying Guide

To help you navigate the world of Kaolin clay, here’s some questions to consider.

Does Kaolin Clay have an odor?

Kaolin clay is odorless.  If your purchased clay has an odor, I would be concerned about what additives might be in it.

What color should kaolin be?

Kaolin clay is most commonly white.

But depending on where it’s mined, there might be different pink, red or yellow hues to kaolin.  Those are often called pink kaolin, yellow kaolin or red kaolin clay.

Each different type of kaolin clay has different minerals and different absorptive abilities.  Different colors of Kaolin are not the same.   

Is there a difference between cosmetic, medical and industrial kaolin?

Yes!  Once mined, Kaolin Clay is cleaned, tested and dried.  Cosmetic and medicinal clay are tested for mineral content.  This ensures there are no harmful contents in the clay.

Kaolin clay is commonly used in ceramics, skip using this kaolin on your skin.  Always ensure you are purchasing cosmetic grade.

Are there added fillers or minerals?

Adding additional minerals won’t necessarily impact the efficacy of kaolin clay.  So it’s best to purchase pure kaolin clay without additives or fillers.

Suggested: 4 Pack Clay Assortment Pack


What are the Benefits of Kaolin Clay?

With anything you put on your skin you should know the “what”, the “how” and the “why”.  The how is a much more vast topic which we cover in the science of how clay works.

These benefits are the “why” for the reasons to use kaolin clay:

5% of tested clays are antibacterial

1. Cleansing

While Kaolin clay is not antibacterial in that it does not kill the bacteria, it will adsorb it from your skin. Kaolin also absorbs excess oils, secrations, and toxins from the skin.  Most types of clay do a really good job at cleansing your skin.

As a natural cleanser, kaolin is able to gently remove impurities from your skin.  Commercial cleansers often contain harsh surfactants to cleanse your skin.  Some commercial cleansers are also very alkaline and can cause an imbalance to your skin’s natural acid mantle protective barrier.

Pro tip: if you have oily skin kaolin clay also makes a great daily cleanser.

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2. Exfoliating

The aluminum silicate in kaolin clay is not fully absorbed by water.  This results in a gentle exfoliation removing dead skin cells from your skin.

Pro tip: apply a kaolin body or face mask with your fingers in wide circular motions to exfoliate. Always massage your skin “up and out”, never in a downward motion.

Clay Masks for Acne | Fight acne and blemishes

3. Acne Fighting

The combination of adsorbing impurities from your pores and excess oils from your skin fight some of the main causes of acne.

Acne is often caused by dead skin cells, dirt, or oils getting trapped in your pores.  Keeping your pores cleansed of these impurities fights off future acne causing bacteria.

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4. Reduce Excess Shine

AKA oily skin.

All clay are pretty darn effective for adsorbing excess oil from your skin.

Kaolin clay is not as effective as bentonite clay for absorbing excess oils.  It gently removes excess oil from your skin while not absorbing your skin’s natural oils.  This is why most people don’t experience a red face after using kaolin clay.

By removing excess oils, it helps your skin to regulate the oil production.  Say goodbye to the 5 o’clock oily skin shine.


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5. Improve Skin Circulation

There’s not much definitive research that proves this benefit.  However just like dry brushing and facial massages, clay is thought to increase skin circulation.

Stimulating your skin lymph nodes by gentle massages and removing dead skin cells improve oxygen and enhance delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells.

Kaolin clay is a gentle exfoliant to remove dead skin cells and while applying with your fingers a gentle massage promotes skin circulation.

Proper blood and lymph circulation in your skin is very important for healthy skin.

Pro tip: take an extra minute every morning and night during your skin cleanser application to gently massage and stimulate that circulation.  


8 Uses of Kaolin Clay

I hope your loving Kaolin Clay and excited to start using it. There are (not surprisingly) a ton of different ways you can put this white fluffy clay to use. 

Here are my favorite 8 ways to use Kaolin Clay:  

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1. Clay Face Mask

Obviously this was going to be the first application, hence facial clay masks dot com.

Most of the benefits beauty benefits of Kaolin clay work wonders for your skin!  My favorite way to apply is in a relaxing clay face mask.

Here’s 9 of my favorite Kaolin Clay Mask recipes, just some of them are:

1. Beautiful Hibiscus Clay Mask

2. Antioxidant Rich Pomegranate Clay Mask

3. It’s all about the Cocao Clay Mask

2. Facial Cleanser

Kaolin clay is gentle enough to be used for all skin types, even sensitive skin.  

Being that it’s gentle enough for all skin types, it’s also gentle enough to use daily. 

Kaolin clay gently cleanses and removes impurities from your skin. It absorbs excess oils from your skin and regulates ongoing sebum production. 

It’s also PH neutral.  Regular cleansers tend to be very alkaline and can be abrasive on your skin.  Kaolin clay has the lowest PH around 7.0 as found in this clay mask assessment

Plus it’s super simple to use as a daily cleanser.  Simply add a bit of clay to your hand with a couple drops of water.  Massage in circular motions to your skin for up to a minute and rinse.  

3. Dry Shampoo

Remember that oil absorption benefit?  It also works when applied in powder format.

How to use Kaolin Clay as dry shampoo? Simply sprinkle a small amount of clay onto your hair and massage in.


4. Powder Foundation

Again the oil absorption when added to a homemade powder foundation helps control shine all day long. 

Some makeup includes chemicals that also speeds up your aging.  I have been using homemade makeup for a couple months now and am absolutely converted.  Full disclaimer, it’s light coverage, but my weekly clay masks keep my complexion clear and smooth.  And I’m loving it!!

For my recipe (which I will be posting a full article on soon), mix kaolin clay, arrowroot powder, zinc oxide.  For the color toning, use hints of cinnamon, cocoa powder and french green clay. 

Use Kaolin clay as an anti-shine powder on top of your makeup. 

5. Relaxing Bath Additive

Soften dry skin and a smoothing effect to your next bath. 

Remember those amazing bath bombs that are all types of funky colors and fizzle in the bath.  Clay is a regular ingredient in those bath bombs, kaolin clay in fact. 

A Kaolin clay bath bomb recipe will be coming soon! 

But to keep it simple, simply mix a quarter cup to half cup of kaolin clay in a glass of water, mix all the and add to your bath water.  

6. Nourishing Hair Mask

Your hair and scalp are important too.  Cleanse your scalp and detox your hair follicles with a natural hair mask. 

Use kaolin clay as a hair mask or even as a natural shampoo. 

If you suffer from oily hair, kaolin clay is an amazing way to control your hair grease. 

7. Diaper Cream

Talc is the most common ingredient in baby powder.  Talc recently came under scrutiny as a baby powder ingredient because some tested with asbestos.  Talc is closely related to the clay family.  Another reason why it’s important to only purchase cosmetic grade clay that has been tested.

Kaolin Clay or Bentonite make a wonderful diaper cream.


8. After Bath Powder

Like a baby powder but for adults.  Apply to your skin after a bath for smooth skin.

This is also a great cheat for a hot summer’s day to powder your thighs.  The clay acts as a great sweat absorption.


What are the side effects of kaolin clay?

You must be wondering, but are there side effects of kaolin clay?

Some people have used food-grade kaolin clay Kaolin clay internally as a diarrhea treatment.

We do not consume it, this is not a recommendation to eat it.  Most side effects would be from consuming kaolin clay.

Like any product, always test with a small patch prior to full application.  

What has been your experience with Kaolin Clay?  Have you tried the Kaolin clay in our facial clay assortment pack? Super eager to get your feedback, leave a comment below 🙂

Disclaimer: our content does not constitute dermatologist or medical advice.

Featured Kaolin Clay Recipes:


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