Bentonite Clay, A Revolutionary Cleanser Ingredient
Bentonite clay is one of the ingredients we’re most excited about at Silt. This is not a revolutionary skincare ingredient—it’s been utilized for centuries for its detoxifying and pore clearing properties. The most familiar use is probably in clay masks, but it’s also used in smaller amounts in scrubs and sunscreens. What is revolutionary is using it in a powder cleanser! Bentonite clay is the first ingredient in our standard Powder Cleanser formula. It gives the formula powerful cleansing, softening, and detoxifying properties, and also contributes to its velvety texture.
But what is it?
We’ve all heard of clay, but do any of us really know what it is? It comes from the earth, its soft and slippery when wet, but what is it? Dirt? Clay can actually refer to two distinctly different things.
“Clay” can refer to a type of dirt of a particular particle size and texture. This clay likely contains clay minerals but can also include many other types of organic and inorganic matter.
“Clay” is also a distinct type of mineral. Clay minerals are hydrous aluminum phyllosilicates. Clay minerals can be found in soils and rocks that would not be commonly known as “clay”. Clay mineral has a very tiny particle size of less than 4 micrometers (0.00016 in) and forms a lattice structure similar to metals or other pure minerals. For skin care purposes, when talking about clays, we are talking about pure clay minerals.
Where does it come from?
Clay is extremely abundant in the earth’s crust. There are sources of bentonite clay all over the world, but the name comes from a large deposit found near Fort Benton, in Montana and Wyoming. Bentonite clay is a specific type of clay mineral that comes from volcanic ash weathering in sea water. Bentonite clay can be found in pure bands in many places, including Petrified Forest National Park.
What makes it different from other clays?
Bentonite clay contains high levels of montmorillonite. This specific type of mineral is extremely soft, and the individual crystals do not tightly bind together allowing the material to swell to many times its dry size. While all clays swell to some degree, bentonite can swell up to eight times its original volume, much more than other clays.
How does it help my skin?
Due to its swelling nature the molecules of bentonite attract and absorb oils, dirt, and pollutants. This is the main benefit of doing a clay mask. Your skin is fully renewed from the exposure to drying bentonite. As the water leaves the clay it is all of a sudden very hydroscopic and wants to replace the moisture it lost. It basically acts as a magnet to the oils, dirt, and surface impurities of your skin. When using bentonite in our Powder Cleanser is has the same properties but in a smaller dosage. If you’ve done a clay mask before you probably know how tight and possibly irritated your skin get. By exposing your skin to a small amount of bentonite each day we’re able to get all of those skin purifying properties without any of the irritation or drying.
Is it sustainable?
Upstream sourcing of bentonite clay is sustainable, as the mineral is so abundantly available and the mining process to produce the bentonite does not strip the land. Once we’ve used the bentonite in our skin care products it is able to be biodegraded down to its most basic molecular form and return to the earth and it’s natural cycles without any additional treatments. In large amounts depositing bentonite in a water way or somewhere it’s not naturally can occurring can have negative effects, but in the small amounts Silt is depositing with each use there would be no environmental impact. These molecules are some of the most abundantly found in the earth’s crust, and we’re happy to have used them and returned them to where they belong.