Kaolin is a natural clay that is used in cosmetics and personal care products to cleanse and exfoliate the skin, as well as add absorbency, texture, and bulk to products. It can also support formulas that are self-preserving.
Kaolin, also known as China clay, is a naturally occurring porous soft clay that is rich in the mineral, kaolinite. Specifically, kaolinite is a silicate of aluminum. While pure kaolinite is bright white, kaolin clay often has other minerals present that add slight coloration to the clay. For instance, it may have a pink hue from iron oxide or a green color from decomposing plant material. Kaolin is mined all over the world, from China to Europe to the United States. In addition to use in cosmetics and personal care products, kaolin is a component of a variety of substances, such as porcelain, toothpaste, paint, paper, OTC stomach medications, and more.
In cosmetics and personal care products, kaolin is used to cleanse and exfoliate the skin, as well as add absorbency, texture, and bulk to products. It is commonly found in face powders, face masks, creams and lotions for oily skin, bath powders, foundation cake makeup, dry rouges, deodorants, and soaps.
Kaolin provides absorbent properties that can absorb excess oil from the skin’s surface, which can help to reduce shine. It can also draw out oil, dirt, and other impurities from the pores. This is why kaolin is a popular ingredient in clay masks for oily and acne prone skin. Kaolin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce redness and swelling around existing blemishes.
Kaolin is used in exfoliating products because it does not completely dissolve in water; rather, it forms a paste with very fine particles. These particles serve as a gentle abrasive that can exfoliate the top layers of skin, removing dead skin cells, makeup, excess oil, dirt, and other impurities that may have accumulated during the day. Getting rid of impurities that build up on the skin’s surface is crucial in order to maintain clear skin since they can clog pores, eventually turning into undesirable acne or other dermal-related conditions. Furthermore, exfoliating becomes even more important with age since the skin’s natural cycle of shedding dead cells slows down.
Kaolin is also used in cosmetic powders and foundations. Often, foundation and other face makeup can stimulate the skin to produce more oil, which can lead to caking and other undesirable results. Powders and foundations that contain kaolin can help with this issue because kaolin absorbs the oil, resulting in skin that has a fresh, matte appearance. Its oil control properties allow the makeup to stay on longer, withstanding perspiration and wet or humid conditions. In addition, kaolin based products effectively hide imperfections and fine lines even at medium coverage.
Lastly, kaolin functions as a natural preservative because of its absorbent properties. In an aqueous cosmetic formulation, kaolin hides water within itself, away from bacteria, yeasts, or molds. These microbes cannot survive without water. Therefore, kaolin is an excellent ingredient to support product formulas that are self-preserving.
The safety of kaolin has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The Panel evaluated the scientific data and concluded that kaolin is safe as used in cosmetics and personal care products. Kaolin is gentle enough to be used by those with sensitive skin. However, if used too often in high amounts, it can lead to excess dryness.
References: Wikipedia “Kaolinite”, Making Cosmetics “Kaolin”, Annmarie Gianni “Kaolin, what it is and how you can benefit from this versatile ingredient”, Lush “Kaolin”, Cosmetics Info “Kaolin”