Clay Masks for the Head and Scalp

The benefits of clay masks for skin health, particularly the face, are well documented. Most of us either currently use, or have used some kind of clay mask for our face and hopefully appreciate the special powers of the clay formulas in your favorite masks. However, less commonly documented are ways to use clay for your hair and scalp.

In this article we'll take a look at how your hair and scalp can benefit by using a clay mask for the head. We'll also cover what makes the skin on your head different to that on your face, and we'll dig into the clay's effect on your hair.

What are the benefits of clay for the scalp?

Like treatments for the face, the clay also cleanses and detoxifies the skin on your scalp. Because the skin on our scalp is usually covered with hair, it's easy to forget about your scalp-skin while you focus on your gorgeous face. However, a clean, healthy, well-maintained scalp is essential for fostering an optimum environment for healthy hair maintenance and growth. Here's a bullet list of the full range of benefits of using clay on your head and scalp:

  • Prevents a dry scalp
  • Promotes hair growth
  • Removes excess oiliness
  • Makes your head feel cleaner
  • Gets rid of dandruff

Are there different skin types on the scalp?

Just as it’s possible to have dry, greasy or combination skin on your face, the same is true of the scalp. Only trouble is, our head is more difficult to treat because our hair is in the way. If our face feels dry we can moisturise it. That’s not as easy with the scalp. In fact, hair can exacerbate a dry or greasy scalp because the hair canopy creates a humid environment. 

You’ll know you need to do something about your scalp when it feels dry and itchy, there are red patches or the skin is flaking. Your scalp actually has more sebaceous glands than everywhere else on the body, including your face so it definitely needs careful management.

What is the right way to use a clay mask on my head?

Apply the clay mask evenly over your hair and scalp, making sure it goes all the way down the length of the hair follicle. There is no need to wet your hair first but if you do, that's fine too. Leave for up to 10 minutes before washing off. That way the mask will have had a chance to work its magic.

Like a mask for your face, a clay hair mask is intended for use only a few times per week. If your hair is very dry and brittle, you might benefit from using it more often. That said, we always advise to start slow and test first.

Can masks help with a dry scalp?

Clay masks for head itchiness caused by a dry or flaking scalp can prove very effective. This is particularly the case with skin conditions such as seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis. That’s because the clay detoxifies without completely drying out the scalp. 

When it comes to a condition like dandruff, the negative ions in the clay attract the positive ions from the dirt and toxins in your hair, including leftover hair product and draws them out, leaving the skin and hair clean. Clay is also antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial, all highly advantageous qualities for a healthy scalp.

Can masks help for an oily scalp?

A clay mask will clean out clogged hair follicles and remove the greasy toxins, dirt and impurities to make sure the individual hair strands are clean. This has the effect of giving the hair strength and looking glossy and bouncy. Oily hair comes from an oily scalp, so using the right clay mask formula goes a long way to improving your scalp's skin and sparing your hair from too much oil.

What are the benefits of clay for the hair?

The powers of clay for the hair have been embraced by women in the middle east for hundreds of years. A study in the Iranian Journal of Health showed clay can even make sheep’s wool soft, glossy and fuller. Iranian women generally have beautiful, thick and wavy hair. However, when exposed to the dry hot air, they understandably need to work hard to ensure their hair remains well nourished and silky smooth.

Clay on the hair, as opposed to the scalp, also has the double benefit of both strengthening and cleansing the hair. Clay puffs up the individual hair strands by extracting the left-over product and toxins giving your hair more body and keeps it longer.

Premium clay formulas also contain stimulating and natural healing properties that promote a fertile environment for hair growth and regeneration.

Here's a short list of additional benefits of clay on the hair:

  • Calms down frizzy hair
  • Makes hair stronger
  • Promotes hair growth
  • Gives gloss to hair
  • Better defines your curls

Can clay on my hair help control my curls?

Clay is an excellent agent for reining in your wild curls and this includes seriously frizzy curls. African Americans have the most challenging time keeping their curls in check and the hair does have a tendency to break, especially when worn long. Using clay on the hair goes a long way to wrestling back some control from the frizz and breathing more life into your precious locks.

Should I shampoo after a head mask?

You don’t have to use either shampoo or conditioner once you’ve applied the clay mask. In fact, the clay is your cleanser and conditioner. That’s because it will draw out excess dirt and oil (shampoo) and moisturise at the same time (conditioner). Clay behaves just like one of those 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioners you see on every store shelf but the clay is a natural substance and comes with far fewer chemicals and toxins.

Is clay bad for my hair?

To date there aren’t any studies which show that using clay masks for head treatments are detrimental to the hair or the scalp. But, if you know you have a sensitive scalp then it’s sensible to carry out a patch test on a small piece of skin and wait 24 hours before applying the full clay mask to your head. The types of adverse effects that may arise include a rash, redness or itchiness.

What are the special powers of clay?

The type of minerals contained in a clay mask usually include minerals like calcium, iron, potassium, sodium or magnesium. The combination of these minerals and nutrients depends on the type and origin of the clay. In America, Bentonite clay comes from the town of Fort Benton in Wyoming. In France it’s the region of Montmorillon. But even within Fort Benton and the surrounding areas, there are different types of Bentonite clay, depending on which combination of minerals are most prolific. Examples are calcium bentonite, aluminum bentonite, sodium bentonite or potassium bentonite. Each of these clay versions can have different special powers.

There’s also evidence that our Stone Age ancestors probably used clay for healing wounds. Aristotle advised ingesting it to detoxify back in 300 BC (we do not advise this) and the Romans covered skin burns and cuts with it back in 60 BC. The Aztecs used clay, so did the Aboriginals of Australia. Native Indians saw it as a healing substance for infections and an antidote to pain. Today you’ll find clay regularly used in upmarket spas, where pretty much no body part is off limits to clay. 

In summary, clay is a great way to naturally clean your hair and scalp without exposure to the chemicals and toxins found in many manufactured haircare products. That said, it doesn't have to be a choice between clay or shampoo and conditioner. Just mix a mask treatment for your head into your weekly or bi-weekly routine and give your head, scalp and hair some extra love.