June 14, 2016

Does Clay Washing Actually Clean Hair?



Joneen asks:
I have a question about rhassoul clay. I’ve heard great things about using it as a shampoo. My concern, though, is mineral buildup. This is one of the results of hard water that has a negative impact on hair, and something I am currently experiencing and want to avoid in the future. I know rhassoul is largely silica and aluminum, but it does have some calcium and magnesium in it, the very same minerals that hard water contains that are so problematic.

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So it seems to stand to reason that these would also get deposited on the hair from using rhassoul. Is there a scientific reason why it may not cause mineral buildup – i.e. does the large amount of silica somehow prevent the calcium and magnesium from binding to the hair? I will be mixing it with aloe vera juice to create a consistency that is easy to apply.

BeautyBrains answer:
We touched on this once before when we talked about an article published on a blog called “The Natural Haven.” It’s written by a scientist who goes by the name of “JC” and she posted a very interesting piece on evaluating different types of mild cleansers.

She did an experiment where she collected her own shed hair which she divided into several groups: a negative control group that was left dirty and oily. A positive control that was washed with regular shampoo, and several test groups which she washed with different types of cleansers. then, and here’s the cool part, she took micrographs of group to determine how well the test products cleaned.

Check out her website for pictures of the results but here’s what she found:

  • 
Best cleansers (all of the oil removal): Shampoo, oat water (oats boiled in water to release natural saponins), natural soap bar.
  • Good cleanser (most of the oil removed): Hair conditioner (cowash), liquid castle soap, clay
  • Poor cleanser (little to no oil removal): Baking soda, Shikaki (crushed acacia pods) and the worst of all apple cider vinegar.

So back to Joneen’s question…will rhassoul clay cause mineral buildup? Rhassoul clay comes from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. (It’s also known as Moroccan lava clay.) It’s primarily composed of a mineral called stevensite and another clay called montmorillonite. It can also contain impurities such as iron, potassium, Al, and other metals. So in part it depends on how purified it is.

Mineral buildup is a huge problem when the metal ions in hard water combine with soap and form insoluble “gunk” that’s hard to get off your hair. To a lesser extent you get mineral deposits when hard water dries on your hair. But this only occurs when you have the metal ions in the water in the first place. In rhassoul and other clays most of the metal ions are tied up in the molecular complex so their less likely to deposit on your hair. Again, this depends on how purified the clay is.

It’s interesting to note that there’s a patent covering the use of this clay combined with aloe vera.

It seems unlikely that this would cause a big problem but unfortunately the best answer is that just have to try it and see.

She said she’s already having this problem I presume from rinsing her hair in hard water. Won’t she still have an issue when she rinses her hair after this treatment?

Finally, remember these alternate cleansers like clay won’t do a good job of removing residue from heavy conditioners or styling products.

Share your experiences below!

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