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3+ Bentonite Clay Benefits (incl. Detox & Clay Mask for Hair)

Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Puya Yazdi
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology), Puya Yazdi, MD | Written by Carlos Tello, PhD (Molecular Biology) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Clay face mask
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Bentonite clay is formed from aged volcanic ashes and has an extraordinary capacity to absorb water and electrolytes. It is used to detox, cleanse skin and hair, and support digestion. It might also fight infections, help you lose weight, and relieve allergies. Read on to learn more about this healing clay.

What Is Bentonite Clay?

Bentonite clay tops the list of healing clays, many of which have been used for enhancing health since ancient times [1].

Bentonite clay forms when volcanic ashes react with sea water and take up its minerals. This clay has no taste or smell and its color can vary from light (cream, yellow, green) to darker (brown, black) tones depending on its impurities. Its consistency is very soft and it doesn’t stain [2, 3].

Snapshot

Proponents

  • Binds to toxins and may enhance detox
  • May promote skin health
  • May support digestion
  • May help fight obesity, infections, and allergies
  • Relatively safe

Skeptics

  • Some benefits are insufficiently researched
  • May cause nutrient deficits at high doses
  • May bind to and inactivate drugs
  • Low quality of some products (toxic levels of lead)

Health Benefits of Bentonite Clay

Several studies have looked into the benefits of bentonite clay, especially for detox and skin health. However, none of these applications is approved by the FDA. Regulations set manufacturing standards for supplements but don’t guarantee that they are safe or effective. Talk to your doctor before using bentonite clay for any conditions to avoid unexpected interactions.

Possibly Effective for:

1) Binding Toxins & Enhancing Detox

By binding to different substances in the gut—from fungal toxins to pesticides to heavy metals—bentonite clay may help prevent their uptake into the bloodstream and promote their elimination.

Here’s an overview of all the toxins it may help you detox.

Mold Toxins

Aflatoxins are toxins produced by the mold that infects several food crops such as maize and peanuts. Being very toxic to animals, it’s not surprising that they also have numerous harmful effects in people. Aflatoxins have even been linked to liver cancer [4].

Bentonite clay binds to aflatoxins and prevents poisoning. In 3 clinical trials on almost 300 people exposed to aflatoxin, bentonite clay (1.5-3 g/day) reduced aflatoxin levels in the blood and urine [5, 6, 7].

Fumonisin is another dangerous toxin produced by the same mold. In a clinical trial on almost 200 people exposed to this toxin, bentonite clay (1.5-3 g/day) reduced its levels in urine [8].

Bentonite clay also reduced the levels and toxic effects of an array of fungal toxins (aflatoxin, fumonisin, deoxynivalenol, and ochratoxins) in farmed animals. It improved weight gain, nutrient uptake, milk production, and fertility, while reducing liver, kidney, and gut damage [9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15].

In calves poisoned with a toxic plant (Lantana camara), bentonite clay reduced liver damage and death rates. However, this clay failed to reduce the toxicity of another plant, locoweed, in sheep and rats. Poisoning with this plant is not common in humans, though [16, 17, 18].

Bentonite clay is possibly effective for mold illness according to the existing evidence. Further research should determine whether this clay can be used therapeutically.

Pesticides

Paraquat is an extremely toxic but widely used weed killer (herbicide). Even a small amount of the concentrated solution is deadly and has been used in suicide attempts. Two analyses found paraquat traces (up to 25 mg/g) in approximately 10% of marijuana samples. Since a small percentage can pass into smoke, marijuana smokers may be exposed to this chemical [19, 20, 21, 22].

Bentonite clay can bind to paraquat and is routinely used in intensive care units for poisoning [23, 24, 25, 26].

Organophosphates are another type of toxic pesticides that are absorbed by the skin and build up in the body. Bentonite clay reduced organophosphate absorption by human skin tissues [27].

Bentonite clay also adsorbs organochlorine pesticides. These chemicals are very persistent and potentially toxic to humans if ingested with contaminated food [28, 29].

By removing pesticides from soils, herbs, water, food and drinks (e.g., wine), bentonite clay can protect both the environment and the health of the consumers. Whether it can be used in case of poisoning by some of them (such as organophosphates and organochlorines) should be determined through clinical research [30, 31, 32, 33, 34].

Bentonite clay can adsorb organophosphates and other pesticides, which may make them useful in “cleaning up” food and drink before consumption.

Heavy Metals

Lead is a metal that is toxic to several enzymes and organs (especially the brain). People can be exposed to lead through contact with lead products, dust, and water, and eating contaminated meat. Bentonite clay reduced lead buildup in farmed pigs and lambs, which not only increased their weight gain but also made their meat safer to eat [35, 36, 37].

Cadmium may contaminate soils and groundwater near industrial areas. It’s associated with cancer, sterility, and organ damage in humans. In fish taking cadmium with the feed, bentonite clay reduced its toxic effects [38, 39].

To sum up, bentonite clay binds to and traps heavy metals. Note, however, that this health benefit has only been tested in animals. If you believe you have been exposed to heavy metals, seek medical attention.

Excess Fluoride in Drinking Water

Moderate fluoride levels are considered beneficial for bone and teeth health. In contrast, exposure to high levels (fluorosis) may cause stain the teeth, weaken the bones, and damage the brain, glands, and liver. Fluoride levels under 1-1.5 mg/L in drinking water are regarded as safe [40, 41].

Bentonite clay can remove excess fluoride from drinking water.The clay needs to be activated to increase its positive charge and allow fluoride uptake—a process that authorities can use to clean public water supply. It might be possible to achieve the same at home, but this would be challenging since activated bentonite is not widely available [42, 43, 44, 45].

2) Soothing the Skin

Adding bentonite clay to your skincare routine may be a good way to soothe conditions such as allergies, irritation, and acne. It has also been suggested to remove the excess of fat, provide you with anti-aging skin benefits, and help with the healing of wounds and cuts.

Allergies and Skin Irritation

In 2 clinical trials on over 200 people with allergy to poison ivy and oak leaves, lotions with bentonite clay reduced eczema symptoms [46, 47].

A cream with bentonite clay reduced eczema and corticosteroid use in 76% of cases in a trial on 33 people with job-related, uncontrolled hand eczema [48].

In two trials on 160 babies with mild diaper rash, a cream with bentonite clay improved the wounds faster and more effectively than an herbal remedy (calendula) [49, 50].

Bentonite clay is possibly effective for skin allergies and irritation based on the existing evidence.

Acne

Applied on the skin, bentonite clay may help those suffering from acne by sucking up the fat that clogs the pores and killing infectious bacteria. A commercial mask with a similar clay reduced the number of acne lesions in a clinical trial on almost 200 people [51, 52+, 53, 54].

While promising, the evidence supporting bentonite clay’s benefits for acne is still limited. Further research is needed.

Skin Aging

An anti-aging cream with bentonite clay retained water and protected human skin tissues from UV radiation [55].

However, this is very preliminary research that hasn’t been tested in humans or even in animals. More studies are needed to validate this finding.

Wound Healing

Synthetic materials combining bentonite clay and antimicrobial drugs are being researched as wound dressings. They improved wound closure and killed infectious bacteria without damaging skin cells [56, 57, 58].

Combinations of bentonite with similar clays (zeolite and halloysite) accelerated blood clotting in human blood samples and wounded dogs and rats [59, 60, 61, 62].

However, this benefit has only been tested in cells and artificial tissues. Additional research should determine if bentonite clay can be effectively used to improve wound healing in humans.

3) Supporting Gut Health & Balancing the Microbiome

A healthy gut lining helps digest food, take up nutrients, and fight off infections. A damaged barrier, impaired enzyme activity, or microbiome imbalances can lead to digestive issues [63+].

In a clinical trial on over 500 people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bentonite clay (3g, 3x/day) improved discomfort only in those with constipation-predominant IBS, possibly by binding to the bowel lining and reducing pain. In pigs and mice with IBS, it reduced inflammation by adsorbing cytokines and blocking their production [64, 65, 66].

Interestingly, bentonite clay has also been used to improve diarrhea for centuries, possibly because it absorbs microorganisms, toxins, and water in the bowel. In an old study on 35 people, this clay (2 spoonfuls 3x/day) quickly relieved diarrhea, stomach pain, nausea, and lack of appetite [67+].

Henoch-Schönlein purpura is a disease involving blood vessel inflammation that often damages the gut lining. In a clinical trial on 58 children with this condition, bentonite clay (3 g, 2x/day) protected their gut barrier [68].

In animals, bentonite clay added to their diet increased digestive enzyme activity, maintained a normal gut lining, and promoted nutrient uptake and use [63, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73].

Bentonite clay may also help with gut microbiome imbalances. In animal studies, it [74, 75]:

  • Increased the abundance of the “good” bacteria that promote digestion while reducing the “bad” bacteria [66+, 63+, 70+, 76]
  • Restored imbalances caused by high-fat diets by lowering obesity-promoting bacteria [77, 78]
Bentonite clay is possibly effective for constipation-IBS and some small trials suggest it may also improve diarrhea and Henoch-Schönlein purpura.

Insufficient Evidence for:

4) Weight Loss

As hinted at above, bentonite clay might aid weight loss by optimizing the gut microbiome [77, 78].

In rats fed a high-fat diet, it increased fat excretion and reduced the growth of obesity- and inflammation-promoting bacteria. Plus, bentonite clay reduced weight gain, blood fat levels, and fat buildup in the liver. [79, 77, 80].

Additionally, in an observational study on 49 people, a weight-loss program combining a low-calorie diet with a cleanse supplement containing bentonite clay reduced weight and blood fat levels. However, the exact contribution of bentonite clay to weight loss in this study is unclear [81].

Limited evidence suggests that bentonite clay may help lose weight. Although it has been traditionally used for this purpose for many years, there are better ways to lose weight. Doing more exercise and eating a lower-calorie diet are still better choices.

5) Relieving Allergies

In a clinical trial on 20 people allergic to dust mites, a single dose (0.28 mL/nostril) of a spray with bentonite clay relieved nasal congestion and inflammation (rhinitis) within 60-90 minutes [82].

However, a single small trial cannot be considered sufficient evidence to support this health benefit. Its results will need to be repeated in larger, more robust studies to confirm them.

Animal and Cell Research (Lack of Evidence):

6) Overactive Thyroid

Bentonite clay can bind to the thyroid hormones T3 and T4. This reduced their blood levels and overactive thyroids symptoms in rats and mice [83].

If these preliminary results were confirmed in human studies, people with low thyroid function should be very cautious with bentonite clay.

7) Preventing Waste Buildup

Creatinine, urea, and uric acid are three waste products that may build up in the blood in people with kidney damage because they are mostly flushed with urine. In rats, bentonite clay adsorbed these substances and prevented them from reaching the bloodstream [84, 85, 86].

8) Protecting the Teeth

Bentonite clay is a frequent ingredient of natural tooth-cleaning products, claimed to increase mineral content in the teeth. Limited research supports these claims. A complex of bentonite clay with a fluoride salt (titanium tetrafluoride) reduced mineral loss in sheep enamel [87+, 88].

Bentonite clay is often added to dental glue to improve its strength. While bentonite binds easily to enamel, only modified bentonite (attached to polymers) can bind to dentin strongly enough to be used in dental glue [89, 90, 91].

Microparticles of bentonite clay attached to curcumin, a natural antibacterial, killed a microbe that causes cavities (Streptococcus mutans) and prevented it from forming biofilms on a piece of enamel [92].

Bentonite clay is often added to natural tooth-cleaning products with claims that it will increase the mineralization of the teeth. This has only been observed in animals, however.

9) Fighting Infections

Bentonite clay killed a broad range of bacteria in cell-based and animal studies, including those that cause:

  • Diarrhea and food poisoning [93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98]
  • Skin infections [93, 94, 98]
  • Stomach ulcers [99]
  • Antibiotic-resistant infections [93]
  • Infection of other tissues by gut bacteria [100]
  • Plague [94]

Bentonite clay adsorbed viruses–including those causing the common flu, dengue, and pink eye (conjunctivitis)–and, in some cases, reduced their capacity to cause diseases. This opens up the possibility of using it to fight viral infections in humans [101, 102, 103, 104, 105].

Cancer Research

Below, we will discuss some preliminary research on bentonite clay’s anticancer activity. It’s still in the cell stage and doesn’t necessarily mean that this clay has any medical value in anticancer therapy. Many substances – including downright toxic chemicals like bleach – have anti-cancer effects in cells, but most of them fail to pass further animal studies or clinical trials due to a lack of safety or efficacy.

In cell-based studies, bentonite killed the following cancer types by reducing cell growth and survival:

However, it increased the growth of lung cancer cells in one study [108].

Limitations and Caveats

Study Design

A few human studies had a small number of participants. Trials with larger populations are required to confirm their preliminary results [48, 67, 81, 82].

Additional limitations of some studies included:

  • Using bentonite clay in multi-ingredient supplements [48, 54, 81]
  • Not including a control group [81, 48, 54]
  • Combining bentonite clay with a low-calorie diet [81]

The benefits of bentonite clay on heavy metal toxicity, skin aging, wound healing, tooth and gut health, overactive thyroid, bacterial and viral infections, cancer, and waste product elimination have only been tested in cells and animals. Studies in humans are needed to validate them.

Funding and Conflict of Interest

Some studies were funded by companies selling bentonite clay supplements (Enviroderm, Beachbody, Luvos-Heilerde, BASF, Nutrex, AMCOL, InQPharm) [47, 81, 48, 54, 112, 14, 113, 82].

User Experiences

The opinions expressed in this section are solely those of bentonite clay users who may or may not have medical or scientific training. Their reviews do not represent the opinions of SelfHacked. SelfHacked does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment.

Do not consider user experiences as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on SelfHacked. We understand that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified healthcare provider.

Most people bought bentonite clay to apply it on the skin, especially as face masks. The reviews were generally positive and users reported that the clay removed fat and toxins and softened their skin. People using it for scars, bug bites, and spots were equally satisfied.

Adverse effects were rare and only a few users complained that the clay made their skin itchy.

People used bentonite clay internally mainly for detox, digestive issues, and infections. Users were generally satisfied with its effects and mild taste, with only a few reporting that it didn’t work for them.

Importantly, a lot of the bad ratings came from people taking in a bentonite clay product meant for external use only. They generally complained about its taste, lack of effects, and additives.

Further Reading

Takeaway

Bentonite is a clay traditionally used for healing. Its unique structure gives it a negative charge and layers into which it traps toxins, fats, and water. By doing so, it may remove these substances from the skin when used externally. Internally, it may bind toxins in the gut and helps the body detox them.

Much more limited research also suggests that it may aid digestion, protect the teeth, help fight infections, relieve allergies, and support weight loss.

About the Author

Carlos Tello

Carlos Tello

PhD (Molecular Biology)
Carlos received his PhD and MS from the Universidad de Sevilla.
Carlos spent 9 years in the laboratory investigating mineral transport in plants. He then started working as a freelancer, mainly in science writing, editing, and consulting. Carlos is passionate about learning the mechanisms behind biological processes and communicating science to both academic and non-academic audiences. He strongly believes that scientific literacy is crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid falling for scams.

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