Three Tips on Using Clay in Balms

This past winter has been all about skin-loving balms in my lab.

I've been working on a few melt-and-pour less-is-more formulas to see how minimalistic it is possible to get without sacrificing function (or luxury factor).

This kind of create-the-perfect-synergy 'roots' formulating has become a bit of an obsession. It's both fun and educational all at once, and you can't help but get real up close and personal with every aspect of every ingredient in a formula.

So let's talk about clay!

It can seem a little odd to add clay to an anhydrous product, but there is a purpose.

No, two.

  1. to help cut the greasy feel 
  2. to tint the product with a natural colorant 

My color goal with this balm: a light, baby's-breath barely pink.

Above are the ingredients: 2 butters, oil, e-vitamin and 'rose' clay (a blend of kaolin and red illite).

It took a few batches to learn how much clay is needed to color a balm.

Which brings me to the first tip.

Tip One - Less is Enough

If the clay is purely added as a colorant – use less than you might expect.

See that bowl up there? That portion of clay will give a deep rose – it is about 6 times more than I needed to create a delicate pink.

Need a certain amount of clay overall in your formula and don't want a darkly colored product? Mix your colored clay with kaolin until you have the desired shade.

Tip Two - Don't Panic

If you add clay the moment your butters have melted (and temperature is at its highest), the color will turn much much darker than you expect. Don't panic. The color lightens up again as the product cools.

Trying to create a very specific shade? Make a few small batches and keep copious notes on the amounts of clay you add to each one. Wait until the balm has cooled completely before adjusting the amount of clay.

Tip Three - Take Your Time

For even color throughout, don't pour up too early.

Pictured above: what happens to impatient people who pour into containers too early.

To avoid streaky bits of clay residue settling at the bottom, stir your balm gently until trace. Then pour up.

Do Tell

Have you ever used clay to color any of your products? 


Signe said…
I've been making rosy face cream (the original recipe is from Jan Berry), where I've used little bit of pink clay. That has been nice, both in colour and texture, even if I was scared at first if clay could ever work in facial creams. I did some back round checking before I used clay and found out that even some commercial products have clay in them.
Ola said…
Thanks Lisa. Are you not concerned about the risk of the clay introducing bacteria etc. into the balm.
Lise M Andersen said…
@Signe - Good for you working with clay. I love clay and it has literally never failed me in a formula.

@Ola - bacteria needs water in order to grow and develop. These are anhydrous balms. :)
Signe said…
Ola, when you are making cosmetic products at home, everything can introduce bacteria to the products. That's why you are using preservatives and making small batches which are supposed to be used quite quickly. I've been making them for years now and bacteria growth haven't been a problem so far.
Gnome Beard said…
Hello! I love your posts and info about balms! Really appreciate it! My son and I have been making balms for a few months now. Well, we have a few questions about kaolin clay. Marie from Humblebee & Me recommended we use a clay in our beard and skin balms because we kept getting a grainy texture and the balms came out too oily. We purchased Kaolin Clay and used about 1 tsp in a batch and the consistency was perfect! But now we noticed that no matter how much essential oils we put in the balms, the kaolin clay over-powers in aroma. The clay gives a honey like smell...which really isn't bad, but it takes away from the EO fragrances. Are we suppose to include the clay when all the ingredients melt? Or do we include the clay out of the hot bath and stir? We usually put it in the fridge right after for about 30min then leave in a dark place over-night. Any suggestions about the aroma of the kaolin clay?

20g Raw Organic Shea Butter
8g Raw Organic Yellow Beeswax
8g Organic Jojoba Oil
5g Organic Argan Oil
1g Vitamin E Oil
1sp Kaolin Clay

We melted everything expect the clay(on stove for about 30min total time)...turned off the stove, stirred it then added the clay and stirred again.
Placed in the fridge for about 30min...took out...then placed in a dark room over-night.
Lise M Andersen said…
Hey there Gnome Beard - It sounds a bit odd that kaolin clay should be able to overpower a scent. Kaolin shouldn't have any smell at all. Did you purchase cosmetic grade kaolin? It is available in many grades. I usually add the clay at the cool down phase (after everything is melted and starting to cool) and then stir gently until trace.
Sarah Mascarah said…
as long as it doesn't contain water, you don't have to worry.
Anonymous said…
Hey lisa! How about food powders? A little for a touch of color. Like turmeric to make something a bit orangey yellow?
Lise M Andersen said…
Hi Anon - You can use food powders for color but you may want to add preservative.
Yensoun Ta said…
Thanks for this!! What was the overall recipe with the 2 butters + oil + clay in percentages? I can't wait to try this and want a barely baby pink color there that is nicely mixed in the whole formula for a baby shower :)
Lise M Andersen said…
Hello Yensoun Ta - thanks for your comment. This is a product that was under development for a client, so the formula is not going to be made public. You’ll find some free how to’s on the how to page that you might be able to tweak to your needs. Alternatively, I do offer custom formulation via my website. :)