How to Distinguish Between Moroccan Soap Clay and Moroccan Red Clay

Pictured: Red kaolinite clay (sometimes called French or Brazilian Red), Moroccan Soap Clay (also called rhassoul, rasul, and ghassoul), and French Red Illite Clay (sometimes called Moroccan red clay).

Looking at them, it is easy to imagine getting them mixed up. The colors are reasonably similar and they are all sold as cosmetics clays.

But the most confusing part is the seemingly endless list of names attached to each one. Each clay has several common names and to make matters even more perplexing, some have more than one INCI name. It's no wonder people (and that includes some suppliers) occasionally get it wrong.

Trying to keep track of too many hard-to-remember names is no fun if you are looking for a specific function. Although these are all clays, their chemical makeup is not identical. That means they won't behave the same in all applications, and for many uses they are not interchangeable.

If you are interested in trying Moroccan Soap Clay (which is stevensite) as a hair cleanser but end up with Moroccan Red clay (which is illite), you probably won't be overly pleased with the results.

Today, we're going to perform a very simple test to check if a clay is Rhassoul (INCI: Moroccan Soap Clay).

You will need

Clay in Question
Muslin cloth

  1. Create a paste with water and clay to the consistency you would use for a face mask (thick-ish enough so there is no dripping)
  2. Cut pieces of muslin cloth (one for each clay you are testing) and place on a plate 
  3. Apply a teaspoon of the wet clay to each cloth and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Rinse each cloth individually and observe. 
  5. Rhassoul will not stain, while both illite and kaolinite will (to varying degrees). 

The first cloth I rinsed was the illite, then the kaolinite then the rhassoul. I know you can see those 2 little smudges on the rhassoul cloth, but those are due to my fingers not being completely rinsed clean after handling the kaolinite clay cloth. And as you can see from the kaolinite cloth, that particular clay packs quite a bit of color punch. The little splatters all around the edges happened while I was rinsing the cloth.

Now, go forth and test your clay in confidence!

Do Tell

Have you ever ended up with a different clay than you expected? Please share in a comment below

More about Clays on this Blog

Rhassoul, cleansing with mud 
Instant rhassoul hair wash
Guide to Cosmetic Clays
When rhassoul clay isn't all that 


Ostera said…
Great post, thank you. I was wondering if you have any experience using glacial clay. I was interested in using one from New Zealand. I haven't bought it get.

Thanks again

LisaLise said…
HI Ostera - The New Zealand glacial clay is an iron-rich smectite that is supposed to be quite unique. I haven't worked with it but would love to give it a test run. It is on my ever growing to do list. If you do decide to buy it, I'd love to hear what you think :)