Every method of natural hair care works well for some and not for others. Clay hair washing garners particularly mixed reviews – some swear by it for treating oily hair, while others complain it results in dry, brittle, staticky hair.
The secret lies in plenty of conditioning, either by a pre-wash oiling or post-wash conditioning, and in allowing the hair a few weeks to adjust to this new washing method.
How to Mix and Apply Clay for Cleansing Hair
Traditionally, pieces of clay are used for hair washing rather than clay in powdered form.
Powdered clay is better used for face masks. The amount of clay required for hair washing varies according to the head of hair – one third to half a cup of clay pieces is a good starting quantity.
Hydrate the clay by mixing the clay with a little water until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
You can leave this paste in the fridge for up to a week, saving time for frequent washes – the clay may need to soak in the water for a while to soften.
To this paste add more water – warm water is more pleasant to apply! – until the mixture reaches a runny shampoo consistency.
To apply, use a squeezy bottle with a narrow nozzle to squirt the clay mixture all over your scalp and length.
You can also apply the clay using gloves or a spoon – it can be a little messy, so some people preferto apply the mixture in the shower. The mixture can be applied to wet or dry hair.
Leave the clay on for twenty minutes or so before rinsing out.
The clay becomes very hard to rinse out if it dries, so cover your hair with a plastic bag or gladwrap for longer treatments.
Rinse out under the shower, or dunk the length of your hair into a sink full of water first and swish to remove the bulk of the mud before rinsing.
Pros and Cons of Using Clay to Cleanse Hair
Clays such as rhassoul and bentonite attract dirt, oil and impurities. This property makes clay a useful clarifier for hair with product buildup.
Clay is also a good cleanser for oily hair. The flip side of this property is that clays can be drying when used regularly – like shampoos, they should be followed with a conditioning agent to prevent overcleansing.
Many people use clay for hair washing and a light oiling afterward for conditioning.
Clay washing can result in volumized hair which feels coarser; whether this is a blessing or a curse depends on individual preference.
Some people report their hair feeling staticky after a clay wash: this can be alleviated by adding a little oil to the clay mixture before applying.
Types of Clays Used to Wash Hair
There are several different kinds of clay that can be used in natural hair care. Rhassoul (also called ghassoul), bentonite and kaolin are three of the most common and readily available clays. Montmorillonie, a kind of green clay, is also popular.
Adding Ingredients to a Clay Hair Shampoo
To make the clay paste easier to apply and add moisture, mix a little yoghurt or honey into the hydrated clay.
Mucilaginous herbs such as fenugreek and marshmallow root are popular additions, as are burdock, hair oils, henna (which adds colour to hair), shikakai and amla.
The hydrated clay can be diluted with rosewater for a lovely scent; essential oils may also be added with proper precautions.