When we talk about detox, it is usually in regards to some diet protocol for supporting the liver. Yes, the liver is important for detoxification – but we shouldn’t overlook the importance of our skin – which is why clay baths are part of my detox protocol.
The Skin’s Role in Detoxification
The skin is our largest organ and, on most healthy adults, weighs about 20 lbs! It acts as a barrier to protect our bodies from the onslaught of harmful substances we come in contact with every day.
Through the sweat glands, skin also serves as part of the excretory system and is very important for removing toxins from the body. Now, the liver and kidneys definitely take center stage when it comes to detoxification, and sweating only accounts for about 1% of detoxification – but this 1% shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Just look at what happens to our skin when we become overloaded with toxins. We get acne, blackheads, rashes, boils, or simply lose that “glow” which is associated with good health.
Beauty definitely comes from the inside out, so simply doing a skin detox with a clay bath isn’t going to solve all your problems and make you look radiant but, when combined with a complete detox regimen which includes healthy diet, detox baths can make you look great. Remember, a healthy diet will detox naturally through the liver, kidneys, sweating, urination, and bowel movements.
In addition to sweating, skin helps detox because it contains a “super protein” called Cytochrome P450. This protein is found in abundance in the liver, where it makes toxins water-soluble so they can be excreted by the kidneys. In the skin, Cytochrome P450 works in a similar way: it converts toxins into a water soluble form so they can be eliminated through sweat. Sweat is actually very similar in composition to urine. (Source 1, 2, 3)
What is Bentonite Clay?
There are a lot of different types of clay, and they are classified by their mineral and structural properties. Bentonite clay is actually a brand name for a type of clay which is mined in Wyoming. It is made from weathered deposits of volcanic ash.
Bentonite clay is often referred to as montmorillonite clay, which is clay mined in the Mont Morillon region of France. Both montmorillonite clay and bentonite clay are part of a class of clay called smectites. Compared to other types of clay, smectite clays expand considerably more when wet. Smectite clays also carry a specific octahedral charge.
You don’t have to use bentonite clay for your detox bath! It is just important that you are using a clay from the smectite class. I use this brand of clay for my detox baths.
Why a Clay Bath for Detoxing?
There are a few reasons why clay – specifically bentonite clay – is great for detox.
1) Clay Creates a Natural Pulling Action on the Skin
When clay absorbs water, it expands. Wet clay will feel smooth and slippery on your skin. When it dries out, the clay will return to its former size. The dried clay feels rough and flaky, and makes your skin feel really tight. This isn’t exactly comfortable, but that tightness is a good thing. It is because the clay is literally pulling the toxins, bacteria, and oils from your skin. This is why clay is such a great treatment for acne – it draws the acne out of the pores.
2) Clay Binds to Heavy Metals
Certain clays from volcanic ash (including bentonite clay) have a negative charge. Particles with a positive charge will be drawn to them, much like the sides of a magnet will draw each other. This property is what allows clay to draw damaging positively-charged heavy metals from our bodies. The effect is so powerful that some animals (like parrots) routinely eat clay to counter the effects of poisons in some seeds they eat. (source). I have struggled with high levels of lead and mercury and clay baths were a staple during my chelations and amalgam removal.
UPDATE: Good news! If you want to find out whether you have heavy metals in your body, there is now a test you can order directly without a doctor’s order. While I’m a HUGE fan of having a doctor’s guidance, I understand the need to know whether you have heavy metals or not before you invest in a practitioner.
3) Bentonite Clay Contains Nutrients
In addition to being able to draw out toxins, there are also nutrients naturally found in bentonite clay which can provide benefits for your skin. These include calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium, copper, iron, and potassium. While these nutrients won’t exactly help you detoxify, they can help sooth your skin, speed up wound healing, and make your skin look better.
Let’s also not forget that clay is mostly comprised of silica, which is vital in the production of glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). According to Chris Kresser, GAGs help form connective tissues, promote cell proliferation, and increase retinoic acid for keeping your skin hydrated. We want silica in our diets, but having it on our skin is also going to help!
How to Detoxify with a Bentonite Clay Bath
Taking a clay bath is an easy way to detox. Since it is relaxing, it also has the benefits of reducing stress – which is also important for any detox protocol. I want to reiterate that a clay bath alone isn’t going to solve all your problems and make your skin look fantastic.
Beauty comes from within.
If you want great-looking skin, then you need to take a comprehensive approach to detox which includes clean eating and steps like avoiding alcohol so your liver can get a break. I also perform dry brushing and enemas as part of my detox protocol.
I recommend taking a clay bath about once a week to get the benefits. While you are at it, you can also do a clay face mask. The fantastic book Skintervention by Liz Wolfe has some great “recipes” for your skin, including simple modifications so you can use bentonite clay for a bath and for a face mask. Or, you can take the super basic approach and just mix some bentonite clay with water and slather it on your face, then wipe off with a soft wash cloth. If you have stinky armpits, then you might want to consider detoxing your armpits with clay –Wellness Mama has a great guide on how to do that.
Clay Detox Bath Recipe
- ¾ cup bentonite clay (buy clay here)
- Few drops of 100% pure essential oil of your choice (I like this brand of lavender EO)
- Warm water
There are a couple ways you can do a clay bath. What you DON’T want to do is dump the clay into a tub of warm water. You will end up with clumps!
First, fill up the tub with warm water (whatever temperature is comfortable for you).
Mix the bentonite clay in a small bowl with some warm water. From here, you have two options. The first is to put the clay/water solution into the tub, swirling as you add it to prevent clumping. The second option is to slather the clay/water solution on your body and then get into the tub. Both methods work well, but the first is less messy as the solution can drip on the floor if you slather it on your body.
Soak for as long as you like! Feel free to sip on some herbal tea (I like ginger tea) while listening to soothing music 🙂 After you are done, rinse off with a quick shower.
*To really detox your body, you should consider dry brushing your skin before hopping into the clay bath!
Will a Clay Bath Stain My Tub?
When I first did a clay bath I was kind of freaked out it would be a mess and that my beautiful white tub would end up totally gross, but it’s actually super easy to clean. Once it’s drained, the easiest thing to do is spray the tub with a removable shower head. But, if you don’t have a removable shower head, a couple tosses with a cup of water will do the trick.
Will a Clay Bath Clog My Drains?
I haven’t noticed any clogging in my shower drains and since it’s a heck of a lot of water with not so much clay it doesn’t really concern me. However, if this is a concern for you, you can always use cheesecloth or fine mesh drain screen. Just put it over the drain before you drain the tub and then empty it into the trashcan.
Other Detox Baths
I also do magnesium (Epsom salt) baths for detoxification. Quoting from Weston A. Price,
“Magnesium is utilized by the body for all sorts of detoxification pathways and is necessary for the neutralization of toxins, overly acidic conditions that arise in the body, and for protection from heavy metals. It plays a vital role in protecting us from the onslaught of man-made chemicals all around us. Glutathione, an antioxidant normally produced by the body and a detoxifier of mercury, lead and arsenic among others, requires magnesium for its synthesis.”
Magnesium is also naturally calming, improves blood circulation, and helps form joint tissues. It won’t make your skin look as awesome as the bentonite clay detox bath will (the bentonite is better and drawing out toxins and soothing skin), but it is much easier to do – and is really great for calming your kids down. Yay! Here is my recipe for a calming magnesium bath.
Have you tried a clay bath? How did your skin feel and look afterwards? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!