Bentonite clay (montmorillonite) is a mudlike substance derived from volcanic ash. It’s sometimes used in the personal care industry as a face mask. Bentonite clay can also be used for hair as a natural way to add moisture and remove toxins.

Bentonite clay is said to have a variety of healing properties for the body, inside and out. Historically, the clay has been used in alternative medicine to get rid of digestive issues, bug bites, dry skin, and more.

When used for the hair, it’s thought that bentonite clay can offer deep moisture. This can be especially helpful if you have:

Aside from its moisturizing effects, bentonite clay may purportedly draw out excess dirt and oil as well. You can think of the mask as a shampoo and conditioner in one.

To date, there are few scientific studies to support the benefits of bentonite clay for the hair. One review published in the Iranian Journal of Public Health found that bentonite clay can help make sheep wool grow quicker and softer.

There are slight variations in home recipes for bentonite hair masks, but most recipes have three main ingredients:

  • the clay
  • water
  • apple cider vinegar

Create your own mask at home with equal parts clay and water, as well as a half part of apple cider vinegar. For a single use, you may find the following recipe is sufficient:

  • 1 cup of clay
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar

You can make a large batch at once so you have more of the mask on hand. Mix all ingredients until you form a paste.

Bentonite clay needs water to activate and attract toxins for elimination. Plus, the water thins out the clay a bit for easier application on your hair. If the clay is too thick to apply, you can add a bit more water until you achieve the desired consistency. For best results, use warm — not hot — water.

Still, an effective hair mask may require more than water and clay. This is where apple cider vinegar becomes handy. This everyday pantry ingredient may help balance out the acidity in your hair, leading to better shine and overall health.

Like a mask for your face, a bentonite clay hair mask is intended for use only a few times per week. You can use it as little as once a week. You may need to use it more often if your hair is extra dry and brittle.

Once you have the ingredients for your hair mask, mix them together well until you have the desired consistency. The mask should be thick but still thin enough to apply evenly throughout your hair. Make sure you cover your scalp all the way down to the ends of your hair.

You can use the bentonite mask in place of your daily shampoo and conditioner. Leave the mask on for 5 to 10 minutes at a time. This will help ensure that the product has had a chance to thoroughly penetrate your hair and scalp to provide maximum benefits.

If you have any leftover product, store it in a closed-lid container to save for next time.

Reported side effects from bentonite clay are largely nonexistent. However, more human studies on the effects of bentonite on skin and hair need to be conducted to rule these out.

To be on the safe side, you can test a small amount of the clay on your skin before use. Apply the mixture to a small section of your skin and wait a day to see if any side effects occur. If no itchiness, redness, or rash develops, you’re likely in the clear.

Discontinue using the mask if you develop any side effects. Use extra caution if you have a sensitive scalp.

It’s also important to know that your results may slightly vary each time. The journal International Geology Review explains that this has to do with variations in bentonite mineral deposits.

While scientific research is lacking for its uses on hair, bentonite clay has been used as a natural treatment for centuries.

You might try the clay if you have dry, lackluster hair and you want to use a more natural product. If bentonite clay fails to benefit your hair, see your dermatologist for advice. They can recommend hair care tips based on your hair and skin types.