Is calcium bentonite, the main ingredient of products such as Scalpure, good for you and your hair?

The properties of bentonite also make it very compatible with ingredients typically found in cosmetics and hair and skin care products, such as anionic and nonionic surfactants, oils, fats, salts, and waxes. They are highly effective at stabilizing oil-in-water emulsions, and for this reason make excellent emulsifying agents for many applications.

The smectite clay structure and ionic properties of bentonite are also useful for the removal of heavy metal toxins as well as certain pathogens that are positively-charged. These materials are adsorbed onto the negative surface of the platelets, and effectively carried away inside the "sandwich" when the product is rinsed or digested.

Oil extracts

Oil extracts are often healthy for the hair

So, when examining the ingredient list of Scalpure once more, knowing what we now know about calcium bentonite, it becomes evident that its primary practical function in this product is as an emulsifier for the various essential oils, stabilizer, and viscosity modifier. However, in addition to these worthwhile and practical properties, the clay also acts as an exfoliant for the scalp and a detoxifier for the scalp and hair. The product makers claim that it is capable of removing toxins and metals below the skin's surface, thereby improving the health of the hair follicles and thus increasing hair growth. While I can neither confirm nor deny that claim, I can state with a fair level of confidence that this is at the very least being accomplished on the surface of the scalp, which may be sufficient to lend improvement to a situation of an oily scalp, dry and flaky scalp, or one with buildup of toxins.

It seems to me that this product could be very useful for one to incorporate into the hair care routine. However, for the sake of curly hair, I might caution being too rough with the hair when the product is being applied or while it is on the hair. The reason for this caution is that the clay particles could possibly roughen up the cuticle if care is not taken in the handling of the hair when in contact with these particles. (Doesn't it always seem to come down to the cuticle and its protection?)

Another possible red flag I could see with these types of products for those with curly hair is the potential for the hair to become dried out, or essentially desiccated. Remember that calcium bentonite is hygroscopic and does attract water to itself (not to the extent that sodium bentonite does), so it is feasible that it could remove water from the cortex of the hair. Hair that is more porous would be more susceptible to this problem, so perhaps these consumers should use the product with caution or do a deep-conditioning treatment post-application. Leaving the product on for too long would also increase the potential for this phenomenon, so I recommend shorter exposures. I think for most people, with proper use, this product should be just fine and possibly quite beneficial.

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Tonya McKay

Tonya McKay Becker is a curly-haired polymer scientist and cosmetic chemist whose academic and industrial research experience have provided her with expertise in the fundamentals and applications of polymer science and colloid chemistry. She has long had a fascination with the structure-property relationships of the complex solutions used in hair and skin care products, and how they interact with and impact these remarkable biological substrates. Ever curious, Tonya has dedicated herself for more than a decade to honing her expertise on the science of curly hair, how it differs from straight hair, and how product ingredients used on curly hair affect its health and beauty. Her passion for sharing this knowledge with others has led to her current career of educating people from all backgrounds who share an interest in this exciting field.