Cape Times

Red clay an excellent skin protector – research


TWO Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) researcher­s have uncovered the brilliance of red clay as a skin protector.

Sibusiso Nkosi of the Technology Station in Chemicals (TSC), and Nokukhanya Thembane, a lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Sciences, recently published a paper, Physical, chemical and biological characteri­stics of clays from Durban (South Africa) for applicatio­ns in cosmetics, in the Chemistry Europe Journal.

The researcher­s acquired the clay at Mzinyathi, west of Durban.

Nkosi said clay soils are used in various pharmaceut­ical and medicinal products for curative and/or preventive purposes.

In cases where clays are to be utilised as raw ingredient­s in the pharmaceut­ical and cosmetic industry, they must adhere to both performanc­e and quality standards.

Nkosi said in the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces, red and white clays are widely accessible and are utilised for decorative purposes as well as sun protection material, and other cosmetic purposes by Zulu and Xhosa communitie­s.

“We described the characteri­sation of chemical, physical and biological properties of red and white clay samples from Durban.

“The samples have pleasing qualities that could make them appropriat­e for cosmetic applicatio­ns, according to the characteri­sation results, such as pH, colour and oil absorption, metals, and texture,” said Nkosi.

According to Nkosi, in the present circumstan­ces, there is a need to develop guidelines and standards for metals in cosmetics and to establish immediate mandatory regular testing programmes to check the contents of metals in South African facial clays to restrict their excesses.

Nkosi said the study also provided valuable informatio­n on the antimicrob­ial activity of clay samples against various microbial strains.

He said the examined clays possess ingredient properties in skin care products, proving them to be useful for cleansing skin by absorbing oil and smoothing the surface. Such clays are also gentle ingredient­s that can be used as exfoliants.

Nkosi said they discovered that the oil adsorption capacity and swelling properties of red clay was expressive, “indicating that the red soil had a greater affinity for oil and may contribute to a more matte or oil controllin­g effect, and the potential use of these samples in high adsorption capability applicatio­ns such as ointments, powders and creams.”

Results further indicated that these samples could help enhance the absorption of excess oil and protect skin from moisture, “thereby providing comfort, protecting against rashes, and promote skin health, making it beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin types”.

According to Nkosi, the use of red clay for cosmetic purposes in Africa is an age-old long-standing practice.

“Many of the ancient uses of clay to protect and enrich skin and hair continue to this day. Clays are essential ingredient­s in many cosmetic products and as a result, they have been of great benefit to beauty spas around the world, especially as they are being used to perform pelo-therapy and mud therapy.

“Clay is often mixed with glycerine and water to make a paste which is then applied on the face,” Nkosi said.

Nowadays, clays are used in soaps and shampoos to improve the lathering ability of the products and to absorb extra oil. In cases where clays are used as ingredient­s, particular­ly in cosmetics, the influence is their mineralogi­cal and chemical make-up. “It is critical to understand their physical, chemical, and biological characteri­stics, hence it was necessary to investigat­e the potency of the red and white clays from Durban's Umzinyathi for cosmetic applicatio­ns, along with their physical, chemical, and microbiolo­gical characteri­stics.”

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