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Thread: what does bentonite clay do for shave soaps?

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    Default what does bentonite clay do for shave soaps?

    I have noticed a lot of independant soapmakers put bentonite clay in their shave soaps. What is the purpose of this and does the clay really make a better shave soap? Thanks for any info.

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    In theory it makes the shaving lather slicker.
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    I thought it had something to do with helping to make the teensie weensie bubbles also.

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    Here's a posting from Dave's site over at Benton Clay.
    Me likey soaps ~Sam (subpar honer extraordinaire!) ... Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn ... 3017ing nougat
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    I go with the Slicker crowd on this!
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    Another question for those with experience with the clay soaps, are they good performers?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperChris View Post
    Another question for those with experience with the clay soaps, are they good performers?
    It took me a while to figure out bentonite soaps (just needed more water than other soaps), but they are VERY nice. This is, of course, a YMMV thing like everything else here.
    Me likey soaps ~Sam (subpar honer extraordinaire!) ... Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn ... 3017ing nougat
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    Bentonite is an extremely slippery substance. It is used in drilling mud, and anyone who has ever worked on a drilling rig will back me up on the slipperyness.
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    Is there a such thing as a kaolin or bentonite clay "granule" that risks getting into and blocking pores as you are working the brush? Just curious.

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    Bentonite:
    1. Wicks away impurities (like a mud facial mask)
    2. Adds lubricity
    3. Allows for even dispersion of scent throughout the soap
    Another fun fact is that it has a very faint but appealing scent of its own, like the inside of an old, mysterious cave with an underground spring.
    It comes under fire here on B&B from time to time because a recipe for a widely available (but poor-performing) cold process shaving soap recipe features it as an ingredient and because some suppose it presents hygiene concerns. To counter those arguments, I would point out that many very good recipes contain bentonite clay - which is availabe in pharmaceutical, "washed" or "purified" formats. If it's approved for ingestion, it's probably okay on one's skin!

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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperChris View Post
    Another question for those with experience with the clay soaps, are they good performers?
    Usually no, because they tend to be regular soaps that someone added some clay to thinking that'll turn it into an instant shaving soap.

    As an ingredient a well designed and tested shaving soap, that's a different matter.
    Just call me Chris.

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    Alright, enough with the fancy technical talk. Show off.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blade Boy View Post
    I thought it had something to do with helping to make the teensie weensie bubbles also.
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    +1 On Bentonclay's comments. In my own experience, make a shaving soap with no clay it will work fine on it's own. Add clay to it and it will be a little bit slicker. I think what I liked the most about adding clays is that my face feels cleaner when I'm done. It's hard to explain, but I think the mud mask analogy is accurate. The bad rep probably comes from a LOT of ebay and etsy sellers who seem to think you can turn a plain old bath soap into a shaving soap just by adding clay. I've tried it and it's painful. FYI, I'm not bashing anyone selling soaps on ebay, but it can be difficult to find the good products on ebay unless you can look at the ingredient list and know what should or should not be there (olive oil comes to mind here).

    Learned of another use for betonite recently. It's often administered to horses for detox and to aid healing of wounds. I had contacted a local seller who sold it in 50 pound bags (not that I needed that much). It came to him as quite a surprise that it could be used in soaps.
    Last edited by charles_r; 12-20-2011 at 05:25 PM.

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    When I make my shaving soap, if I add any clay at all, it is only a TBSP or 2 per 2 lb batch of soap. I find it does add slickness, and probably aids your skin in the same way women get facials. Is it a necessary ingredient? No.
    ShAVE a Life.

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    If done correctly, the right type of clay can make a good soap excellent. Stirling's Port-au-Prince, which uses some sort of "French green clay," is an example.

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    I've added it to a glycerin shave soap, and I currently have one bowl with and one without. I'm not sure I could tell the difference. It's a pretty decent soap to start with (not great, but pretty decent). Better than Conk, and I strongly suspect it's the same base that MamaBear uses. In my opinion, performs as well as the Proraso soaps, boar or badger.

    It does seem to hold added fragrance a little better. My only objection is that it leaves the soap dark gray.

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    I tried a few artisan soaps, and I rejected them all; they all contained bentonite. I've never made soap, but the clay could just be something added easily to make a hum-drum soap a "shaving" soap. Bentonite: used as a bulk laxative, for kitty litter, and as drilling mud.
    Somebody ask me a question--I feel like explaining something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnredhed View Post
    I strongly suspect it's the same base that MamaBear uses.
    I want to say Mama Bear (and most other shave soap makers) use brambleberry shaving soap base.

    Bentonite clay works as a scent fixative. Almost all clays do. From what I've read it's not optimal for this however, so most people using it are using it primarily for other reasons.

    As vespasian hints at, Clays get a bad rap because some body soapers started telling people years ago that to make a body soap into a shave soap you only need to add clay "for slip". This, as anyone can tell you, is not the case. I've found clays superfluous in shaving soap, but not necessarily detrimental. They are right there with Olive oil. A lot of bad soaps have it, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Correlation DNE causation. As MtnRedHed notes, tested side by side, I couldn't tell the difference between soaps with and without it. The same holds true for all the clays I tried, as well as gum benjamin and Orris Root powder (two powdered scent fixatives). Other makers swear by it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SliceOfLife View Post
    I want to say Mama Bear (and most other shave soap makers) use brambleberry shaving soap.
    And brambleberry as well as some others get it from a company called SFIC

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    Bentonite Clay has also been used to resurrect threads. Powerful stuff.
    Member of The Order of The Fat and the B&B Old Fogies. I'm also old and often foggy.

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