The latest beauty trend has roots in a previously sealed formula used in NASA’s former spaceships. The very cost-efficient substance, ancient volcanic ash mixed with alkaline lake water for millions of years, appears to have yielded a fascinating blend—zeolites. Made into purifying facial masks, the volcanic ash compound extracts impurities from the body through the pores of the skin. NASA used it for purifying the air inside their spaceships. Adsorbing bacteria (that’s ‘adsorb’, not ‘absorb’), odor and other impurities from the skin, zeolites have actually been around for decades, often referred to as a miracle mineral, or a “molecular sieve” due to its components.

What makes zeolite so unique?

According to Lenntech, “Zeolites have an unusual crystalline structure and a unique ability to change ions. (A very large number of small and large channels—micropores and mesopores—are present in its structure with positive ions in them which can be exchanged for other ions.) This substitution of ions enables zeolites to selectively absorb certain harmful or unwanted elements from soil, water and air. A classic example is the removal of calcium from hard water. Zeolites exchange sodium ions for calcium ions, which result in soft water. Zeolites also have a strong affinity for certain harmful heavy metals such as lead, chromium, nickel and zinc. In the mesopores of zeolite, suspended and colloidal particles can be trapped. In these pores, dissolved organic molecules are adsorbed also. Considering all of these properties and abilities, zeolites commercial and environmental possibilities seem to be limitless.” Helping to maintain the body’s alkaline PH balance is another one of zeolites’ benefits. But there are more!

Additional uses for volcanic ash have been observed in laundry detergent as builders, considered very effective and safe for the environment. They are also used in sewage treatment plants, in dehumidifiers, as an antioxidant to improve the body’s immunity, as an essential ingredient in mercury poisoning treatments, in certain types of refrigeration, agricultural products, as well as in landfills as a liner.

Others have created various recipes with volcanic ash for supplements which can be ingested in capsule form, believed to detoxify the body (Caution: Please research thoroughly and consult your physician before attempting any type of detox.)

It’s also found in items like carpet freshener and cat litter deodorizer powders due to it’s odor absorbing traits.

Are there any negatives?

Although most report nothing harmful from the use of zeolites, other sites do name certain side effects. One should be careful not to inhale any zeolite product as one website insists this is a possible carcinogen if it reaches the lungs—with the potential to cause cancer or other respiratory illnesses. Others suggested anemia as another possible side effect. Overall, external use seems beneficial and affordable, so do your research and give it a try if you feel volcanic ash is right for your next beauty treatment!

Here are our favorite beauty products made with volcanic ash!

  • Lava Love Vegan and Organic Face and Body Mask
  • Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask
  • MIRA Dynamics 100% Natural Volcanic Ash Face and Body Masks
  • LAVO High Performance Volcanic Mud Mask
  • Jeju Natural Volcanic Ash Facial Mask
  • The Face Shop Jeju Volcanic Lava Pore Mud Pack