Diatomaceous Earth: What Is It, Skin Benefits, Cosmetic Uses & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: May 3, 2023
Table of Contents

We’ve all been there: standing in the store aisle, scrutinizing the ingredients list on a cosmetic product, and feeling utterly perplexed. It can be challenging to decipher the long, scientific names and determine whether they’re beneficial or potentially harmful to our skin. In an age where consumers are increasingly aware of what they put on their skin, understanding these ingredients has become more important than ever.

One such ingredient that’s commonly found in cosmetic products is Diatomaceous Earth. Despite its prevalence, many people might not know what it is or what purpose it serves in their skincare and beauty products. This article aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of Diatomaceous Earth, delving into its properties, skin benefits, cosmetic uses, and potential side effects. By examining this intriguing ingredient in detail, we hope to shed light on its role in the world of cosmetics.

What is Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous Earth, also known as diatomite or kieselguhr, is a naturally occurring, soft, sedimentary rock composed of the fossilized remains of diatoms. Diatoms are microscopic, single-celled algae that produce intricate, silica-rich cell walls called frustules. These frustules accumulate over time, forming deposits of Diatomaceous Earth.

In a cosmetic context, Diatomaceous Earth serves several purposes, primarily due to its unique physical properties. Its high silica content and abrasive texture make it an effective exfoliating agent, helping to remove dead skin cells and impurities. Additionally, it is used as an anti-caking, bulking, and opacifying agent in various cosmetic formulations.

As a result, Diatomaceous Earth can be found in a range of products, including facial scrubs, masks, toothpaste, and even some makeup products. It is available both as a stand-alone ingredient and as part of wider formulations. The concentration of Diatomaceous Earth in a product can vary depending on its intended use, but it is generally considered safe in moderate amounts.

Who Can Use Diatomaceous Earth?

Diatomaceous Earth is generally considered suitable for a wide range of skin types. Its gentle exfoliating properties can benefit individuals with normal, oily, and combination skin, as it helps unclog pores and remove impurities. However, those with sensitive or dry skin should use products containing Diatomaceous Earth with caution, as its abrasive nature might cause irritation or excessive dryness for some individuals.

In terms of lifestyle choices, Diatomaceous Earth is an appropriate ingredient for both vegans and vegetarians. It is derived from fossilized diatoms, which are microscopic algae and not animal-based. This makes it a plant-derived and cruelty-free ingredient, aligning with the principles of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.

Diatomaceous Earth Skin Benefits & Uses

Diatomaceous Earth offers a variety of skin benefits and cosmetic uses, thanks to its unique properties and official functions as an abrasive, anticaking, bulking, and opacifying agent. Some of these benefits include:

  • Exfoliation: As an abrasive, Diatomaceous Earth gently removes dead skin cells and impurities from the skin’s surface. This helps to reveal a smoother, more radiant complexion, and can also aid in reducing the appearance of pores, fine lines, and blemishes.
  • Preventing product clumping: The anticaking property of Diatomaceous Earth helps prevent cosmetic products from clumping together, ensuring a smooth, even application. This is particularly useful in makeup products like powders, blushes, and eyeshadows, where even distribution is essential for a flawless finish.
  • Adding volume: As a bulking agent, Diatomaceous Earth can add texture and volume to cosmetic formulations. This can help enhance the consistency and spreadability of products, making them easier to apply and more pleasant to use.
  • Improving product appearance: The opacifying function of Diatomaceous Earth helps to give cosmetic products a more opaque appearance, enhancing their visual appeal. This property can be beneficial in various products, from skincare creams to makeup foundations, where a more uniform look is desired.

It is important to note that the beneficial effects of Diatomaceous Earth are not permanent, and consistent use of products containing this ingredient is necessary to maintain the desired results. As with any skincare routine, regular application and adherence to a consistent regimen are key to achieving and maintaining optimal skin health.

Diatomaceous Earth Potential Side Effects

Reactions to cosmetic ingredients, including Diatomaceous Earth, can vary from person to person. This variability is mainly due to differences in individual skin types, sensitivities, and the unique chemistry of each person’s skin. To better understand your own skin type and how it may react to different ingredients, you can refer to this guide on how to find out your skin type.

Some potential side effects and interactions associated with Diatomaceous Earth include:

  • Skin irritation: The abrasive nature of Diatomaceous Earth may cause irritation or redness, particularly for individuals with sensitive or dry skin.
  • Dryness: Prolonged or excessive use of products containing Diatomaceous Earth might lead to dryness, as it can strip away the skin’s natural oils along with dead skin cells.

If you experience any of these side effects while using Diatomaceous Earth or a product containing it, it’s crucial to discontinue use immediately and consult with a dermatologist or healthcare professional. They can provide guidance on whether to stop using the ingredient altogether or suggest an alternative product better suited to your skin type.

It’s important to note that adverse reactions to Diatomaceous Earth are relatively rare, and, in general, the ingredient is considered safe and effective for a wide range of skin types. However, as with any cosmetic product, it’s essential to perform a patch test before incorporating a new ingredient or product into your routine. This can help minimize the risk of an adverse reaction and ensure the product is compatible with your skin. Check out this patch testing guide to learn how to properly conduct a test for new skincare products.


Achieving success in skincare often involves a certain degree of experimentation and trial and error. Each individual’s skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s essential to remain open to trying different products and ingredients to discover what best suits your skin’s needs.

It’s important to recognize that not all ingredients in personal care products, such as skincare, have an immediate impact. Some ingredients are included to support the overall formulation, while others may offer both immediate benefits and enhance the product’s overall performance. Diatomaceous Earth is one such ingredient, providing both exfoliating benefits and improving the texture and appearance of various cosmetic products.

Diatomaceous Earth may not be the most well-known ingredient in the world of cosmetics, but its unique properties and multiple functions make it a valuable addition to many personal care products. Its gentle exfoliating capabilities, combined with its ability to enhance product formulations, contribute to its continued use in the industry.

In conclusion, Diatomaceous Earth is a versatile and beneficial ingredient that can provide exfoliation, improve product consistency, and offer various other advantages in cosmetic formulations. As with any skincare ingredient, it’s crucial to understand your skin type, perform a patch test, and consult with a professional if necessary to ensure the best results. With careful consideration and a willingness to experiment, you can discover the most effective products and ingredients for your individual skincare journey.

Tell us how you found this article in just a couple of clicks!
Delivered right to your inbox each week. Zero spam, all goodness, opt-out at anytime.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
How did you find this article?
Tell us how you found this article in just a couple of clicks!
Get all our top headlines in beauty.
Delivered right to your inbox each week. Zero spam, all goodness, opt-out at anytime.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Send good feedback:

All feedback is anonymous and will be used to improve the quality of our articles.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Send bad feedback:

All feedback is anonymous and will be used to improve the quality of our articles.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.