Humans have been using clay masks to restore and revitalize their skin for millennia. Now with even more toxins and pollutants waiting to attack the skin than there were in the days of Cleopatra, clay remains a simple and natural way to keep skin healthy and glowing.
What is Clay and How Does it Work?
Scientists describe clay as a type of earth that’s made up of very fine particles. This gives it a smooth and somewhat oily feel and allows it to become sticky and slippery when it’s wet. Most clays are made up of phyllosilicates, whose chemistry can get complicated, but these are minerals based on silica, magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium. Not surprisingly, these are minerals people need to stay healthy.
The molecules in clay tend to have a negative charge, while the contaminants found in the skin tend to have a positive charge. So when a person applies a clay mask, the toxins and pathogens are drawn right out and into the clay, which is then washed away. Not only this, but clay also removes the dead skin cells that are found right on top of the epidermis. This exfoliates the skin and stimulates the body to produce fresh, new cells.
Other clay mask benefits include toning the skin and opening the tiny blood vessels just beneath it. This improves circulation and gets oxygen into the skin cells.
Is Clay Good For Everybody?
Just about every skin type can benefit from a clay mask now and then, but it is especially good for skin that’s prone to breakouts or skin that’s oily. Clay tightens skin that’s puffy or sagging and reduces the size of pores. With summer coming up, clay is just the thing to soothe sunburn, eczema, the bites and stings of insects and those hives that erupt from brushing against poison ivy.
The Different Types of Clay
There are many kinds of clay, but three are popular for face masks. There’s:
This is the purest clay. It is white and rich in zinc, magnesium, calcium and silica. Because it is so pure, it is great for sensitive skin that’s prone to breakouts and inflammation.
Green clay is made from clay that’s harvested from the sea. It’s an absorbent clay that is good not only for masks but poultices that pull impurities out of the skin.
Also rich in minerals, bentonite is a mix of volcanic ash and montmorillonite, a family of phyllosilicates that precipitate out of water. These ingredients make bentonite very absorbent and excellent for balancing oily skin.
How to Make Your Own Clay Mask
A DIY clay mask is easy to make. Here’s a recipe for a purifying ask made of green clay that's good for all types of skin:
- 1 tbs. powdered green clay
- 1 tbs. glycerin
- 1 tsp. floral water of the user’s choice, though lots of people use lavender
Place the clay, glycerin and water in a bowl, then mash it into a paste with a fork. Then, simply brush or spread it over the face with either the fingertips or a foundation brush. Leave it on for 10 minutes but don't let it dry completely. Rinse it off with warm water, and pat the skin dry with a clean towel.
Bentonite Mask for Acne
- 1 tsp. bentonite
- 1 drop rosemary essential oil
- 1 drop tea tree essential oil
Put the ingredients in a bowl, and mash into a paste. Apply with fingertips or brush, avoiding the area around the eyes. Let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse off and pat the face dry.