A good spa treatment should be super relaxing, and should actually improve your skin’s quality in the long-term.
There are a lot of face masks for purchase out there offering the ultimate facial treatment, but many contain plasticizers and other chemicals that can actually harm you.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, toxicants called phthalates and parabens are common in face masks, and exposure to these chemicals has been linked with reproductive disorders and cancers.
Luckily for any beauty guru, the one-ingredient natural clay mask has stood the test of time and come out on top as the cheapest and safest option for transforming your skin’s quality overnight.
Common clays are calcium bentonite -the green “Indian Healing Clay” sold on Amazon for $7 a pound -and illite clay, known as French green clay for the decomposed plant material that gives it a green hue and soaks up your skin’s excess oil.
The average clay face mask combines raw ingredients like these and comes in a powder that is mixed with water, or something with an acidic component, such as raw apple cider vinegar, which activates the clay. Read on to learn more and decide which type sounds right for your skin.
Scooping clay from the earth and spreading it on one’s face to improve the skin’s texture can be traced back to ancient cultures on several continents.
The philosophy Ayurveda originated in India over 5,000 years ago as a system of medicine, teaching that nature can be used to heal the body if humans can successfully live in tandem with the natural world.
Followers of Ayurveda applied face and body masks based on their religious calendar. These masks were called ubtan masks, and were combinations of Indian flowers, roots, and plants. Today, these masks are still applied on special days, such as Diwali and wedding days.
Egyptians also used clay face masks. Anthropologists believe Cleopatra applied a variety of ingredients to her face, including mud from the dead sea, egg whites, and oil from rose petals.
During the Tang Dynasty in China (618-907), wealthy women applied a face mask powder that consisted of ground pearls, jadeite, ginger, and lotus root. Marie Antoinette was also known for her facial treatments in 17th century Europe, which consisted of egg whites, milk, lemon juice and Cognac.
Clay has also been applied to the face for religious ceremonies among Native American tribes. Raw colored earth and clay deposits were collected, baked, and ground into powder.
White and yellow clays could be found along river beds, while black earth and charred wood yielded black clay. The most common colors were red, which came from naturally-red clay in the earth, and brown, which came from yellow clay that has been baked over charcoals.
Once you know what different ingredients are used for, you can pick the best mask for your skin. Here are the benefits of each type of clay:
French Green Clay
• Aggressively soaks up excess oil
• Tightens pores and exfoliates
• So absorbent that it pulls the blood toward your skin’s surface, boosting circulation
• When mixed with raw apple cider vinegar or water, this clay swells to become highly porous – this is why the clay is known for its “magical” toxin-absorbing abilities
• Go-to clay for oily skin
• Commonly used for acne
• Detoxifies and purifies your skin by extracting toxins from your pores
• Great for oily skin, large pores
• Strips away dead skin
• Reduces redness and creates a more even tone
• Great for sensitive and combination skin
• Refines the skin’s surface for smoother texture
• Makes skin appear younger
• Mediterranean rose purifies the pores
Fuller’s Earth Clay
• Absorbs oil
• Diminishes redness and improves skin evenness
• Exfoliates and removes gunk from pores
• Mild bleaching properties, so it can address hyperpigmentation
• Known for polishing skin surface, sloughing off dead skin
• White or yellow Kaolin is preferred for very sensitive skin
• Pink Kaolin works for acne-prone skin
• Green Kaolin is milder and doesn’t absorb skin’s excess oil – it’s preferred for children and those with dry skin
• Moroccan clay known for reducing dryness and restoring elasticity
• Removes impurities gently
• Does not dry your skin out, can be used daily as a cleanser
• Regular use should result in smaller pores and tighter skin
How often should I apply clay face masks? If you know your skin is sensitive and reactive to new exposures, you will want to use masks less often, and stick to a daily routine of cleansing and moisturizing.
For average skin, charcoal masks and Bentonite mixed with water can be applied safely once or twice a week, for 15-20 minutes. Red clay is the only clay mask that is gentle enough for daily use – others will rob your skin of the minimum moisture it needs.
If you notice any dryness or flaking on your face, you may need to space out your mask use more. If you’re looking for a mask for spot treatment, pick French green clay.
A dot of this clay on the pimple left overnight should work wonders – at the very least, swelling and redness will go down. No clay should be applied to the entire face and left overnight.
What are nose strips? Brands from Biore to Sephora produce pre-made strips that stick to your nose and soak up the hard-to-reach dirt in your pores.
Charcoal strips are especially common. Ultimately, these strips only reach the surface layer of dirt and grime, and so they are not as effective as paste-based masks that can pull out the toxins that later lead to acne.
What else should I know before applying clay as a mask? Red clay can stain clothing, so be careful when applying it. Other ingredients can be added to your paste to customize your spa treatment experience: a few drops of tea tree oil will improve your mask’s acne-fighting capabilities, while lavender essential oil aids relaxation and eliminates tension.
Which clay mask do you use? Share in the comments.