At Skincare by Alana, we’re all about digging into the ingredients lists of skincare products and uncovering the most natural and effective ingredients that you can use at home or search for when shopping.
One that we’ve seen popping up throughout the years is clay!
Clay has been around for longer than any of us have existed, but it didn’t take long for people to uncover the healing and soothing benefits clay has for your skin.
In recent years, you’d be hard pressed to find an effective clay face or body mask unless you were at a natural spa or on a luxurious retreat.
Today, the story couldn’t be any more different!
Clay comes in all different colors, textures, and has unique compositions that can only be found in certain parts of the world.
If you’re curious about the many different benefits that clay has for just about any skin type or affliction, then read on!
The Oldest Face Mask on Earth
Clay is extremely versatile and was integral to many ancient civilizations.
It has long been used for pottery and homemaking, but clay has also been used for topical and internal medicine for thousands of years.
The first ever record of using clay for its medicinal properties was in ancient Mesopotamia in 2500 BC – and get this – it was written on a clay tablet.
The pharaohs of Ancient Egypt used clay to heal minor wounds and as a preservative for mummies.
Aristotle used to consume clay to settle stomach pain.
In 60 BC the Romans reference clay as medicine.
Heck, even animals will take a dip in a clay puddle to cool down and keep the bugs away!
We could go on and on.
One of the most exciting and amazing things about clay is how much it varies by location and how prevalent clay still is to this day in healing the human body and skin.
Mother nature really is looking out for us!
Take, for example, the clay at the famous Calistoga spas in California.
This muddy clay has 8 million year old volcanic ash in it.
It has long been used by Native Americans as baths, and many people still make the trek out to take a bath in this one-of-a-kind earthly medicine.
Hop on over to Greece to get an entirely different mud and clay bath experience.
In Santorini, their clay also contains volcanic ash, but the other minerals in the land and water are totally different.
The internet and global economy make it easy to enjoy world-renowned mud baths from your own bathtub – for a price.
Many brands realize the power of clay and are happy to include different types from all over the world in their products that can get shipped right to your door.
While many of the benefits clay has for your skin overlap, each type has its own ancient formula and unique advantages.
The Dirt on Clay
So what is it that gives clay all of its heavenly/earthly powers?
The Earth itself is made up of unique minerals that our bodies crave.
Today, we have become so far removed from the Earth in our daily lives and we consume so many processed foods that our skin needs vitamin and mineral supplements to stay healthy.
In general, clay has been used to treat common skin problems like dryness, acne, and inflammation.
Centuries of use paired with modern scientific research has revealed these amazing benefits that clay has for your skin:
Draw Out Oil and Impurities:
Clay helps to wick away excess moisture and dirt from our pores.
It can prevent and diminish the appearance of blackheads while helping your skin restore a healthy oil balance.
Rid Your Skin of Toxins:
Research has shown that clay has a uniquely negative charge.
When applied to your skin, clay acts as a magnet for the toxins and heavy metals that you are exposed to in your daily lives that can cling to your skin.
Acne is formed when the pores become clogged and infected.
By drawing out excess oil, you’re helping to clear up those pores while preventing future acne from forming./span>
Hydrate even After Use:
Clay face masks may leave your skin feeling healthy and hydrated, but they have also been found to help your skin retain moisture as well so you’re looking like you just got back from a mud spa even after you wash it away.
Soothe Inflammation and Dryness from Skin Conditions:
Many people suffering from the struggles of skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema swear by clay masks!
It can help to cool the skin, soothing inflammation, and reducing redness.
One of the added benefits of clay masks for dry skin is that they can also be used to treat the symptoms of poison ivy, poison oak, and diaper rash!
Speed Up Wound Healing:
One particular type of clay, bentonite, may help to heal ulcers, small cuts, and perforations from acne!
Preliminary studies show that clay masks might stimulate the production of collagen fibers in the skin.
More collagen means firmer, tighter skin with less sagging and fewer wrinkles!
For all of its benefits, clay only has a few potential side effects that you’ll get with almost any product or natural remedy.
Using a clay face mask every day or leaving them on for too long can cause the skin to become dry and irritated, so try to keep it to once a week.
It might also cause redness or itchiness, so like any skincare product, make sure to test it out before you go all in!
Our Guide to Clay for Skincare
Since the soil and mineral composition varies so greatly depending on where you are on the Earth, clays have different and unique compositions; you can use different types of clay for skin conditions and to get specific benefits.
Nowadays, there are so many different clay products on the market that it can be difficult to choose the right one.
Here are some of the most sought after types from A to Z, along with their unique benefits!
Amazonian White Clay
Amazonian white clay skin benefits are widespread, but it comes from one specific place.
You guessed it, the Amazon.
Specifically, it is sourced from the mouth of the Amazon River.
This river spans over 4,000 miles and carries with it sediment and minerals from every region it travels through.
This type of clay can be used to draw out excess oil, toxins, and dirt from the skin.
It has been used by native Brazilians for centuries to detoxify their bodies, and it is just as powerful today.
It’s the perfect rejuvenating and mattifying kick your skin needs!
Bentonite clay, or calcium bentonite clay, is by far the most commonly used type of clay out there, and not just in the skincare world.
It gets its name from Fort Benton, WY where it’s found in large quantities, but it can also be found elsewhere around the world.
Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably used a product that contains bentonite clay!
Outside of skincare, it can be found in shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, kitty litter, and in dietary supplements.
Bentonite clay contains calcium, iron, copper, and zinc, so some people choose to ingest it as a dietary supplement.
Easing digestion is just one of the benefits of bentonite clay, oily skin is another.
Like most clays, bentonite clay helps to regulate your skin’s oil levels.
Bentonite clay is very porous, like a sponge, and easily absorbs excess oil and free radicals.
At the same time, it attracts positively charged minerals like magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
One fan-favorite type of bentonite clay, sometimes called Aztec Clay, is made of pure calcium bentonite.
Not surprisingly, Aztec clay benefits for skin mirror those of bentonite clay.
People swear by it to detox the faces, armpits, feet, and hair of free radicals and other impurities.
Fuller’s Earth Clay
Fuller’s Earth clay is no joke – it is like a super sponge.
Fuller’s Earth name comes from one of its unexpected applications – a wool refinery employee called Fuller used it to remove oil stains!
Not only is it used in skincare to clear out toxins and oil, but it’s also used to clean up oil spills, treat and decontaminate skin that was exposed to chemical warfare, heal the gut from herbicidal poison, and clump kitty litter together.
It is pretty serious stuff.
Fuller’s Earth is made almost entirely of aluminum magnesium silicate.
The benefits of Fuller’s Earth for skin include removing excess oil and toxins and fighting off wrinkles.
Many people use it to lighten skin and treat hyperpigmentation, but the jury is still out as to whether or not this is true.
Despite all of its heavy duty applications, Fuller’s Earth is a gentle and effective anti-acne ingredient if you don’t leave it on for too long!
Another extremely popular type of clay for skin and hair care is called green clay.
Green clay gets its name and greenish color from the chlorophyll in decomposed plants and algae.
Green clay can be found in France and other parts of Europe as well as Northwest United states – the greener the better!
On top of its green hue, green clay is unique because it is extremely rich in all sorts of minerals such as calcium, potassium, zinc, copper, and magnesium to name a few.
Green clay is not as powerfully absorbent as Fuller’s Earth, but green clay’s benefits for skin are powerful on their own!
In addition to the expected oil wicking, one study found that it prohibits the growth of bacteria on the skin, which lends itself to healing ulcers and wounds.
The benefits of green clay on the skin are to be expected, but ingesting green clay is also perceived to help remove toxins and deposit minerals in the body.
This type of clay can be found in the Earth and grown in a lab.
It has many non-skincare related applications such as treating mouth sores and stopping bleeding, but it has also staked a claim in the skincare industry as a solution for sensitive skin.
Kaolin clay is originally from China, thus its nickname “china clay”.
Kaolin clay has a neutral pH and is rich in silica dioxide.
It won’t leave your skin feeling stiff and dry, in fact, it does the opposite!
It’s an ideal choice for people with sensitive skin types who need a gentle detox.
There is no conclusive evidence of Kaolin clay’s uses for skin whitening because it is such a gentle and drawn out process, but many people choose Kaolin over other types of clay for this added benefit.
Red Clay / Rhassoul Clay
Red clay, or Rhassoul clay, is sourced from the Atlas Mountain Ranges of Morocco.
The name of this type of clay tells you a lot about it; the word rhassoul is derived from the Arabic word for wash, and red, well, it’s red!
One of red clay’s skin benefits is that it is astringent, meaning it will help to tighten the skin, decreasing pores and fighting against clogged pores and acne.
It’s rich in magnesium and potassium as well as hematite which oxygenates the skin, promoting more cellular turnover while brightening the skin in the meantime.
Toning, brightening, and tightening are among rhassoul clay’s skin benefits.
Rose AKA Pink Clay
If you’ve been reading through and aren’t sure which type of clay to go for, pink might be for you!
Pink clay gets its rosy color by mixing together red clay with white clay.
It’s very gentle on the skin and doesn’t pull much if any, oil away.
Rose clay’s skin benefits are centered around hydration.
Hydration, soothing for inflamed skin, nourishment, and gentle oil control are some of pink clay’s benefits for the skin.
Because it isn’t drying, you can use a pink clay mask once or twice a week without worry.
How to Make Your Own Clay Mask
Whew, we weren’t kidding!
There are a lot of different types of clay out there, this is just our master guide to navigating them.
In general, healing clays have similar benefits for the skin, but some are better choices for sensitive or especially oily and acne prone skin than others.
Once you have one (or more) different types of clay you want to order, they are extremely easy to make into a mask for your skin!
Here are a few tips:
Mix with Water or ACV:
Any of the above clays will be delivered to you in powdered form unless you choose a product that already contains clay in its makeup.
Each clay’s texture is a bit different, but in order to make it into a mask, all you have to do is mix it with water until it forms an easily spreadable mask.
Alternatively, you can use apple cider vinegar in its place to add a little extra nourishment to your skin and your skin’s barrier.
Don’t Use Metal Tools:
When you get to mixing your clay mask, don’t use metal tools or bowls!
Most of the powers of clay masks are due to its magnetic composition and its ability to draw out impurities.
When you use metal tools, it can take away from its magnetic properties, giving you a sludgy and ineffective mask.
Wear it Until it’s Dry:
Leaving your face mask on for too long can draw too much oil from your face, causing dryness and flakiness.
A general rule is to wear it for about 15 minutes or until it’s dry, and not much more after that!
Depending on how much you apply and how thick the layers are, it might take more or less time to dry, but you should be able to feel tightness on your skin once it’s ready.
Don’t Overdo It:
Clay face masks should be done once or twice a week at most.
Otherwise, your skin will start to depend on them or become very dry!
They’re easy to overdo because they’re so relaxing, but you can try a nourishing or hydrating face mask in between clay masks if you’re really missing them!