Natural Skincare Wonder #3: Clay

Most of us have tried mud or clay masks at one time or another.  But if you think that’s all that clay is good for, it’s time to expand your beauty routine with another Natural Skincare Wonder.  (The first two are blog posts from earlier this week – if you missed them, check out the blog posts here about honey and olive oil to learn some new tricks with a couple of old friends.)

There are approximately 30 different types of clay, belonging to three main groups or categories: Kaolinite, Montmorillonite/Smectite, and Illite.  Clays are mined from the earth, and are actually a fine-grained rock or soil that have plasticity that makes them easy to shape and mold when wet, but will turn hard and brittle when dried.  Clays also contain trace minerals, and are formed either by a chemical weathering process, with solvents leaching through layers of rock, or hydrothermal activity, usually near volcanic activity or deep under the earth’s crust.

Clay is been used for a myriad of purposes, including making bricks, pottery, china, a type of paint, and even sometimes used as an ingredient in toothpaste.  In cosmetics, clay has been used for its many benefits, which include:

  • Cleansing away dirt and grime;

  • Gently exfoliating dead skin cells;

  • Absorbing excess oils from the skin;

  • Improves circulation;

  • Reduces swelling and inflammation.

Depending on the type, clays contain different beneficial properties for different uses.  Here are some suggestions with a recommended type of clay:

  • Heal blemishes and soothes inflammation – white kaolin clay (the least drying of all clays);

  • Stimulate circulation and draws excess oils from skin – Moroccan red clay;

  • Best for making a face mask for sensitive or mature skin – white kaolin clay;

  • Best for absorbing oils, impurities, and toxins as a face mask for normal tooily skin – French green clay or sea clay;

  • Calm insect bites, burns, cuts, or itchy skin – bentonite clay (make a paste or poultice);

  • Detox bath – add ¼ cup of bentonite clay to bath water;

  • Baby powder – bentonite or kaolin clay.

Most of the above uses (except the last one, baby powder) are for clay that’s been hydrated with water.  Just mix enough clay for a single use with enough water to make a paste.  Some clays, such as bentonite clay, are “swelling” clays, which means that they expand when they absorb water.  A non-swelling clay can be made into a paste by adding water at about equal parts, but a swelling clay will appear to be dry and need more water added after it sits for a few minutes.

Clay: it’s not just for face masks.  It can do so much more!