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Why Does Your Skin Love Clay Masks?


What is Clay?

Clay is a naturally occurring earthy material rich in electrically charged minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, and silica. It can be found in volcanic deposits, weathered rock formations, geothermal fields, soil horizons, and continental and marine sediments.

Clay has a long history in skincare.  As early as an ancient civilization, men and women have been using clay masks as a skincare ritual for their amazing skin benefits.  Nearly 5000 years ago in ancient India, Ubtan, the first face mask was used by women during religious rituals to take care of their hair and skin.  Although their ingredients changed with the seasons, the basics always included fresh herbs, aloe vera plants, turmeric roots, and flowers.  The women of the Ayurvedic culture continue to use the same ingredients today.

Like India, Egyptians have used different clay masks as part of their beauty regimen since the dawn of civilization. In fact, the first Egyptian face mask was made of clay. Cleopatra was known to cleanse her face twice a week with a Dead Sea mud mask.

Yang Guifei, another ancient trendsetter, used a ground powder face mask to brighten her complexion.  Meanwhile, in ancient Rome, women used various concoctions in their facemasks which they believed had healing properties.

Today, clay face masks have continued their trend as a beauty care ritual in modern society and are increasing in popularity.  Many people are currently suffering from a variety of skin issues due to exposure to a wide range of toxins and environmental pollutants.  Many of these concerns come down to inflammation, toxicity, and bacterial imbalances.  Fortunately, with the application of natural clay masks, many of these imbalances can be remedied.  Clay face masks can cleanse, nourish, moisturize, and tone the skin while also providing essential active ingredients for skincare.

How Do Clay Masks Work?

Clays in their natural state possess negatively-charged molecules, whereas most toxins, heavy metals, bacteria, and environmental pollutants are negatively charged. Because of its molecular charge, clay naturally seeks out toxins on the skin surface and in the body to bind with. This is because these substances have a missing ion, which determines its “charge” and therefore seeks for the opposite charge that will complete it. Therefore, once the clay molecules interact with the skin’s surface they will bind themselves to toxins deep in your pores and draw them to the surface and lift them away. This alone can improve the overall health of the skin by improving the immunity of the surface and reducing inflammation.

However, it’s not the only way clay works to improve the skin’s integrity. Clay is also rich in minerals like sodium, copper, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and silica providing essential nutrients necessary for healthy skin.

What are the Benefits of Using a Clay Mask?

Skin Benefit #1: Draw Out Impurities

Clay is like a magnet and because of its negatively charged particles, it can pull out the positively charged toxins from your pores.

Skin Benefit #2: It Boosts Circulation

Clay masks, especially ones made with bentonite clay can help boost blood circulation beneath your skin, and oxygen circulation to your skin cells. This helps your skin heal and regenerate, improves collagen production, and gives it a brighter more youthful appearance.

Skin Benefit #3: It’s a Great Acne Fighter

As the clay detoxifies your pores, it removes bacteria to help prevent future breakouts while removing it from your skin’s surface to prevent it from entering. Whether you struggle with acne or the occasional blemish, clay masks can help you see clearer skin in the future days ahead.

Skin Benefit #4: Balances Oil Production

While clay masks are beneficial to all skin types, they are especially helpful for oily and acne-prone skin due to their oil-absorbing properties. Sebum is the oil our skin naturally produces to protect and moisturize it. If our immune system becomes over-activated by stress, infection, or toxic overload the skin can overproduce sebum leading to acne, oily skin, blackheads, or other skin blemishes. Clay masks can help soak up excess oil and clean out clogged pores resulting from the excess oil.

Skin Benefit #5: It Refines Pores for Smoother Skin

Everyone has pores and when they are clogged with oil and dirt, they appear larger than usual.  Clay masks can tone and refine pores leaving a smoother, softer, and more even skin tone.

Skin Benefit #6: It Brightens Your Complexion

When dead skin cells pile on your skin’s surface it can give a dull, uneven appearance to your complexion. Clay masks remove dead skin cells from your face. The result? A more even and brighter complexion.

Skin Benefit #7: Boosts Collagen Production

Collagen is a protein that is found abundantly in the body, vital for skin structure, musculoskeletal health, and wound healing. As we age, we have declining levels of collagen. Clays contain minerals that promote collagen synthesis thereby increasing the number of collagen fibers. They promote regeneration of the skin resulting in the reduction of irritation and inflammation.

Skin Benefit #8: Oxygenates Cells

Clay not only pulls toxins out of the skin but also hydrogen from the cells allowing for oxygen to benefit the skin tissues and rejuvenate them. This boosts circulation and overall healthier skin.

Skin Benefit #9: Delivers Softer, Smoother, and More Radiant Skin

Clay is loaded with silica, an important beautifying nutrient.  This mineral is one of the most abundant in the body, however, most people do not get enough in their diets.  Silica is responsible for producing connective tissue like collagen, skin, muscle, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bone.  When using clay masks, the additional silica supports the connective tissue resulting in soft, smooth radiant skin.

Types of Clays

Clay face masks are suitable for all skin types.  There are many different types of clays used to create face masks, each with its color, texture, unique mineral composition, and benefits.  The clays you choose will depend on the overall results you hope to achieve.  Some clays are more suitable for certain skin types than others.  From mild and sensitive to oily and mature, there are many types of clay that are beneficial to the skin.  Let’s look at the different types of clays and see which one is right for your skin type.


Of the many varieties of clays, kaolin clay is the most versatile and least absorbent. These properties make it great for all skin types especially those with sensitive and ultra-dry skin. It comes in several different colors: white, red, pink, and yellow.

White kaolin clay is the mildest and gentlest. It’s a great exfoliator and does not tend to over-dry skin.

Rose clay, also known as pink clay, is a combination of red and white kaolin and is rich in minerals. It helps to restore and rejuvenate skin with moisture while drawing out impurities with light exfoliating properties. It is mildly absorbent and promotes circulation.

Rose clay keeps the skin balanced and comfortable instead of removing its natural oils. Other benefits include reducing irritation and inflammation while promoting healthy cell turnover.

Yellow kaolin is slightly more absorbent than white kaolin with gentle exfoliating properties.

Red kaolin has the strongest absorbent properties of all kaolin clays. Thus, red kaolin is best suited for oily skin and acne-prone skin.

Recommended skin type: rose (sensitive and dry skin) red (oily skin) white (dry skin)

Rhassoul Clay

Rhassoul clay (Ghassoul or Moroccan clay) is gentler than many other clays which makes it suitable for all skin types including sensitive and mature. It is sourced from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. Rhassoul clay has an abundance of benefits including cleansing and buffing away dead skin, boosting elasticity, improving tone, and controlling sebum production. Blackheads, oil, and impurities don’t stand a chance. Although it’s a gentle clay, it can absorb greater than Kaolin or French Green Clay. Very rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium, and silica providing nourishment and leaving our skin soft and supple.

Recommended skin type: All skin types, normal to mature skin.

Fullers Earth Clay

Fuller’s earth clay has extreme oil-absorbing abilities. It is great at balancing sebum production and stagnation that contributes to acne. Thus, it is incredible at clearing clogged pores. Due to its mild brightening properties, this clay can tackle discoloration and hyperpigmentation concerns while enhancing a lighter and more even skin tone. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can calm irritated inflamed skin. It can be drying so it is not recommended for dry skin.

Recommended skin type: very oily, hyperpigmented, blemish-prone

Bentonite Clay

Bentonite (also known as Montmorillonite) was discovered in Fort Benton, Wyoming. Named after a formation there called Benton Shake, bentonite clay is formed after volcanic ash has aged and weathered in the presence of water. It is one of the most popular clays because it has high absorbing properties which makes it particularly good with reducing oily skin and acne breakouts. When mixed with water it swells like a sponge and can absorb 40-50 times its weight.

Bentonite has a strong negative charge and when activated by water it can effectively bind to heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, lead, and benzene as well as other environmental pollutants and eliminate them from the body’s tissues. The powerful deep cleansing ability can help unclog pores and tighten skin.

Recommended skin type: acne-prone, normal to oily skin

French Green Clay

French green clay (Illite Clay or Sea Clay) is from France of course and is composed of high concentrations of plant material and volcanic matter. It is beneficial in removing impurities and tightening the pores, toning the skin, exfoliating dead skin cells, and reducing inflammation in acne. It works by absorbing the excess oil that clogs the pores and leads to acne and imperfections. The texture acts as an exfoliator to deep cleanse and refine complexions. It is mild and is a great anti-inflammatory so good for those with eczema, psoriasis, and dry itchy skin.

Recommended skin type: normal to oily skin, dry skin, mature skin

What is the Right Clay for My Skin Type?

Normal to oily skin

• Try bentonite clay which draws out impurities and tightens skin.

Oily/acne prone skin

• Try Moroccan red clay or white kaolin clay which unclogs and absorbs excess oil.

Sensitive/reactive skin

• Try French green clay which detoxifies and heals.


• Try fuller’s earth clay which draws out excess sebum and lightens complexion.

Aging skin

• Try Rhassoul clay which hydrates and revitalizes.

No matter your skin type, there is a clay out there just for you!

Remember, take a moment for self today!

Dr. Emmons

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