the bottom line
clay masks have become a popular staple in the best selfcare sunday routines. they’re so popular, they’re often at the heart of a monday masking session, too. clay masks may very well be one of the most under-appreciated products in your anti-aging skincare routine. if you aren’t clay masking weekly, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reset your skin and to wipe the slate clean. so what are the benefits of a clay mask for oily skin, dry skin – and every skin in between? read on, beauty, for a few masking insights.
first layer: science
what is clay and how does clay benefit the skin?
to start, clay is a natural, fine grain material formed from rock or soil. It’s made up of mineral constituents which consist of clay minerals such as illite, kaolinite, montmorillonite-smectite, and chlorite; and associated minerals such as magnetite, hematite, and diaspore. Never content with taking the easy path, clay minerals form over very long periods of time as rocks weather from year to year, or through hydrothermal activity.
clays have been traditionally relied on as medical remedies for the treatment of wounds, often being employed in poultices, or compresses, to aid in the reduction of inflammation. there’s even scientific research which suggests that clays have antibacterial effects, specifically against Staphylococcus aureus and escherichia coli. clays which contain iron, copper, and zinc are of special interest for wound healing, as these minerals are essential ingredients in collagen formation.
natural clays fall into two general categories: absorbent (absorbs water and swells), and adsorbent (attracts particles but doesn’t swell). absorbent clays adhere to the skin, and are able to draw in excess sebum, bacteria, dead skin cells, and blackheads. adsorbent clays, on the other hand, attract dirt and grime to the clay particle, and do not swell with the addition of water. adsorbent clays are ideal masks for dry and sensitive skin, while absorbent clays make the best masks for oily skin types.
second layer: shades of clay
one of the best things about clays is their varied colors: clays come in almost every color under the rainbow, and their hue is determined by the soil content in which they are found. Here are some of the most common clays used in the best face masks (and ideal for selfcare sunday):
kaolin clay: also known as white clay, this is a kaolinite and is considered to be the mildest of all clays. because it’s adsorbent and can bind bacteria and dirt, it’s an excellent choice for dry and sensitive skin. It even stimulates the circulation while cleansing and gently exfoliating.
red clay: red clay is an illite, an effective absorbent clay. It makes an ideal face mask for oily skin as it absorbs oil and exfoliates.
rhassoul mud: rhassoul mud, also known as moroccan lava clay, is an ancient clay mined from the atlas mountains of morocco and then milled into a very fine powder. It includes minerals such as silica, magnesium, and calcium, and is an absorbent clay ideal for oily skin.
Fuller’s earth: multani mitti clay, or indian fullers earth, is formed by the decomposition of volcanic ash and is high in aluminum, silica, iron oxides, lime, and magnesium. It is a highly absorbent cosmetic clay which can draw excess oil from the skin and stimulate the circulation. because it is so absorbent, it should only be used very sparingly (no more than once per week) on very oily or acne-prone skin.
pink clay: pink clay is a combination of white kaolin and red clays and combines the best of both worlds by being both absorbent and adsorbent. it binds bacteria and dirt, while cleansing, exfoliating, and stimulating the circulation. dry, mature, and sensitive skin types generally respond well to pink clay.
green clay: a montmorillonite clay, green clay is a soft, mineral-rich clay that is found in and named after montmorillon, a commune located in western france. it is an absorbent clay which efficiently attracts and absorbs dirt and oil from the skin, while rejuvenating it with a rich mineral composition that helps to promote glowing, softer skin.
yellow clay: yellow clay comes in both absorbent and adsorbent forms. yellow illite clay effectively absorbs oil and impurities from oily skin, while yellow kaolin clay is adsorbent, and therefore is milder and suitable for dry and sensitive skin.
bentonite clay: bentonite clay is a combination of montmorillonite and volcanic ash and is a highly absorbent cosmetic clay that draws oils and impurities from the skin. save this one for use on oily skin.
blue clay: one of our favorites as well as one of the most unusual and valuable clays, blue clay is found in the salt lakes of utah and siberia. cambrian blue clay, in particular, derives its gorgeous hue from iron, zinc, and algae. as an adsorbent clay with kaolinite, it is believed to purify the skin, reduce pore size, and promote skin regeneration thanks to its mineral content of silica, kaolin, calcium, phosphate, iron, magnesium and zinc.
(Psst...we use blue clay in our own blue clay clarifying masque, which we invite you to explore here.)
third layer: it's mask time
proper masking begins with activation. for our blue clay clarifying masque, you’ll need to activate the mask with water, or liquid of your choice, as it comes in powder form to preserve optimum efficacy and purity.
in fact, most natural clay masks come in powder form, for good reason – it’s incredibly difficult to preserve an activated clay mask against bacteria, mold, and yeast with natural preservatives.
to activate your mask, add 1-2 teaspoons of dry mask powder to a clean dish or bowl (those little soy sauce bowls are perfect). the anokha gift set comes complete with our blue clay clarifying masque, dish and brush.
add enough liquid of your choice and swirl with a brush to form a smooth paste. your choice of liquid depends on your skin type. for increased moisture, we favor honey, coconut milk, yogurt, cream, or whole milk (save the low-fat stuff for breakfast). for oily skin, use a bit of your toner or water. sparkling water works nicely, too.
fourth layer: layer it
layer your activated mask onto clean skin in smooth strokes. the goal is to evenly coat your entire face. If you want to get fancy, you can “multi-mask”, which means that you use different masks for different parts of your face, or different activations for different areas.
for example, try a red clay masque for oily skin, activated with toner for your oilier t-zone, and a white clay masque activated with milk for your drier cheeks.
we prefer to use masks when they are warm or at room temperature, as heat will open the pores to allow for easier removal of embedded debris and hardened sebum – as well as subsequent absorption of the key ingredients of your next layer.
for the best way to mask, allow your treatment to dry by about 75% as a completely dry clay mask will begin to pull moisture from your skin. moisten fingertips or use a damp cloth to gently remove the mask from your face. follow with toner, serum, and moisturizer to complete your rejuvenating skincare routine and achieve optimum balance during your selfcare sundays.
a little plug: at anokha, we’re crazy about masks. we think our blue clay clarifying masque is among the best clay masks for the face. to take your masking to the next level, we’ve introduced the gift set - complete with our limited-edition, handmade masque receptacle, the dish, and the brush, our very own luxurious, vegan masque brush.
happy masking, beauty.