Growing up and watching TV, seeing iconic scenes of your favourite characters with their clay mask on and cucumbers over their eyes made us think: “we want to clay mask and put cucumbers on our eyes too”, not knowing exactly what it even does or how it works. Fast forward to now, our knowledge of beauty has become more refined as we figure out our skin types and what works. But one thing is universal: nothing tops a ‘self-care Sunday’ like a good ol’ mask.
In this post, we get behind the science of a clay face mask, the best types of clay for different skin concerns, and why clay masks have stood the test of time when it comes to beauty and skin care.
What is a Clay Mask?
People have been using clay face masks for centuries, dating back to Aztec times. Nowadays, the term “clay mask” often gets used interchangeably with “mud mask”, however there is a big difference. Both types of masks have skin different benefits when applied but the main difference is what they are made of.
Mud is a broad term that refers to a solution that is made up of water and a mix of soil, usually consisting of minerals, gases, and organic materials.
Clay is formed when water is mixed with a variety of different materials and has a high silicate and aluminate content. Clay may also contain materials like iron oxide (rust) and rock fragments. The most common types of clay masks are bentonite, kaolin, french green, rhassoul, and Fuller’s earth clays. Clay has the smallest particle size compared to soil and stilt.
What is a Clay Mask Good For?
Clay masks are used for a variety of different skin concerns and skin types. Most commonly, they are used to manage excess oil, dry skin, purify, and manage acne. The type of clay used in the mask will determine what skin type and concern the mask will be best suited for.
What Are The Best Clay Masks?
Bentonite clay masks are best suited for oily skin types and acne prone skin. It is composed of weathered and aged volcanic ash sediments and is highly absorbent, making it suitable to manage excess oil production in the skin. Bentonite is known for its detoxifying properties and is able to remove excess sebum and dirt from the skin. This helps to prevent acne and shrink the look of pores. Bentonite is one of the most common clays used in masks because it literally does it all. Because of the highly absorbent nature of bentonite, it can be drying if used excessively so we recommend using it once a week and follow up with a nice layer of moisturizer on your face.
You’ve probably seen Kaolin clay products in its many different colours: white, yellow, red and pink clay. It is made up of weathered rocks from hot, humid climates, and is one of the most widely used clays because of its versatility. The colour of the clay determines what type of skin type or concern that it is best suited for.
White clay: is best suited for dry and sensitive skin types. White clay is the mildest of the different kaolin clay masks and is less absorbent than the others. Because it doesn’t draw as much oil from the skin, and has moisturizing properties, it is often used by people with sensitive and dry skin. It tends to soften the skin with gentle exfoliation and refine skin texture.
Yellow clay: is best suited for dull and sensitive skin types. Yellow clay is considered more absorbent than white, but less than the others making it still gentle enough for sensitive skin types. Yellow clay may also stimulate circulation int he skin and is commonly used in brightening masks and products.
Red clay: is best suited for oily skin. A red mask has the highest absorbency among the different masks and is the best clay face mask for managing oil. This mask is most commonly used by people with acne to help draw out excess sebum, and acne causing bacteria to prevent future breakouts.
Pink clay: is best suited for sensitive and oily skin. Pink clay has been highly popularized and probably the most well known out of the different kaolin clay products. Pink masks are a combination of white and red kaolin clays, making it a balanced mask with effective absorbency for acne prone skin, but also gentle enough for sensitive skin.
French Green Clay
This type of clay earns its name from the naturally occurring clay deposits in France. French green clay has a soft texture and the natural green colour comes from iron oxide and decomposed plant matter. French green clay is best suited for oily and acne prone skin. This face mask is commonly used for detoxifying, tightening pores, and even skin tone. Studies have shown that French green clay has antimicrobial agents that can effectively help healing bacterial skin infections.
This type of clay is found in the Atlas mountains of Morocco and has a high content of silica and magnesium. Rhassoul clay is best suited for all skin as it absorbs oil, draws out toxins and clear clogged pores. Rhassoul clay is commonly used to exfoliate skin and treat blackheads. Because of its hydrating properties, and light consistency, rhassoul clay masks can be used on sensitive and dry skin types and could even be used daily.
Fuller’s Earth Clay
This type of clay comes from ancient volcanic ash sediments and is highly absorbent and exfoliant, making it best suited for oil skin. Fuller’s earth clay also has lightening and brightening properties that make it also suitable for uneven and dull skin and for treating acne scars. Fuller’s earth clay is considered highly absorbent so we suggest using it once a week. Drier skin types may find it too drying so we recommend this for oily skin.
Are Clay Masks Safe?
Since clay masks are completely natural, they are regarded as generally very safe for anyone to use, but if you have sensitive skin, always check all the ingredients listed of course.
We also recommend leaving clay masks on for no longer than 15 minutes to avoid excessive drying as a result of prolonged use.
Many clay mask products that are available typically already come in clay form, meaning water has already been added to the formula and is ready for you to scoop out and use. However, many of these pre-hydrated masks contain preservatives, making it highly susceptible to bacteria and contamination. Every time you dip you finger in, the shelf life of the product decreases and the risk of contamination increases. Also, preservatives aren’t the best for your skin so avoid them if you can. Clay masks come in fresh powder mask formulas that you hydrate when you’re ready to use them and store for way longer.
Final Thoughts on the Clay Mask
No matter what your skin type or concern, there is a clay mask for you. It’s important to find out what different types of clays there are and what they do best at to find one that’s best suited for your skin. They are regarded as very safe because of their naturally occurring properties but make sure to leave it on no longer than 15 minutes and follow up with your regular moisturizing routine to avoid over-drying. Aside from all the skin benefits, it’s also a great way to unwind because the whole process of clay masking is just delightful.