8 Benefits of Using a Clay Mask

Most of you have used clay masks to enhance your fabulous skin or combat a range of skin problems. Mineral-rich clays offer a host of benefits for the skin. But have you ever wondered what exactly clay masks do or why clay is so effective? Read on to learn about clays and their many benefits.

What are clay masks + how do clay masks work?

Clay masks are formulated using different types of clay which are typically found as a layer in soil, volcanic ash and sediment throughout the world. Clay is a very popular ingredient in skin and beauty products because they contain an  abundance of trace minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium and so on.

The use of clays goes back to the ancient Mesopotamian era where it was revered for its skin healing properties. Queen Cleopatra herself used to wear clay masks with ingredients like honey, sea clay and oil to maintain her vibrant and timeless appearance.

So, how do clay masks work?

The trace minerals in a clay mask are responsible for the positive skin effects you see and feel. When a clay mask interacts with water, its molecules swell up and absorb the excess sebum (the skin’s natural oils) and various impurities in the skin.

The real magic starts to happen when the mask dries after all that water, oil and impurities are drawn out of your skin and into the, now dry, clay. This leaves the skin feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and even helps to deal with spots, redness and inflammation.

It's not uncommon for your skin to look and feel momentarily beaten up after you've rinsed off the clay. This is due to the clay drawing out impurities and dead skin cells to the surface, temporarily shrinking the pores. This is however, completely normal and will subside once the healing process is complete.

If you have any big occasions coming up, it's advised to use your clay mask with a few days to spare so your skin has time to recover. 

Top Benefits of Clay Masks

Masks have become very popular among both men and women but this is not surprising at all.

  • They clear away impurities from the skin 
  • They promote the production of collagen
  • Masks protect the skin from breakouts
  • Clay masks refine pores and generally provide a naturally radiant appearance to your face.

When it comes to answering the all important “What conditions can be treated with a clay mask” question, we need to differentiate between the different kinds of clay masks in order to understand their individual benefits.

Some Common Types of Cosmetic Clays

Australian Pink Clay: is a naturally occurring pink clay found in Australia. Australian pink clay is a good source of zinc, selenium, magnesium and silica. It’s an excellent all-around face mask as it’s perfect for everything from oily, sensitive, dry and combination skin to normal skin types. It clears pigmentation, purifies and tightens pores, soothes inflammation and hydrates dull complexions. It’s also great for those dealing with acne breakouts.

Bentonite Clay: Bentonite clay originates from aged volcanic ash. When used as a clay mask, it feels smooth and cool to the touch, easily absorbing dirt and oils from the skin. Owing to its natural properties, including trace minerals like zinc, copper, iron, magnesium and calcium, it has multiple uses beyond just skincare. For instance, bentonite clay can absorb up to 700% of its mass in water (compared to just 60-80% in other types), which means it acts as the perfect deep cleaner for ridding the skin of dirt, excess oils and impurities, making it the best clay mask for oily skin. Furthermore, it’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties help with breakouts.

French Green Clay: This clay comes from France (no surprise there) and is an excellent clay mask for absorbing sebum from your skin. The vibrant green hue is due to the decomposed deposits of plant matter and iron oxide. Its main ingredients include potassium, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and magnesium. Much like its Bentonite counterpart, French green clay is great for absorbing dirt and oils from deep within the pores. It exfoliates dead skin cells, boosts circulation, helps tone the skin and tightens pores. It may, however, dry out the skin more than usual, so it’s always a good idea to use a moisturiser after application.

Kaolin Clay:  Kaolin is one of the most commonly used clay masks. If you find a pure and high quality Kaolin, it should have a bright white color, although there are varieties that come in pink, red, yellow and brown. The color is determined by the dominant mineral content which in turn, is usually determined by its location in the world. The red variety, for instance, has an abundant amount of iron oxide. When it comes to dry, sensitive or acne-prone skin, Kaolin clay is perfect. White Kaolin clay, for example, is excellent for absorbing oils and impurities without causing any redness or irritation, owing to its exceptionally mild composition. Long-term use of this type of clay mask can also reduce fine lines and improve skin elasticity.

Rhassoul Clay: Rhassoul Clay is found in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. This clay is rich in potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, sodium and magnesium giving it a reddish-brown appearance. It works really well to restore shine and radiance in both sensitive and mature skin types. The mildly grainy texture means it has a good amount of skin exfoliants, making it ideal for drawing out the dirt, oils, dust and pollutants that reside deep within the skin.

How to Use a Clay Mask in 5 Steps

Using a clay mask is fairly simple, as long as you follow this exact sequence:

1. Exfoliate: Prior to applying a clay mask, it’s best to exfoliate the skin. An enzyme or non-abrasive exfoliant is ideal for gently removing dry flakes and dead skin cells. This allows the clay mask to work more effectively.

2. Use an applicator: When you scoop your mask out of the tub, use a clean brush or spatula to do so. The last thing you want to do is contaminate your formula with bacteria. Spread an even layer onto your skin.

3. Leave it on. Leave it on for no more than 10-20 minutes. As your clay masks starts to dry, you will feel a cooling and contracting effect on your skin. Once it starts to feel tight and dry, then it's time to remove it as the cooling effect starts to subside.

4. Remove it. Wipe off your clay mask using a soft washcloth dipped in lukewarm water and use circular motions. You need to get every bit of that mask off – your nostrils, brows, hairline, etc. – everything!

5. Moisturize. To finish off the routine, use your regular moisturiser and you’re all set.

How often should I use a clay mask?

Clay masks are excellent zit and spot busters, restoring the skin’s natural shine and radiance, but too much masking can lead to skin dryness.

Twice per week works well for all skin types. That said, we recommend easing into it with once a week to start and give your skin a chance to get used to such a thorough cleaning. 

When should I use a clay mask?

Its common to assume a clay mask application is mostly a night time thing. However, most types of masks are better applied in the morning. This way will give your skin the full benefit of a hydration boost and it'll better prepare your skin for makeup while giving you an extra glow for the rest of the day.

On the other hand, if you're looking to clarify and exfoliate your skin, a night time mask application may be better.

In summary, when you select a clay mask formula bear in mind the current condition of your skin and what it needs right now. You can't really go wrong using a mask twice per week so long as your skin is happy. If it takes a bit of time to recover then scale back to once per week or even try a different formula.