Clay Masks: Everything You Need to Know to Find The Right One For You

Clay has been used for centuries to improve skin texture and skin radiance while also repelling those dreaded signs of aging. Clay masks are an essential cornerstone of every woman’s skincare regime.

Whilst not discounting the wonderful efficacy of a premium clay, we should not forget the powerful calming mental effect of the clay mask ritual.

In this article we will explore the different types of clay, what they can do and how you can find the right clay mask for you.

What are clay masks and how are they made?

Clay masks are formulated from a base clay and fortified with minerals and other ingredients, some natural, some not.

Clay has a very unique molecular structure. Each clay particle is thousands of times smaller than a grain of sand or a particle of soil. Clay is extremely absorbent so when applied directly to the face, the clay’s rich mineral composition acts like a natural detoxifier, drawing impurities and toxins out of the skin. Different clays have different properties and can yield vastly different results.

A good chemist can create formulas for different outcomes by combining the right type of clay with other key ingredients to yield extremely effective and targeted results. Clay masks are often marketed as a one-size-fits-all for a range of treatments like cleansing, purifying, hydration, rejuvenation, anti-aging and so on. However, in reality more ingredients does not necessarily mean better results. It's more important to pair the changing needs of your skin to a premium formula that gives your skin what it needs, when it needs it.

What types of clay are used in clay masks?

There are many types of wonderful clays from around the world and they all have different effects on your skin and on different skin types. Here are 6 types of clays that you could expect to see on the ingredient lists of the clay masks of today.

(i) Bentonite Clay

Bentonite clay is a natural clay, derived from volcanic ash. It's very fine and has a soft texture. It forms a paste when mixed with water. Bentonite clay was first found in Wyoming’s River Rock but is now in plentiful supply from around the world. Subsequently its a very commonly used clay in commercial clay mask treatments.

(ii) Beraclay

For skin types that tend to be delicate and sensitive, Beraclay flaunts a range of natural color shades, including white, red, green, purple and black and contains no artificial dyes or pigments. This clay is sourced from the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest, and exhibits antioxidant, skin firming and rejuvenation properties. Responsible suppliers will ensure these clays are sustainably harvested and the ecological environment is restored post production.

(iii) French Green Clay

If you have a sensitive complexion, another good clay to know is French Green Clay - yes, it’s actually sourced from France! This clay boasts a composition of decomposed plant material and iron oxide, with exfoliating and pore-tightening properties. Sensitive complexions will benefit from exposure to this highly absorbent clay that soaks up excess oil and boosts blood circulation in the skin.

(iv) Fuller’s Earth Clay

This clay hails from both the USA and the UK and possesses skin-brightening properties and is great for soaking up excess sebum for users with oily skin.

(v) Kaolin Clay

Kaolin clay is another great ingredient for absorbing and exfoliating the skin and comes in the red, white, yellow and pink color spectrums. These colored clays offer the perfect detoxification mix for a variety of conditions, and work with all skin types. Kaolin clay was originally sourced from China, although different sources have since been discovered.

(vi) Rhassoul Clay

On the other side of the spectrum Rhassoul Clay features a strong mineral makeup that best compliments dry and sensitive skin. This rich Moroccan clay also benefits the skin and the hair.

What do the different clay mask colors mean?

Clays come in a range of lovely colors. Although this makes for a lot of fun when using a mask and posting it to Instagram, these specific colors do actually have different properties that can save you remembering their geeky, scientific names.

  • White clays are mildly exfoliant and suitable for all skin types. They are ideal for women with more mature skin and with a normal complexion.
  • Green clay is excellent for restoring pH balance to skin, as it doubles as a powerful, deep cleanser and stimulates cell regeneration. It’s the clay to use if you have oily or acne-prone skin.
  • Pink clay is rich in silica, which helps to improve skin elasticity and cell renewal, making it perfect for dry and sensitive skin types. It aids in reducing skin irritation and inflammation, and leaves skin feeling soft and smooth, with a balanced complexion.
  • Red clay is suitable for skin that is susceptible to redness, and prone to sensitivity and irritation. As the clay works to remove impurities and to soothe discomfort, it also revives and illuminates the skin.
  • Black clay is mineral rich and excellent for removing excess sebum. While actively drawing out toxins, this clay helps to regenerate new skin cells.

How do clay masks work?

Regularly applying a high quality clay mask formula is a rather wonderful, seemingly self indulgent experience. However, make no mistake, from the moment it hits your skin, it starts to work on drawing out impurities and stimulating the blood flow to the skin.

As the clay begins to transition from feeling slightly wet and sticky to almost dry, your face will feel a tightening sensation. It’s during this process that the porous clay sucks up the excess natural oils in the skin, along with toxins, bacteria and any other nasties that are clogging the pores, and draws it to the surface for removal.

Regular clay mask treatments minimize pore size and decrease the frequency of skin breakouts.

What conditions can be treated with a clay mask?

While clay masks are certainly used for beautifying the skin, they also relieve and treat a variety of skin conditions caused by everyday collisions of life like stress, fatigue, sweat, extreme cold or extremely hot weather.

  • Highly sensitive and imbalanced skin can feel compromised by the harshness of modern skincare products, and result in excess oil production, redness, dry patches, rashes, pimples and bumps. As a natural earthly resource, clay masks gently cleanse, decongest and exfoliate the skin, to maintain the health of its protective barrier. 
  • If your skin is prone to dryness, the right clay mask will gently remove the flaky debris of the skin’s top layer and reveal its hidden radiance. To maintain your skin's hydration, it’s essential to apply a light moisturiser after the clay mask has been thoroughly rinsed off.
  • For more mature skin, a clay mask effectively neutralizes the free radicals that accelerate those visible signs of aging. Clay gently removes surface build-up via exfoliation, revealing an even-looking skin tone. The removal of dead skin cells from the top layer of your skin improves its natural, youthful luminosity.
  • If you’re in that rare breed of lucky women with good skin that rarely suffers from breakouts or other imbalance imperfections, a clay mask application keeps your skin clean, radiant and silky smooth.

You will need to try a range of clay mask products that use a variety of formulas and different clays that suit not only your skin type, but also best help defend against the most common types of punishment you put your skin through. Think gym, hot yoga, cycling, eating naughty foods and having that extra drink! Take your time, experiment and go with what works and feels right.