Clays, Clay Masks and the Uses of Cosmetic Clays in Skin Care

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Article: Clays, Clay Masks & Cosmetic Clays

Natural Skin Care Products by Wildcrafted Herbal Products


Clay has been used for both medicinal and beauty purposes for a very long time. Clay masks and poultices are applied externally, while internally, clay is used for intestinal and other disorders. Its natural absorption capacity is remarkable and it is used to absorb toxins, bacteria and even viruses.

Facial Clay Masks and Their Benefit to Your Skin's Health



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Clays, Clay Masks and the uses of Clays In Skin Care

There are a variety of clay types that can be found on the market and their quality and efficacy can very greatly, depending on the Clay mine’s location, weather conditions and mineral breakdown. These are the key indicators to look for when quality is important.

Clays offer two key properties: 1) Absorption Capacity and 2) Ionic Exchange Power. Absorption capacity is the clay’s ability to absorb liquids, which is dependant on the quality of the minerals in the clay. Ionic exchange power means that every type of clay exchanges its minerals to some extent with the body. The higher the exchange rate the more powerful the clay.

The cosmetic purpose of the different clays is to cleanse and revitalize the skin, bringing out its natural radiance and beauty. Clays, used in the form of a clay mask, will draw out dirt and impurities from the skin, allowing the skin to breathe and glow. Clays will also smooth and soften the skin, leaving it feeling youthful and toned.

What is Clay?

Clays are amazing substances, and have been used as natural skin care products since the beginning of human existence. The use of medicinal earths, clays, in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt has been well established. Clays are also used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries and have shown to absorb toxins, bacteria and even viruses.

Externally, clay can be used to absorb excess oil, dirt, and toxins from the skin while simultaneously exfoliating dead skin cells and improving the skin's circulation. Used in the form of a clay mask, clay has a purifying, nourishing and restorative action.


Types of Clay

Montmorillonite Clay: This is reputed to be the best quality clay due to the high levels of magnesium. It contains oxides of iron, aluminium, manganese, silica and calcium. Its purity, Absorption Capacity and high Ionic Exchange Powers make it far superior to ordinary green clays.

Illite Clay: This is rich in calcium carbonate. Its absorption powers are able to draw out impurities.

Kaolin: This is rich in silica and mineral salts. It is less absorbent then green clay, thus very gentle and softening on the skin.

Blend: The pink has been balanced to produce a clay that is gentle and most suited to sensitive and delicate skin.

Where does Clay come from?

Quality French and Australian clays are mined and dried in the sun, as opposed to water cleaned to extract quartz or other crystals. This is important as sun-dried clay retains 100% of its natural trace elements ensuring activity levels are at their highest. High levels of trace elements in clays ensures high efficacy.


What are the Different Colours of Clay and do they have different properties?

White Clay: Rich in minerals. A gentle, less absorbent clay that effectively cleanses and clarifies the skin. Softens and tones. Particularly useful for sensitive, dry and mature skin types.

Yellow Clay: Rich in minerals. Restores a healthy glow as it tones refreshes and tightens the skin. Suitable for all skin types.

Facial Clay Masks

Green Clay (Montmorillonie): The best and most active clay. Superior absorbency capacity, cleanses, clarifies and purifies the skin. This clay is extracted by hand, it is very pure, soft and revitalising. Its use gives remarkable results. Suitable for all skin types, especially oily skin.

Red Clay: High presence of iron oxide. Rich in trace elements, cleans the skin, revitalises the appearance and leaves the complexion looking radiant. Suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive skin.

Pink Caly: A balanced blend of iron oxide, silica and mineral salts. Medium absorbency and an effective cleanser for sensitive skin types. Smoothes and re-textures the skin. Suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive and delicate skin.


What is in Clay that’s so good for the skin?

Clay minerals such as kaolinite, talc and smectites are useful in protecting the skin, because they are able to adhere to it and form a protective, almost water proof film over the skin’s surface, providing a mechanical protection against external physical or chemical agents. At the same time, these clay minerals also absorb the skin’s secretions, such as oil and perspiration. As clays molecules have a very large surface area, they are able to absorb these secretions and evaporate them leaving you skin feeling clean and refreshed. In addition their properties are antiseptic and due to the fact that they create a water-poor medium, they provide an unfavourable environment for bacterial to grow.

These properties of clay make them very useful in clay masks, under-arm deodorants and antiperspirants as well as anti-septic powders, and they are absolutely natural and free nasty chemicals that may be potentially hazardous to your health.


How does it work as a facial mask

Clay masks have been used for skin clarification for thousands of years. Basically, they work by entering the smallest lines, wrinkles and pores of the skin. As the skin is not a smooth, glass-like surface, it is necessary to access the find nooks and crannies to reach the deeply lodged oil and dirt particles. Clay is excellent at achieving this and as a mask, gently massaged into the skin, the clay particles enter these tiny nooks and literally draw these undesirable particles to it. As the clay masks dries, the particles are drawn to it, adhere to the clay and are removed as you wash off the mask, leaving your skin clean, fresh and smiling.

On a therapeutic level, clays are use in the treatment of boils, acne, ulcers, etc., as they are able to absorb greases, toxins, bacteria and even viruses (Carretero, 2002).


Applications in facial beauty treatments

Facial clay masks are primarily used to remove dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. They are also used to remove dirt, stale oils, grime lodged in facial lines, wrinkles and pores and are useful in treating many conditions such as severe acne, rosacea, sunburn, radiation- or chemotherapy-exposed skin, eczema and psoriasis.

Clays can be used on all skin types and are non-irritating to sensitive skin. Red clay, for example, is indicated for use in irritated, sensitive skin and has a positive soothing effect on this skin type.


Natural Skin Care Products Utilizing Clay

Apart from their medicinal uses in treating a range of conditions, clays are used in natural skin care products for their amazing absorptive, cleansing and antiseptic properties. Clays tend to be high in minerals, including magnesium, calcium and iron, all of which help with the production of collagen in the skin. These minerals also provide nutrition to the living skin layers in the dermis.

Clay masks can be used to treat many conditions such as severe acne, rosacea, sunburn, radiation- or chemotherapy-exposed skin, eczema and psoriasis.



Carretero, M.I. (2002) Clay minerals and their beneficial effects upon human health. Applied Clay Science. Volume 21, Issues 3-4, Pages 155-163.

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Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre

All our skin care products have been developed primarily to help our patients with a wide range of skin care problems for the past 30 years.

Susan and Danny practice Western herbal medicine, Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Remedial body therapies at their private practice in the lower Blue Mountains, West of Sydney.

Their combined experience in treating skin and other disorders is well over 50 years and they're happy to help you regain your optimal health.

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