Updated: Mar 2
Clay has a long history in skin care. As early as the Mesopotamian era, this remarkable ingredient was used to heal wounds, soothe inflammation and cleanse the skin. Ancient Egyptians combined clay with olive oil to brew skin-softening soaps, and Cleopatra is known to have applied a dead sea clay mask twice a week to purify her complexion. Today, clay continues to be a central component of many in-spa and at-home treatments, including detoxifying body wraps and clarifying face masks.
Clay is a go-to ingredient in many anti-breakout treatments, especially acne face masks. Here are five ways that clay face masks help improve breakout-prone complexions.
1. Restore Balance
One of the primary cousins of acne is excess oil production. When the skin overproduces sebum, its pores enlarge and stretch to hold in the surplus. In addition to coating the skin’s surface, excess oil can become trapped within pores, where it combines with dead skin and bacteria and triggers breakouts. However, the answer isn’t to suck all the moisture from your skin; after all, sebum is essential to your skin’s health and helps to lubricate and soften its surface. Clay has the unique ability to absorb excess oil from the skin’s surface without compromising necessary hydration. The result: a perfectly balanced complexion.
2. Draw Out Impurities & Shrink Pores
Think of clay like a magnet: It is composed of negatively charged particles that bind to positively charged impurities (like toxins and bacteria) and pulls them from your pores.
” Think of clay like a magnet: It is composed of negatively charged particles that bind to positively charged impurities (like toxins and bacteria) and pulls them from your pores. This produces an astringent action that relieves congestion from pores and allows them to shrink back to their normal size.
3. Absorb Oil & Minimize Shine
Clay doesn’t just draw impurities from pores and expel them onto the skin’s surface. Rather, it is highly porous and absorbent - much like a sponge. When wet, clay swells and binds to impurities and, as it dries, soaks them into its center. In addition to absorbing sebum and bacteria that have been drawn out of pores, clay sops up excess oil and dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. This gentle exfoliating action not only rids skin of acne-causing contaminants, but it also reduces surface shine and contributes to a more mattified complexion.
Along with its purifying properties, clay also provides essential nutrients and minerals to maintain your skin’s health. Clay is formed over long periods of time by the gradual erosion of mineral-rich rocks and, as a result, is rich in beneficial elements like silica, calcium, magnesium, sodium, copper, iron and potassium (to name a few). Silica, in particular, is required for collagen production and plays a key role in keeping skin plump, firm and elastic. This can be helpful in minimising the appearance of ice pick acne scars which are often the most difficult to treat.
5. Suitable For All Skin Types
To top things off, clay face masks are suitable for all skin types. Jude tells us: “Even if you’re not plagued by breakouts, clay can be rich in minerals and acids that benefit other skin types, too.” Clay face masks are often composed of a variety of types which can treat a multitude of skin types and conditions. For example, oily and acne-prone skin can benefit greatly from montmorillonite clay’s purifying and deeply absorbent properties. On the other hand, dry and dehydrated skin may prefer kaolinite clay, found in Diazo Cosmetics Natural Skincare which gently unclogs pores and softens skin. The clays you choose will depend on the results you hope to achieve for your complexion.
How To Apply A Clay Face Mask
Now that you’re well-versed in the benefits of clay, it’s time to apply an acne face mask. The question is: How? A unique feature of clay masks is that you can tailor the “wetness” of the mask to your particular skin type. The drier and more sensitive your skin, the damper you want the mask to be when you remove it (pro tip: to help retain moisture, you can intermittently spritz the mask with water while it is sitting on your face). Here are a few steps to keep in mind:
Always start with a freshly cleansed face
Apply a small amount of product evenly over your entire face and neck
Let the mask gradually dry (this will take between five and ten minutes)
When the mask is still slightly damp (i.e.not flaking off your skin), rinse with lukewarm water
Gently remove any residue that is still clinging to your face with a damp washcloth.