Clay Masterclass: Which is the right Clay for my skin?

Clay has been extensively used in skincare for a very long time now (the earliest use can be traced back to 2500BC!) and it is one of the most popular ingredients today. Whether it is dryness, inflammation, sunburn, or oiliness, there exists a Clay for each of your skincare problems and concerns. But how do you know which Clay is the one for you? Well, we are here to help with that. So let us take a deep dive into the earthy world of Clay!

What is Clay?

Clay is essentially a mixture of minerals (known as Clay minerals) and fine-grained soil. It is commonly found in soils, sediments, or as small rock particles (less than 0.002mm). Clay minerals are compounds called Phyllosilicates that are rich in:

  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Sodium
  • Silica

 

This image shows the different minerals present in clays used in skincare.

Here are some benefits of using Clay:

  1. Help with acne 
  2. Absorb excess sebum
  3. Help unclog pores
  4. Improve skin firmness and elasticity

 

 

This image shows the benefits of using clays in skincare.

Clay in Skincare Products

When you think of Clay in skincare products, more often than not you tend to think of Clay masks. However, the usage of Clay is not just limited to masks. You will find that products such as dry shampoos, soaps, and powders contain Clays too. 

Types of Clays

There is one property that sets Clays apart from other skincare ingredients: absorption. Each Clay has its own degree of absorption. This essentially means that the Clay will draw out toxins and sebum more effectively. If you have oily skin, it makes sense to opt for a Clay that is a strong absorbent or opt for a less absorbent Clay if you are on the drier side. Let’s take a look at some popular Clays used in skincare products!

1) Bentonite

Bentonite Clay is a fine and soft Clay made from volcanic ash sediments that have weathered over time. It is named after Fort Benton in Wyoming, Canada where its largest sources are found. 

This Clay attracts dirt and grime from your skin. It has a high cation exchange capacity and a negative charge. As a result, bentonite Clay attracts positively charged cations. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in minerals such as Sodium, Magnesium, Calcium, and Iron. 

Skin type: Normal to Oily or Acne-prone skin.

2) Brazilian

Brazilian Clays are a type of Kaolin Clay, occurring in hot and wet climates. These come in a wide variety of vibrant hues. They are naturally coloured and do not contain any dyes or pigments. The various shades are achieved by variations in the minerals found in the soil in the different regions of Brazil. Brazilian Clays have an “average” amount of absorption, making them a suitable additive for a wide variety of skin types.

Brazilian Clay absorbs oil, improves skin’s firmness and elasticity, and stimulates elastin and collagen production. 

Skin type: All skin types.

3) French Green (Illite or Sea Clay)

French Green or Illite Clay is known for its excellent oil-absorbing properties. Its green colour is because it contains iron oxides and decomposed plant matter - typically algae or chlorophyll. It has a very fine texture and is rich in minerals such as Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Zinc, Cobalt, Copper, and Selenium. French Green Clay also helps with acne and heals blemishes. 

Skin type: Oily or sensitive skin.

4) Fuller’s Earth

Fuller’s Earth is also called Multani Mitti. It is a gentle exfoliant that treats acne and helps fade blemishes. Fuller’s Earth also has anti-inflammatory properties. This type of Clay is very similar to Bentonite Clay and is highly absorbent, making it a good choice for oily skin.

Skin type: Oily, Pigmented and scarred skin.

5) Green Zeolite

Zeolites are minerals that form when volcanic rocks and ash react with alkaline groundwater. Green Zeolite Clay has a slightly more grainy texture than most Clays. It has good absorption properties and is also a gentle exfoliant. Zeolite Clay can also be used to repair rough, dry, and damaged hair. 

Skin type: Normal to oily skin.

6) Kaolin

Kaolin Clay is a fine powdered Clay that is generally white in colour. In comparison to other kinds of Clays, Kaolin Clay is not that effective an absorbent and is thus better suited to drier skin types. Kaolin Clay is also extensively used in mineral makeup. 

Skin type: Normal to dry or sensitive skin.

7) Rose

Rose Clay is a type of Kaolin Clay. Suited to drier skin types, Rose Clay gets its colour due to the presence of iron oxides. Rosse Clay soothes the skin, calms inflammation and improves blood circulation.

Skin type: Normal to dry or sensitive skin.

8) Rhassoul

Rhassoul Clay is a red-coloured Clay found in Morocco. Out of all the Clays, Rhassoul Clay is the gentlest of all. It is more nourishing and hydrating. Rhassoul Clay contains high amounts of Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium and Silica. 

Skin type: Mature skin.

This image shows different types of clay used in skincare.

 

Which Products we recommend for different skin types?

Masks are a great way to add Clay into your skincare routine. Here are a few suggestions:

1) A gentle and soothing Clay mask is the Sukin Purifying mask. It contains both Kaolin and Bentonite Clays as does the First Water Volcanic Clay mask. These are best suited for oilier skin types.

2) Zyna’s Retexturing and Mattifying Green Clay Mask is another great option. It contains French Green, Bentonite and Kaolin Clay.

3) Etsley’s Charcoal Ginseng Clay Mask contains Bentonite Clay and is also great for oily skin. 

4) Sukin’s Super Greens Detoxifying Mask contains Kaolin and Bentonite and is more hydrating for the skin, in comparison to the previously mentioned. Zyna’s Soothing and Refining Clay Mask is another great option for normal to dry skin.

5) Neemli’s Four Clay Gentle Face Mask contains French Pink Clay, French Red Clay, French Green Clay, and Rhassoull Clay. It is a great choice for sensitive skin types. 

Do’s and Don'ts

While Clays truly are a superhero ingredient, with great power comes great responsibility! Here are a few things to keep in mind with Clays:

  1. Don’t leave your Clay mask on for too long: the last thing you want to do is strip your skin’s natural oils!
  2. Don’t use masks too frequently: it doesn’t matter which Clay it is, masks are exfoliants and detoxing agents. Be careful not to overdo it as your skin may end up getting irritated. Clay masks should only be used 1-2 times a week. 
  3. Do apply the mask in the correct order: Be sure to cleanse your face before applying the mask. You can also consider adding an essence or toner to help the mask’s nutrients absorb better. 
  4. Do multi-mask: It is a great option for tackling multiple skin concerns! You can also use multiple clay masks on your face. For example, Bentonite Clay for the areas you tend to get more oily, such as the T-zone, and Kaolin Clay for areas that are drier. Read more about multimasking here.
  5. Do follow up with a moisturiser: Be sure to moisturise and hydrate your skin after the Clay mask detox! 
This image explains the Do's and Dont's of clay.

 

Summary

Clays are a very powerful ingredient and can do wonders for your skin if done right. While many believe that Clays are only to be meant for oily skin types, that is not the case. There is a wide variety of Clays available today such as Bentonite, Kaolin, Fuller’s Earth, Rose, and Rhassoul Clays amongst others. You need to find the right one for your skin type and be careful not to overuse your skincare product lest you may end up irritating your skin!

- By Gauri Sindhu

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