Sheet masks may be all the rage right now, but If you’re looking for a natural and more concentrated face mask to perk up tired or dull skin, then you may want to consider cosmetic clays.
Clay is a completely natural material of finely ground rock or soil that has been dried or ionized by the sun and offers an array of highly beneficial properties for the skin. Their high antioxidant content as well as minerals including calcium, magnesium, silica and zinc provide the skin with a beautiful elixir of nutrients that deliver almost instant results.
Clay is an excellent, mattifying cleanser that ensures the skin stays glowing and blemish free. This makes them a popular choice for teens and young adults suffering from hormonal acne breakouts. It doesn’t end there though. Clays also offer rejuvenating and exfoliating properties to stimulate blood flow and refine pores, ensuring your skin stays looking youthful and vibrant no matter your age. Certain types of clay are excellent for mature skin and can be used as a once or twice a week as a gentle cleanser.
So how can you be sure to find a clay that will have that dual action of hydrating and also stimulating your skin to boost collagen production?
It all comes down to the colour. Clays come in four colours – namely green, pink, yellow and white – and each offers its own unique properties depending on your specific skincare needs as we outline below.
Green Clay to purify
This is the colour you may be most familiar with. It has a lovely purifying effect on the skin and will help to draw toxins out that may have been lingering beneath the surface. Its powerful exfoliating properties make this one best for oily or more congested skin types. Even if your skin is dry, you may want to apply this one to your nose once a week as this is one area we all struggle with congestion!
Pink Clay to gentle tone and firm
This one is wonderful if you’re looking to tone and firm the skin and it will leave your skin feeling silky soft to the touch, but don’t limit it to just your face! Try this one on any areas of the body prone to sagging such as the thighs, arms or stomach so you feel confident rocking that new bathing suit on your glam getaway.
Yellow Clay to revitalise and brighten
This one is easy to remember because like it’s bright colour, yellow clay really helps to brighten and revitalize a dull complexion. Use this one when your skin is in need of some extra TLC, perhaps after a long day or whenever you need some extra pamper time.
White Clay to refine and soothe
White clay has a high zinc content to help soothe and refine the skin, especially sensitive skin that sways towards redness or flare ups. If your skin reacts to anything you apply to it or if you’ve spent a little too much time at the seaside then you may want to indulge in this one.
Important Tips Before You Buy & Use Cosmetic Clays
When purchasing any skincare product it’s important to do your homework beforehand. We’ve all been made aware of the importance of opting for all natural, preservative free skincare, but in the case of clays you may want to be cautious if you see clay product has no obvious preservative listed on the cosmetic label.
If you’re a little confused we don’t blame you so let us explain.
Dry Clay needs to be mixed with water or a hydrosol to form a paste before you can apply it to your skin. Therefore, a few drops of water may get into your product and if your product does not contain a suitable, effective preservative, problems may arise.
As soon as water is added to a clay product the product has to contain a preservative to prevent potentially harmful bacteria, mould and yeasts from forming. You may think of preservatives as the bad guys, but if you are looking to buy activated clay skincare, they will need preservatives; and rarely, to our knowledge, is there any totally effective, safe single natural or combination of natural preservatives that allow a water-activated or -containing cosmetic clay skincare product to pass the safety assessment and stability tests legally required (in the EU, anyway) to get a cosmetic to market.
We can’t better this extensive post on properties of natural cosmetic clays in skincare and the debate and issues about their preservation.
Natural extracts such as the paraben-mimicking extract from Japanese honeysuckle may be touted in some quarters as natural preservatives capable of limiting the growth of microbes and funghi on activated clays. Some may work to some extent; but we advise you look very carefully at the ingredients’ lists and the shelf-life dates and usage instructions on any activated clay skincare products containing water. And, importantly, question the cosmetic manufacturer is you don’t see a preservative listed in the INCI list of ingredients.
As consumers we need to be highly vigilant and circumspect, whether paraben-phobe or not. Activated clays have amazing properties that we don’t wish to miss out on. However, we need to know how to use them safely before putting them on our face.
Making your own Clay Mask
If you purchase dry powder clays to mix up yourself, ensure the dry clay does not come into contact with water or humidity, is kept stored airtight and well away from the sink or shower. Don’t be tempted to keep a portion of a clay mask you’ve mixed up as it will be prone to contamination very quickly. The Naked Chemist has some easy DIY clay masque recipes; again, stressing the issue of preservation and/or immediate use if making up fresh.
So as long as your activated cosmetic clay product is designed in a way to prevent water or any moisture or humidity getting in (pretty near impossible in the long run), has an anhydrous formula using natural botanical oils or oleogels, or, as in the case of ready to apply clays, contains a safe preservative system – which will be synthetic – then it should be okay to go ahead and purchase. If you aren’t sure don’t be afraid to ask questions, you are the consumer after all!
We hope this guide makes it a little easier to understand the different clays and their individual and unique benefits for your skin. Hormones and other factors may cause your skin to fluctuate throughout the year so you may want to mix and match for best results.