Do Clay Masks Actually Detox Your Skin?

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Every once in a while, our skin needs a good little pick-me-up. A good detox, if you will. Some of us prefer a healthy green juice cleanse and some of us prefer to just get down and gritty with a good clay mask. And while clay masks may not solve all of our beauty ailments, they do have merit. Julie Civiello Pollier, Holistic Esthetician and Reiki Master says, “Clay has a negative electric charge when it comes into contact with water which helps pulls impurities from the pores." Negative ions are beneficial because of their ability to attract and stick to different positive ions or free radicals. When the activated clay comes into contact with water, it can effectively bind to heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, lead and benzene as well as other environmental pollutants and eliminate them from the body’s tissues. 

How do detoxifying clay masks actually work?

According to Julie, “As the mask is drying, the capillaries are exercised and contracted. As you wash off your clay mask with warm water, the ionic exchange provides a deep cleanse, exfoliation and detox. The microcirculation supports cellular sustenance and turnover --all vital for healthy glowing skin. Immediately, the skin is smoother and more refined.” In simpler terms, you can think of clay masks as somewhat of a vacuum -- throughout the drying process, the clay begins to pull dirt and oil from your pores, in addition to certain enviornmental pollutants. And as a result, some side effects are tighter pores and less oiliness.

Can everyone use them?

If you have dry and/or sensitive skin, you may be wondering if clay can still be beneficial for you. And we’re happy to report that almost everyone can benefit from a clay mask! Julie says, “Often, blemished/acneic skin is the most common that can benefit from the properties of clay, but I recommend clay masks for most skin types, because it’s a gentle, yet effective deep cleanse and the magnetic pull brings hydration from the deepest layers of skin to the layers that need it.” If you have extremely dry or sensitive skin, you may want to limit your usage and be mindful of applying hydrating serums and creams afterwards to nourish your skin.

How often should I use them?

Julie suggests incorporating clay masking into your routine “one to two times a week or as needed.” Amanda Grace, esthetician and founder of Natural Esthetics warns users to be sure that the clay masks you use are “free of fragrances, unnecessary fillers and preservatives.”

The different types

Luckily for us, there are a variety of clays to choose from that work best at tackling different skin moods. ;)

Kaolin Clay

NIU Body Exfoliate White Clay Mask

This clay isn’t as intense when it comes to detoxifying skin, which makes it an “ideal type of clay for those with more sensitive or drier skin,” according to Amanda. On the opposite end, there’s red Kaolin clay, which packs a bigger punch when it comes to absorption power, and is typically better suited for oily skin moods.

Pink Clay

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HERBIVORE Pink Clay Exfoliating Floral Mask

A healthy mix between white and red Kaolin clay, pink clay offers the best of both worlds of detoxification that’s not too abrasive. Julie says it “actively removes impurities, while remaining gentle enough for sensitive skin.” Amanda adds that pink clays are great for a boost of “hydration and help with cell renewal and elasticity for soft, supple skin,”

French Green Clay

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Fig + Yarrow Clay Mask {Green}

We don’t just love this one because it’s ‘French’ (oui, oui ;)). This particular clay is the perfect option for those wanting to reduce pore size and have less visible oil. It’s beautiful green hue gets its color from plant matter, like kelp and algae, which is why if you see a French green clay that’s dull, you probably want to skip it as it’s likely been mixed with unuseful fillers instead of the good stuff. Amanda says, “French green clay provides amazing calming and purifying benefits, thanks to the high mineral content from decomposed plant matter.” This clay is known for its ability to alleviate painful sunburn symptoms, allergic reactions and help heal wounds,

Bentonite Clay

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

Not only is Bentonite clay beneficial for your typical clay masking, it’s often used for detoxing your underarms from heavy metal toxins. Think a buildup of aluminum from most mainstream toxic deodorants. It can even be ingested for similar detoxing effects as it “absorbs the liquids that it comes into contact with and expands to extract toxins from the liquid,” according to an article by Dr. Axe. The piece also states that Bentonite clay is also rich in “minerals, including calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium, copper, iron and potassium,” making it one of our favorite options for masking and a standard place to start if you haven’t used a clay mask before. Julie adds that, “you can play with mixing it with equal parts spring or purified water, or even Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar for an extra punch.”

How do I care for my skin afterwards?

The good news for most is you shouldn’t have to do any ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ steps to supplement clay masking. Amanda says, “You definitely need to hydrate the skin afterwards.”Julie agrees and suggests that you should, “continue with your routine. Perhaps, mist with a hydrosol and then follow with a facial oil to help regulate oil production and help heal blemished and acneic skin.” It may seem counterintuitive, but Julie assures us that, “the more drying the products, especially those containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, the more the glands will produce oil to protect the skin. Using an oil as a moisturizer with a hydrosol allows for all of those oil-producing glands to calm down.”

By Kimberly Arnold