Clay is amazing. You can make pottery with it, sculptures, ward off pests, and even use it in makeup. We love it in skincare recipes such as cleansers and masks. There are many different types of clay available to us depending on where we live, and unsurprisingly, not all clays are alike. While there are many similarities between the different types of clays, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites and what makes each one unique and wonderful.
What is clay?
Clay is a naturally occurring sediment. It is composed primarily of aluminum silicate and created by the slow erosion of granite. Various minerals, such as iron oxides, calcium, and other trace elements, vary. This affects the therapeutic qualities of the clay, its texture, and its colour.
Why do we like clay?
Clay is extremely absorbent. It is inexpensive, versatile, and easy to customize. We like to use clay in facial or body masks because it makes our skin feel rejuvenated and refreshed. Clay will exfoliate, clean, and tone the skin, and reduce the appearance of pores and blackheads.
How do I use clay?
To know which clay to use in your recipe, consider how absorbent you want it to be, and the texture you desire in the final product. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly and work your way up. When mixing with liquids, add the dry clay to pre-measured liquid for minimal waste of product and smoothest possible blending.
How long do I leave a clay mask on?
We get that squeaky-clean “tight” feeling in our skin after using a clay mask because it is absorbing the oils and water from our skin. This may be useful for extremely oily skin, but for the most part, we want to avoid any unnecessary dehydrating effect. For this reason, we recommend removing the mask before it dries out, using only oils as your wet ingredients, or simply misting the mask to keep it hydrated until you are ready to rinse it off.
How can I customize a clay mask just for me?
Part of the beauty of clay is its versatility. You can mix-and-match your clay with any combination of skin-safe essential oils, carrier oils, ground herb, or hydrosols. You can even use honey or fresh fruit! This endless potential for customization means you’ll never get bored of your weekly facial treatment.
How often can I apply a clay mask?
At Kolya, we like our skincare routine to be simple, gentle, and effective. We recommend applying clay masks to the face only once per week. Applying more often may result in excessive drying or unnecessary irritation to the skin.
Are there any precautions in using clay masks?
Avoid inhaling clay. When it is dry, it is easy to accidentally breathe in airborne powder. Work with it under good ventilation, and wear a mask if you are particularly sensitive.
Some clays are finer in texture than others. To avoid micro-abrasions or unnecessary irritation to the face, avoid vigorously rubbing the clay into your skin. Gentle is best. You can break down grittier clays (wear a mask) in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle, but be sure not to use tools that are also used for cooking as we do not want any cross-contamination.
While clays are generally safe for all skin types, every face is unique. If you’re concerned about potentially irritating your skin, be sure to patch test your blend by applying a small amount of the mask treatment on an inconspicuous area, such as the inside of the wrist.
What are the different types of clay?
Clays have soaked up the minerals and plant matter of the earth over thousands of years. There are a wide array of clays available to us from all over the world, each with their own unique qualities. Here are our favourites:
For beginners & normal, dry, or combination skin types
Kaolin clay is generally recognized as “all-purpose” because it is neutral in colour and texture. It is best for normal or combination skin types, but suitable for all. This clay is light, fluffy, and mild in its absorptive capacity. It’s ideal for those with sensitive skin, or those just dipping their toes in the realm of cosmetic clays. This clay easily blends with water into a smooth, creamy consistency.
All-Canadian & for all skin types
This clay is truly unique. It is formed through the convergence of mountain and ocean: a pure mineral-rich clay sustainably extracted from the west coast of Canada. It is readily absorbent but not overly so, making it suitable for all skin types. Its texture is smooth and oh-so-lovely.
For luxury treatments & all skin types
French Green Clay is considered a “luxury” clay for its creamy-smooth consistency and beautiful green colour. The colour comes from its mineral and decayed plant matter content. The colour incites some products containing the clay to boast therapeutic or healing action on the skin. As this clay is fairly absorbent, it is most ideal for normal to oily skin, but useful on dry skin as well. Its texture is extremely smooth and creamy. French Green Clay is a luxurious addition to your beauty regime.
For mild exfoliation & normal, oily, or combination skin types
Bentonite is another commonly used clay. It comes primarily from volcanic ash sediment, and the main component of many conventional marketed “volcanic” clay mask products. It is best for normal and oily skin, with moderate absorbency. It is mildly exfoliating with a fine-grit texture.
For mild exfoliation & oily skin types
This oil is fluffy and somewhat gritty in texture. It is extremely absorbent and best used on very oily skin types or when a large quantity of liquid mask additives (such as therapeutic oils or floral waters) are desired.
For exfoliation & cleansing
Rhassoul clay is relatively gritty in texture and very absorbent, making it fantastic for exfoliation and cleansing blends. It is high in silica and magnesium, which some consider therapeutic for the skin.
For acne breakouts
Fuller’s Earth clay is even more absorbent than pyrophyllite, and thus extremely useful for cleansing. It is commonly used as a spot-treatment for those suffering from excessive blackheads or cystic acne.
Green Zeolite Clay
For tough exfoliation
This clay is unique and delightful: a beautiful rich green colour, highly absorbent, and highly gritty. This clay, when combined with water, adopts a fine wet-sand texture. This makes it ideal for treatments where tough body exfoliation is key, such as the soles of the feet.
There are so many versatile uses for clay, and so many characteristics unique to each type. Browse our selection of raw clays online.
Now, we want to hear from you: what are your favourite ways to use clay?
The Fragrant Pharmacy Worwood, Valerie Ann. Bantam Books. 1991.
Facelift at your Fingertips: An Aromatherapy Massage Program for Healthy Skin and a Younger Face Cousin, Pierre Jean. Storey Publishing. 2000.