The wonderful qualities of clay have been used to promote health in animals and humans in many cultures since before recorded history. There are many types of clay and the Indian tribes of the Andes, Central Africa and the aborigines of Australia, took volcanic ash clay internally. The drawing power of clay was used to eliminate intestinal toxins, ulcers, leprosy and tuberculosis and for pain relief from infections. These cultures called clay “The Mud that Heals”. Animals are instinctively drawn to clay for its healing qualities. Clay baths have been scientifically proven to pull toxic metals from the skin and body and the best spas in the world feature full body baths of clay. Many books are available on the topic of the healing power of clay, used internally and externally.
If you are not ready for a steady diet of clay, explore the world of clay facials that you can make at home. Clays are natural silicates of the earth and are perfect as a base for a facial mask. They draw toxins out of the skin like a magnet and they restore the skin back to a natural balance. It is best to use a clay facial mask once a week, more than that may be too drying to the face. The cosmetic clays today are useful, convenient, cleansing and invigorating. The clays most widely used for facials include Bentonite, French green clay and Rhassoul or red clay. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Bentonite clay is somewhat different from the other types of clay. When water is added to Bentonite, the molecular structure changes and an electrical charge is produced. The clay swells like a sponge, attracting toxins into the mixture and once they are drawn, they are bound to the clay because of the electric charge. Bentonite clay is volcanic ash and the largest deposits come from Wyoming and Montana. After mining, it is brought into the sun to remove excess water so it is easier to work with. Finely ground clay powder is sent off for use in baths and facials.
French green clay is also known as Sea Clay and is one of the most widely used in the cosmetics industry. The clay gets a green color from naturally decomposed plants and iron oxides. True French green clay will never be white or gray; the color should be green or off green. The molecular makeup of the clay is absorbent to the skin. Not all French green clay comes from France. Some green clay comes from Wyoming, Montana and China, but the French had the market cornered for so long; it has just become known as French green clay.
Rhassoul or red clay comes from Morocco, has been used for centuries as soap, shampoo, and skin conditioner in some the finest spas in the world. It comes from the Atlas Mountains in Eastern Morocco and resembles silky earth when refined. It is absorbent and effective for cleaning and detoxifying. It is used to reduce dryness, reduce flakiness and improves skin’s clarity, texture and elasticity.
Every clay facial mixture contains plain water or distilled water for the liquid. Use a glass, pottery or wooden bowl, (not metal) and stir the clay with the liquid until it is a smooth paste. Use equal parts liquid and clay or start out with a little less liquid because you can always add more. Allow the clay to stand for a few minutes to absorb the moisture. Apply a 1/8 to ½ inch thick layer to the face and let it dry. It usually takes 5 minutes for delicate skin and 15 to 20 minutes for normal skin, but if it is wet, it is still working. The pulling and tightening sensation is normal and what you want to happen. Remove the clay by washing off with warm water. There may be a slight redness, this is normal and will disappear. If a rash should happen to appear, discontinue the mask.
The clays make the perfect base for a facial and can be used on their own merit, but why not make them special with unique liquids, fragrance or herbs for even more natural elements for the face. Try using aloe vera juice, apple cider vinegar or floral waters mixed with the clay. Herbs and essential oils when added to the clay create a scented mask of luxury. A basic recipe includes 2-3 oz. of clay with 1-2 oz. of powdered herbs added. Some herbs to try with the clay are finely ground chamomile, marigold, calendula petals and peppermint leaves, lavender and marshmallow root. Ground Comfrey root, ginger root and slippery elm bark are good for dry skin. Rose petal powder adds some fragrance and citrus peel powder is good for astringency. Neem powder has an anti-bacterial quality for acne and oatmeal or milk powders soothe the skin.
Full body masks of clay are quite popular in spas and should be applied approximately one inch thick or less over the body parts, avoiding sensitive areas like the eyes and mouth. It will take at least an hour to dry so this is a perfect time to listen to music, or do meditation. Add aromatherapy to the experience by diffusing lavender, sandalwood, and orange into the air. Shower off the mask when dry (the clay will not harm drains). This is a treat when you want to pamper yourself in the hot summer. Experiment with different mixtures and recipes and give these fantastic masks to your friends as aromatherapy gifts. Making spa treatments of clay are fun and healthy for your skin at the same time.
Beverly Hlavka is a certified Aromatherapist and Feng Shui consultant. She offers guidance and suggestions to consumers regarding aromatherapy bath
products to purchase or make at home.