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    February 27, 2019 6 min read

    Mineral Clays and Masking

    Mineral clays are unique substances found naturally in the earth, and are rather interesting! They have unusual properties and attributes, many of which which make them fantastic for skin and internal health. Mineral clays are essentially minerals in chunk or powder form. They have unique properties that allow them to cleanse, purify, nourish and moisturise our skin, and in some cases detoxify internally. In this week’s blog, we discuss the differences between the clays and give tips on how to tailor a mask best suited to your face.

    The Chemistry of Clay

    To understand the unique action of clays, it is worth spending a minute on their chemistry. Clays all have a great affinity to water and may swell in size when wet. They have the ability to soak up or ‘adsorb’ ions (electrical charges on atoms and molecules) from a solution and release them later when conditions change (eg. drying after being wet). Clays also have the ability to exchange ions.

    Clays typically have an electrical charge due to the uneven ionic balance of their constituents, which makes them attracted to, and actively seek out, substances with an opposite charge (the opposites attract principle). This gives them a ‘binding’ action. Clays are stable in cool, dry conditions but act as sponges in the presence of water because of the unbalanced electrical charge on the surfaces of the miniscule clay molecules, which makes them immediately want to bind with water. There can even be a positive charge on one surface, while another surface can be negatively charged.

    These attributes make clays great at pulling out any toxins, impurities and metals on our skin, as these substances ussually carry a charge. Clays are able to actively cleanse our skin, how amazing!

    Types of Clays

    Bentonite clay:

    Bentonite clay, also called Montmorillonite clay, is suitable for internal and external use. Yes, you can drink it! It is actually volcanic ash, of which the largest source is in America, so you will often see that this clay is sourced from the US. Bentonite clay in its natural state is negatively charged, and actively seeks positively charged molecules to complete it. So it is particularly good at binding heavy metals, toxins and impurities (which often are positively charged) while releasing minerals that are beneficial for hair, skin, bone and gut health. It has quite a strong alkalising power so you can drink it to balance your body of excess acidity. It can also be used as a mouthwash to get rid of oral bacteria. This clay is great for oily skin types and problem skin.

    African green clay:

    Green clay  is naturally anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, and so is ideal to treat irritations, acne, eczema, bites and even sprains and bruises. It is rich in minerals and micronutrients and is good at absorbing and drawing out impurities. African green clay (a bentonite) is our local equivalent of the well known French illite green clay or sea clay.

    Kaolin clay:

    Kaolin clay or white clay is perfect for delicate, sensitive or dry skins. It treats redness, and softens and soothes skin. It also has anti-aging properties and doesn’t draw too much oil from the skin, making it ideal for dry skin types while still nourishing with minerals. Kaolin clay is the gentlest of the clays, making it the perfect go-to clay for any face mask and skin type, and it is often used in other cosmetics, deodorants, makeup and tooth powder. Kaolin clay comes in pink, green and white versions, depending on what minerals are present.

    Rhassoul clay:

    Rhassoul comes from the Moroccan word ‘to wash’. Rhassoul clay, also known as Moroccan clay or red clay, has the highest quantities of silica, potassium, magnesium and calcium. It has powerful absorbing properties, and cleans and absorbs dirt so well that it is used in place of hair shampoo, along with argan oil. It has powerful remineralising properties, and paired with a nourishing oil, reduces dryness and makes for a great skin moisturiser and exfoliator. It improves elasticity and smoothness and is suitable for all skin types. Rhassoul clay comes in hard chunks rather than a fine powder. To use it, simply soak the chunks in water to make a clay paste.

    Now that we know what we are putting on our faces, it's time for some recipes!

    Making masks is the easiest thing in the world. Choose the correct clay powder for your needs or skin type, blend it with an aqueous solution, add in a carrier oil and/or an essential oil and any additional ingredients and slather it on.

    Turkish Delight Clay Mask

    A gentle mask for any skin type that is also antiaging.

    2 T rhassoul clay

    3 T rose water

    1 T mashed avocado

    Squeeze of honey

    2-3 drops essential oil of choice, try rose, geranium or frankincense

    Blend everything together, apply to clean skin and leave on for 10-15 minutes then rinse off with warm water and apply a moisturiser if necessary.

    Kaolin and Chamomile Mask

    I find chamomile particularly soothing for hot, dry or irritated skin. It has a delicate lavender-ish scent and is cooling and calming. Add in extras such as aloe vera, bulbinella or marshmallow root for additional soothing and healing properties.

    2 T kaolin clay

    3 T water or herbal infusion (you can make chamomile tea and use that)

    2-3 drops chamomile essential oil

    Optional: 1 teaspoon aloe vera powder / 1 teaspoon jojoba oil / 1 teaspoon marshmallow root powder / 1 teaspoon bulbinella extract

    Blend everything together, apply to clean skin and leave on for 10-15 minutes then rinse off with warm water and apply a moisturiser if necessary.

    African Clay Mask

    All ingredients from the African continent. A purifying mask for problem skin.

    2 T African green clay

    2 drops frankincense essential oil

    1 tsp nettle powder

    1 tsp aloe vera gel

    1 tsp bulbinella extract

    Add water as necessary to make a paste

    Blend everything together, apply to clean skin and leave on for 10-15 minutes then rinse off with warm water and apply a moisturiser if necessary.

    Clay Powder Blends

    I find that a convenient way to do masks is to have your clay mixture already blended and stored in a jar. Then, come 'self-love Sunday', you can simply scoop out the mixture, add some water, oils and any extras and apply. No need for measuring out any clay powder.

    This mask is suited to normal, dry or sensitive skins, and is rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. You can of course substitute any ingredients to suit your taste.

    50g rhassoul clay

    50g kaolin clay

    15g rosehip powder

    15g green tea powder

    25g milk powder

    Blend all the powders together and store in a glass jar. To use, simply scoop out 2 tablespoons and add water and any extras.


    Water, floral water or a herbal infusion

    Oils - you can use any carrier or speciality oil(s) of your choice

    Essential oils - stick to gentle oils as some essential oils are too powerful to put directly on your skin, even when diluted in a clay mud.

    Nourishing elements: aloe vera gel, bulbinella extract, honey, oats, avocado, yogurt, activated charcoal.

    Powdered herbs:

    White willow - contains salicylic acid

    Nettle - an astringent, great for oily skin and eczema

    Liquorice root - antiaging and soothing, may also diminish dark marks

    Green tea - rich in antioxidants

    Hibiscus - rich in acids which have many skin benefits

    Marshmallow root  - healing and soothing

    To name a few!

    NB: if the herb you want isn’t listed with a powdered version, you can simply request it to be powdered.

    Tips for Using Face Masks

    Always start with a clean face.

    Don’t let the clay mask dry fully! If it gets all flaky and crumbly, you are doing it wrong. Slather on a nice, thick layer and keep it on for 8-20 minutes but don’t let it dry fully or the clay will start to suck moisture from your skin without releasing its minerals.

    Don’t use straight acidic solutions such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, as these can interfere with the clay’s action. Rather go for powdered Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), powdered rosehip or lemon or orange essential oils if you want to incorporate an acid into your mask.

    We hope this inspires you to go do a mask, your skin will thank you!

    4 Responses


    February 16, 2021

    Hi Faye, are you wanting to store the ready-made masks? I don’t recommend storing clay masks if they have water in as the clay will lose its properties over time. However you can just mix up the clay powder blend and keep that in a jar, without mixing it with any water or water-based substances. You won’t need a preservative then

    Faye Gounder
    Faye Gounder

    February 16, 2021

    How much preservative would i need to add to your face mask recipes above


    August 03, 2020

    Good morning Nadia, yes you will need a preservative to have a shelf life. I highly recommend the Geogard 221 (you can find it here on Essentially Natural).

    Nadia Heyns
    Nadia Heyns

    August 03, 2020


    I want to make a clay mask with a shelf life of 6 months. I like the Kaolin and Chamomile recipe. Do i need to put a preservative into this recipe?

    Thank you

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