There are a couple times throughout the year when my skin – I am guessing due to stress, decides to suddenly get weird and turn oily and dry at the same time, and constellation-like breakouts decorate my face as if I were going through that not-so-pretty adolescent phase we’ve all dreaded at some point in our lives. I usually have a nice, smooth complexion, so these random outbursts are quite pestering (not to mention that I am the kind of person who can’t resist scratching and touching their pimples – duh).
I have been using natural and chemical-free products since I was 16, so I never resort to meds or chemicals to get rid of my skin problems. I used clay before, but I completely forgot about it until my mom came home with a bag of green French clay and put it in my hands, saying ‘here. I used to use it all the time when I was young – for cellulite, too. It’ll help with that acne of yours.”
So I started re-incorporating it into my beauty routine, and I cannot even describe how smooth and luminous my skin is after my weekly clay mask! It works way, WAY better than anything you can buy in a pharmacy – especially when you add in other nourishing natural ingredients.
Let us see how nature can help us with reducing one of the peskiest things you can get on your face.
THE WONDERFUL PROPERTIES OF CLAY
Clay has been used for centuries for its amazing properties: it is used to clean, detoxify, remineralize and regenerate the body inside-out. In the middle east, clay has always been used for washing and nourishing the hair, and it is still used to make natural soap, as a natural disinfectant for cleaning, as a detox drink, as a skin purifying and nourishing mask, as an anti-cellulite scrub…and in many other ways! It is truly a wonderful product of the earth, which once again proves how nature abounds with clean, super-effective remedies.
HOW IT WORKS
In short, clay binds to all toxins – both outside and inside your body, as some clays are also edible and used for internal cleansing, and draws everything out, while giving off its numerous minerals that are extremely nourishing and beneficial for the body. Amazing, uh?
TYPES OF CLAY FOR SKINCARE
• Kaolin Clay: comes in white, pink, red and yellow versions. The color is determined by the various minerals they are made of. White clay is the most delicate of all, and is recommended for sensitive skin. It is perfect for treating redness, softening the skin and brightening the complexion. It has anti-aging and anti-redness properties and, because it does not draw too much oil from the skin, it is perfect for people with dry skin who still need to nourish it with minerals and get rid of toxins.
• French Green Clay: Green clay has strong absorbing and purifying properties, making it the perfect option for people with acne and oily skin. A green clay mask will suck every single blackhead out of your face! It is not the strongest, but it might not be the best option for people with sensitive skin.
• Rhassoul Moroccan Clay: In my opinion, one of the most amazing products of the earth: its name comes from the Moroccan word ‘to wash’, and it has an incredible amount of minerals (it contains the highest quantity of silica, magnesium, potassium and calcium) and strong absorbing properties. It absorbs dirt so well that it is used instead of shampoo to wash hair as well, usually paired with Argan oil to avoid dryness. At the same time, its remineralizing properties are so remarkable that it reduces dryness and, when paired to a nourishing oil, it makes for a great skin and hair moisturizer. It improves skin elasticity and smoothness.
• Extra fine Bentonite clay: Bentonite clay is also for internal use (yes, you can make a clay drink! Yum!) as it binds all toxins and, while it expels them, it releases in the body all of its precious minerals that are beneficial for gut, hair and bone health. It also has a strong alkalizing power, contrasting acidity in the body. Aside drinking it or putting it on your face, you can also use it to rinse your mouth, much as you would use mouthwash, to get rid of bacteria.
TIPS FOR MAKING AND APPLYING YOUR MASK
1) Do not let it dry fully
You should not get to the point where your mask gets pale, dry and crumbly on your face. We want our clay to draw out toxins and dirt, but if it dries too much it will only suck out all the water it can from your face, without giving off its minerals and beneficial properties. Make sure you always put on a very thick layer of clay and keep it on for a minimum of 8 to a maximum of 15-20 minutes, depending on what clay you are using and on your skin type. When the time is up, you should feel a bit of that tightening feeling on your face, but the clay should still look wet on top. this way, the skin will absorb all of the mask’s nutrients. Obviously, never re-use clay a second time, as it will have collected all of your skin’s toxins.
2) add hydrating and healthy ingredients for your skin
this includes oils, essential oils, infused oils, honey and gels like aloe and linseed. See below for suggestions on what to add. If you soaked or cooked organic rice or oats (and I mean organic) in water, use the starchy water to add to your mask and to wash your face at the end. It has incredible smoothing and illuminating properties!
3) Always start from a clean face
Before putting on your mask, clean your face well. I suggest you swab your face with cotton imbibed with chamomile, rosewater, or starchy rice water to avoid using chemical cleansers.
4) No straight acidic ingredients
Lemon juice or vinegar have great astringent properties, but they can interfere with the action of the mask. Instead, use powders like rose hip or powdered vitamin C, or pomegranate, lemon or orange essential oils.
5) Avoid metal
Use a wooden or ceramic bowl and spoon. Metal reacts with the minerals in the clay, so always avoid it when preparing your mask.
HEALTHY ADDITIONS TO YOUR MASK
You can make a perfectly effective clay mask by just mixing clay and water. But, given the chance, why not boost it a little more? you can…
Replace infusions for water: it is a great idea to use herbal infusions as the liquid part whenever you need to make a beauty mask. Chamomile and Lavender have strong anti-redness and brightening properties, while Calendula has also skin-repairing effects, and is used to treat scars and wounds. All plants that are astrologically associated to the planet Venus are great for skincare. Rosemary, thyme and sage have antibacterial and balancing properties and are great for oily skin with acne. Using black tea, which has astringent properties, is good for oily skin. Herbs can be obviously mix-and-matched, though I would not pair more than 2.
Add oils: which you should do even if you have oily skin! The reason why most oils will not be a problem in the case of oily skin is that the fat molecules are larger than the pores, therefore the skin can absorb the minerals while keeping the oil out. The best oils to use are extra virgin olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, apricot kernel oil…most oils that are not industrial and have beneficial properties are good. If you have oily skin, olive oil could be a little heavy – choose almond or argan instead. Infused oils are, needless to say, even better! Choose the oil you like better and infuse it with the herbs that could be most beneficial to your skin type, and you’ll have a natural remedy always at the ready.
Essential oils: essential oils are true pocketfuls of condensed beneficial and medicinal properties. Adding 2-3 drops of essential oils can boost any beauty mask with an incredible amount of nutrients. Just be very careful to never use them as is – always add them to something or dilute them in another oil, as they can be irritating. Also be careful of any citrus oil, as they react to sunlight and can irritate your skin if you go out in the sun immediately after using them.
Here is a list of essential oils that are great additions to facial masks:
~ For all kinds of skin: chamomile, lavender, rose, neroli, cedar wood, jasmine
~ For oily skin: basil, rosemary, ylang ylang, lemon, mint, grapefruit
~ For dry skin: carrot, vetiver, sandalwood, patchouli
Nourishing additions: purifying masks have the goal to take out the dirt and give off its minerals, so, because there is already nourishment given by the oils and honey in this mask and there is no need to make it heavier, I really think these additions are best saved for a nourishing mask. Still, adding them can only be good for your skin, so if you have them on hand go ahead and add them! consider Aloe gel, coconut butter, powdered indian herbs like Neem, Nagar or Tulsi, rosehip powder.
And now on to the recipe! Because this is a detoxifying and purifying mask, it is best when made during a waning or new moon. According to biodynamics, the best time for purifying masks and any facial treatment is when the waning moon enters the constellation of Capricorn, or when the waxing moon enters the constellation of Gemini (which would be Thu 26 / Fri 27th, if you want to mark your calendars).
- 1 tbsp powdered clay (choose the kind of clay according to your skin type and needs)
- 1 tsp Chamomile, Lemon & vanilla infused oil (or other oil of choice)
- 1 tsp Honey (skip if vegan)
- Herbal infusion of choice, enough to make a thick paste (you can drink the leftovers!)
- 5 drops essential oil of choice
- Add the clay to a ceramic or wooden bowl and using a ceramic or wooden spoon, and add a couple tablespoons of liquid. Let it stand for some 10 minutes - the clay will start absorbing the water on its own. Mix the clay vigorously, and, if needed, add enough liquid to make a thick paste. It should not be runny, as you should be able to 'plaster' it on your face in a thick layer. At this point you can add the honey, oil and essential oil if using.
- Put it on your clean face, and leave it on for 8-10 minutes if using Rhassoul or bentonite, 15 minutes if using green clay or kaolin with normal skin, 20 minutes if using kaolin with oily skin.
- Wash it off without rubbing your face harshly - rinse it off delicately with warm water, and finish off with starchy rice water, with a tonic or flower water. Put on a delicate moisturizer to finish the job properly.