The Secret History and Formulas of Clay and Mud Masks
One of the most popular ways to pamper your skin, and look and feel better, is to use face masks. These are available in several different options, ranging from sheet and gel masks to cream and peel-off masks. However, perhaps the most effective options—particularly if you have oily or combination skin—are clay and mud masks.
What Are Clay and Mud Masks?
In general, clay and mud masks are made from exactly what their names say – clay and mud. Though they seem very similar, there are some subtle differences1 between the two.
Clay masks are best-known for their absorption abilities and are great at drawing out the excess dirt on your skin. They are highly effective at drying excessively oily skin and are very effective at acne treatment and addressing blemishes, exfoliating dead skin cells from your face, and tightening sagging skin.
Mud masks, on the other hand, are great at improving blood circulation and are effective at cleansing the dirt and impurities from your skin, making your skin look brighter and clearer. While mud is the primary ingredient in these masks, other common ingredients include minerals, honey, and green tea, all of which have their own beneficial properties. They help repair damaged skin tissue, improving elasticity and making your skin look younger.
The History of Clay and Mud Masks
Cosmetic face masks date back at least 5000 years to ancient India, where sandalwood masks known as ubtan were common. These were used not only for cosmetic purposes but also for religious festivals.
The history of mud and clay masks, on the other hand, can be traced back to a clay tablet from 2200BC.2 This tablet describes the healing properties of mud for use on wounds – properties that would later help make clay and mud masks so popular. Clay and mud would be used for their healing properties around the world, with uses documented in ancient Greek and Rome history, Romanian legends, and even Native American folk belief.
Some of our best-studied texts on how ancient civilizations viewed cosmetics date back to the ancient Egyptians. Among other products, they were also strong believers in the benefits of face masks.
The first Egyptian face masks were fashioned from clay and mud, with other ingredients that included milk, honey, and egg whites. Cleopatra, famous for her beauty, was one of the best-known proponents of mud masks as a beauty treatment. It is said3 she applied dead sea mud masks to her face twice a week to retain her youthful beauty.
Over time, mud and clay were ignored for other, more exotic ingredients that included4 olive oil, animal blood, white lead, strawberries, and even Cognac. While skincare brands have experimented with several different ingredients over the years, clay and mud have only recently returned to popularity in the skincare market.
The first modern clay and mud face masks started gaining in popularity at the start of the millennium.5 Today, women around the world recognize the benefits of these natural ingredients, making one of the hottest products in the skincare industry.
Showing six different types of clays used for traditional clay and mud masks.
How Do Clay and Mud Masks Work?
Clay masks work by drawing pollutants from your skin, including dead skin, excess oil, and dirt and debris. You can see this effect when you put on a clay mask – as the mask hardens6 on your face, dark spots begin forming on it. These spots are an indication that the clay is drawing out the impurity from your face and pores. This, in turn, has several effects:
Unclogged Pores: These pollutants clog up your pores, causing breakouts. By removing them from your skin, your pores stay clean, and their appearance is minimized.
Improved Skin Texture: With pollutants removed from your face, you’re left with softer, smoother, and exfoliated skin.
Detoxification: One effect of pollutants on your skin is that they increase the action of free radicals on your skin. Free radicals cause visible signs of aging, and the negative ionic charge of the hydrated clay mask allows it to bind and neutralize them.
Acne and Blemish Reduction: Dirt, debris, and free radicals can severely exacerbate acne and blemishes. Additionally, if your skin produces excess oil, you risk clogged pores – and, therefore, more blemishes. By clearing your face, clay masks help reduce the frequency of acne, as well as both the frequency and size of blemishes. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about the side effects that come with using synthetic, drying chemicals found in other products
Mud masks are best known7 for antibacterial and exfoliating effects. Similar to clay masks, they work by removing impurities from your skin, as well as absorbing excess oil, and unclogging your pores.
There is also some scientific research that shows the effect of mud – especially Dead Sea mud – on improving the appearance of your skin. A 2005 study8 suggests that Dead Sea salt, which is rich in magnesium, can help reduce skin inflammation, while a 2006 study9 showed that Dead Sea mud effectively inhibited the action of acne-causing bacteria thanks to its high mineral concentration.
Types of Clay and Mud
Several different types of clay and mud are used in masks, each of which has its own features and benefits. These include:
Fuller’s Earth: A highly effective10 oil-absorber, it also has mild bleaching properties. This type of clay may be drying for some skin types but can safely be used up to once a week without concern for side effects.
Bentonite Clay: Bentonite clay is highly effective at detoxifying your skin. This includes removing sebum11 from the surface of your skin and absorbing any dirt present. Sebum is one of the biggest contributors12 to acne, which makes this clay effective at treating acne and breakouts. Additionally, it can have a calming effect on your skin, reducing inflammation caused by breakouts, and is also useful if you’re looking for a way to treat excessively oily skin.
Kaolin Clay: Like bentonite clay, kaolin clay is highly effective13 at removing excess oil and sebum from your skin. Aside from this, it is known for being an exfoliator. It also removes contaminants such as dust, dead skin, and dirt from your face, thus helping to unclog your pores. More than just that, it’s also a great astringent and has beneficial effects on blackheads, whiteheads, and acne scars. Overall, it helps minimize the appearance of pores, cleanse and detoxify your skin, remove acne-causing impurities on your face, and help your skin look brighter without any associated dryness or irritation.
Rhassoul Clay: Sourced from Morocco, this type of clay is great for both your skin and your hair. Packed with minerals, it helps by absorbing impurities such as sebum and blackheads. At the same time, it’s gentle on the skin and can help improve your skin elasticity.
French Green Clay: Deriving its green color from iron oxide, this clay is highly effective at absorbing impurities from your skin, as well as for boosting blood circulation.
Dead Sea Mud: Mud from the Dead Sea is rich in a unique combination of minerals that include sodium, magnesium, and potassium,14 which makes it a highly sought-after ingredient in several cosmetics, including mud masks. The salt and magnesium present in this ingredient make your skin more elastic, helping you look younger. Other anti-aging benefits include15 toning your skin and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The mud is an effective exfoliator and detoxifier and absorbs toxins, dead skin, excess oil, and dirt. It clears out your pores and gets rid of acne-causing impurities, including bacteria that increase acne production. While it detoxifies, it also nourishes, providing your skin with an infusion of nourishing materials. What you get is skin that looks fresher and more hydrated and feels softer. The minerals in the mud have also been shown to help treat symptoms of skin conditions such as psoriasis16 and eczema.
Charcoal: Charcoal, particularly activated charcoal, is a well-known ingredient in several different skin products, including masks. This is due to the fact that it is a highly absorbent ingredient,17 allowing it to draw toxins from your skin and body.
This includes drawing impurities and dirt from your skin’s surface, as well as sebum and bacteria, all of which can increase the risk of acne breakouts.18 This, in turn, results in clearer skin, reduced inflammation and swelling, and an overall better complexion. Charcoal is also an effective treatment for excessively oily skin, as it absorbs the sebum from your skin, leaving you with a glowing face without the shine that comes with oil.
There are several different types of popular clay and muds.
Malibu Mud Dark Sea Face and Body Mask
Malibu Mud’s Dark Sea Clay and Body Mask has been formulated for all skin types and is effective at detoxifying your skin without drying it out too much. The mask is made from ten simple, up-front ingredients, and you never have to worry about hidden ingredients or harmful chemicals in any Malibu Mud product.
Malibu Mud ingredients include:
Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice: More commonly recognized as aloe vera extract, this ingredient19 helps moisturize your skin, reduce age lines, and fight blemishes. It is an anti-inflammatory and is also effective at reducing pimples, acne, and other skin infections.
Dead Sea Mud: Dead Sea mud helps reduce skin impurities and makes your skin look younger, fresher, and more hydrated. It helps reduce the likelihood of developing acne by removing acne-causing bacteria from your skin.
Kaolin Clay: Kaolin clay is effective at absorbing oil and sebum from your face, preventing clogging of the pores.20 Additionally, it has antibacterial properties, making it useful at treating acne.
Bentonite Clay: Bentonite clay works similar to a sponge on your skin, absorbing and attracting impurities like sebum and oil. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties make it useful in treating acne and eczema.
Glycerin: Also know as glycerol, this ingredient acts as a humectant – that is, it pulls water from the air and deeper layers of your skin, hydrating the outer layer of your skin. It is highly effective at moisturizing your skin and also provides a layer of protection against skin irritants21 like dirt. Additionally, it helps wounds on your skin heal faster and improves the action of your skin as a protective barrier22 against impurities.
Charcoal: Activated charcoal absorbs impurities from your skin and body, allowing it to reduce the impurities on your face, unclog your pores, and treat acne breakouts. It is also effective at controlling oiliness by removing dead skin and absorbing sebum.
Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Essential Oil: Lavender is a highly beneficial ingredient23 for your skin. It can kill acne-causing bacteria, reducing and preventing acne breakouts and unclogging your pores. Additionally, it helps soothe skin issues such as eczema and dry skin, neutralize the effect of free radicals, and speed up wound healing. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and can help reduce discoloration and dark spots, lightening your skin.
All ingredients used in this mask are either 100% all-natural or certified organic, so you don’t need to worry about the presence of any harsh chemicals.
This mask is premixed, so you don’t have to waste time mixing with water until you reach the perfect consistency. All you need to do is apply it to your face – or any other part of your skin – and wait for it to dry. It can be used in several ways, including as an overnight mask, a five-minute quick mask, or even a spot treatment for blemishes and rough skin.
While many other masks can only be used a few times a week at most, Malibu Mud’s Dark Sea Face and Body Mask can be used daily without any negative effects. It treats acne and detoxifies your skin while ensuring that your skin stays hydrated and you don’t have to worry about drying out.