Take a look at your bathroom shelf — is it devoid of clutter, or is it struggling under the weight of a multitude of bottles? Most bathrooms these days count a high number of beauty products, from body washes and soaps to shampoos and conditioners. But do you really need all these cosmetics? Could going back to basics with a single natural alternative improve the condition of your skin and hair?
One natural product that has been used for centuries for medicinal and cosmetic purposes is clay. Clay is a specific type of soil from the earth that has unique properties which make it very popular for beauty products. Specifically, clay has a positive charge which helps it absorb materials such as greases and toxins. However, not all clays are alike — we review some of the most common clays used in beauty products and cover in depth the most popular: Moroccan Rhassoul clay.
French Green Clay
Also called illite or Sea Clay, this clay originates from decomposed plants and iron oxides — these compounds give the clay its distinctive green color. Unlike the name indicates, this clay does not necessarily come from France; in fact French clay deposits can also be found in other European countries, China and the United States. If you decide to buy this clay, ensure that the color is green, as this is a sign of its quality.
Also referred to as Montmorillonite, this clay has a grey or cream color. This type of clay is probably the most popular, due to its extremely powerful absorbent property. Bentonite is actually a generic name that denotes stones that come from ‘altered volcanic ash beds’.
Moroccan Rhassoul Clay
Also referred to as Ghassoul, Rasul or Moroccan Lava Clay, this clay is found exclusively in the sub-mountainous regions of the Moroccan Atlas Mountains and has a color ranging between brown and red. People love to include it in their beauty treatments because of its proclaimed nourishing, detoxifying, conditioning, and cleaning properties. Chemical and mineral analyses reveal that Rhassoul clay contains important amounts of minerals such as magnesium. Also, Rhassoul clay has smectic capacities, which means that it swells if it gets in contact with water, like a liquid crystal. This particular quality makes Rhassoul clay perfect to use as a face or hair mask.
Medicinal Uses for Clay
Clay can be used in a multitude of different ways. It isn’t just used for personal hygiene and beauty, it actually has medicinal benefits such as the ability to fight bacteria. A study from Arizona State University for example tested two different types of French green clay for their medicinal potential as antibacterial agents. The researchers concluded that topical application of these natural remedies might have a promising future in the treatment of several conditions due to their bacteria-killing properties.
All in One Beauty Product
Now back to beauty. Clay can also be used in this domain in various ways.
For your skin it can be used as:
- Shower gel
- Body scrub/ exfoliator
- Body wraps
- Soap for your hands
- Face cleanser
For your hair it can be used as:
- Hair mask
Why Should I Choose Clay over Synthetic Cleansers?
There are numerous benefits to using clay instead of chemical body washes and shampoos. The list below just contains some of them.
1. Nothing extra added, no preservatives
Clay contains… just clay! There are no added chemicals whatsoever. When you consider the amount of chemicals that are included in common shampoos and shower gels, you are going to appreciate that fact even more.
2. Highly Efficient
A small amount of clay is enough for a big amount of shampoo, masks, and cleansers. This is due the fact that when hydrated, the volume and mass of the clay increase a lot. It’s incredible how much more space you have in your suitcase when you use clay instead of your usual shampoo, shower gel, face mask and conditioner.
3. Highly Affordable
You can get 500g of Rhassoul clay for around 30$ on the Internet. And given its high efficiency, there’s likely to be no cheaper organic, all-natural product around.
4. Highly Versatile
You can use it to make shampoo, body washes, face and hair masks, and even toothpaste! You would never think of putting your normal shower gel in your mouth, but clay is a real all-rounder when it comes to body care. It’s basically an all-in-one.
Chemicals in Common Cleansers
Take the bottle of your shampoo. Turn it around and take a look at the ingredients. Do you see something called sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate (SLS/SLES)? A quick glance at the back of your bottle of shower gel will most certainly reveal the same ingredient.
SLS (or SLES, which is almost the same but a tiny bit less harmful) is a detergent and foaming agent, and is added to nearly all shampoos and shower gels — you’ll also find it in your washing up liquid. This damaging chemical can have an irritant effect on skin and eyes. In addition, and more alarming, SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which is classified as “probably carcinogenic to humans”.
But that’s not all. Many cosmetic and cleansing products contain such ingredients as diethanolamine (DEA), which is used to give products a “creamy” consistency. DEAs have been found to be highly irritating and high doses are linked to liver cancer in rats. The list of damaging chemicals used in common shampoos and shower gels goes on. But you don’t have to subject yourself to these toxic compounds, by switching to natural beauty products such as clay.
Natural products are kinder and gentler on your skin. Although it is widely believed the skins pH is between 5 and 6, studies have revealed that its pH is closer to 4.7. This acidity keeps skin healthy and protected. The use of artificial cosmetic products and cleaners raise (or alkalize) the pH value of the skin and cause its condition to worsen.
For naturally beautiful skin and hair, go back to basics and try an earthy all-in-one product such as clay. Take your first steps towards a healthier and kinder-to-your-body direction — why not try this simple recipe for a moisturizing and nourishing clay face mask?
Clay & Rose Face Mask Recipe
- 3 tablespoons Rhassoul clay
- 4 tablespoons rose water (a herbal distillate that is a by-product of making rose essential oil)
- 2 teaspoons mashed avocado (alternatively you can use almond or olive oil)
- 2-3 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)
Place the Rhassoul clay in a clean dry bowl, preferably not made of metal.
Add the rose water and thoroughly mix it into the clay until you have a smooth consistency.
Add the mashed avocado or oil.
The face-mask should have a similar consistency to yogurt — you can add more clay or avocado/oil until you are happy with the texture.
Apply the mask to your face evenly and leave it to dry (around 5-10 minutes depending on how thickly or thinly you’ve applied it).
Rinse with warm water and pat your face dry.
Complete the routine with a little face oil — almond oil is light and quickly absorbed.
Voilà — naturally beautiful, smooth and supple skin!