Clay masks have been used since the dawn of time, with Cleopatra being claimed to have used dead sea mud regularly as part of her beauty routine. In Indian culture, clay masks were also used as a part of ritual ceremonies, still they were also used as part of normal grooming.
So what are Clays?
Clays are a natural material composed of a mixture of minerals. Kaolin, in particular, is made up of fine particles of silicates, along with soil minerals including Magnesium, Copper, Zinc, Iron and Calcium. The percentage of the minerals differ depending on the colour of the Kaolin. Kaolin comes in the following colours: dusty pink, black, grey, white, brown, green, gold, red, dark red, purple, and yellow.
The minerals in clay found their origin from sedimentary rocks that broke down, degraded, and dissolved over years; the surrounding clay absorbed these precious minerals and metals. On occasion, this process makes some clay unique to specific regions. The clay can also have organic matter from plants and animals, that has broken down over time and mixed through the clay; this produces different clays with a myriad of skin benefits and properties.
What about Australian Clay?
There are many products on the market that have Australian Pink Clay, but it isn’t pink in its raw form. Originally Australian clay was pink; conversely, the natural resource of this clay has been decimated due to overmining, there is no ‘real’ pink Australian clay anymore. The mining of pink clay ceased in 2018. Many suppliers now sell ‘Australian Pink Clay’ which is simply Kaolin with iron oxide mixed in, this is what produces the pink colour; this style of clay lacks the healing benefits of the traditional natural Australian clay. Therefore, products which are advertised to contain Australian pink clay do not have any more benefits over normal white Kaolin.
There is a considerable amount of clays on the market, many adulterated with colourants (even natural), the colour is not representative of their therapeutic skin benefits. You can identify this by the numbers CI77491, CI77492, CI77510 and CI77499.
What about Australian Yellow Clay?
Yellow Australian Clay also exists; however, this is not Kaolin and is made up of a mixture of Montmorillonite, Quartz and Anastase. Montmorillonite is not the best suited clay for skin due to its incredibly high pH, throwing off the natural pH of the skin. Montmorillonite has a pH level of 8-10 which is alkaline, which is not the natural pH of the skin. Products that contain a higher pH level allow bacteria to proliferate and upset the normal microflora of the skin. French Pink Clay is also made of Montmorillonite and is not the clay of choice due to its extremely high pH.
Kaolin – The perfect clay for facial masks.
Kaolin has a pH of between 4.7 - 5.8, making it the perfect clay for facial masks. Depending on the mineral content of each type of Kaolin, you can alter the amount of sebum and moisture removed from the skin. Kaolin also reinforces the skin barrier and does not alter the microflora in a negative way. Kaolin masks adsorb excess oil and refine the surface of the skin.
The perfect clay does not contain colourants, dyes, or pigments. The colouring of the clay is due to the variation of natural minerals. Brazil, New Zealand and Spain have one of the richest deposits of natural mineral clays available that are unadulterated and in their pure form. This is the grade of clay that you should be aiming for when you do a clay facial mask.