Humans have been wearing mud as long as we have been wearing animal skins (and that’s long before Woodstock or this year’s trendiest festival). As gardeners, mud is something we want to avoid; it’s messy, hard to grow stuff in, needs a lot of attention, and so on. But the mud of face packs and body wraps is not wet soil; it is a mud closer to the clay used by potters.
Cosmetic-grade mud is devoid of humus but is mineral rich and often enzyme rich. It is sourced from pockets in deltas, riverbanks, etc. around the world, and the location often lends a distinctive colour to the clay. All these alluvial clays have drawing/detoxifying and germicidal actions as part of their electrical charge, but each clay type has its own unique mineral properties. Green clay, for example, is about 45 per cent silica, a mineral most beneficial to skin function and health.
Mud/clay types suitable for facial masks
Green clay (aka French clay, as it is mined in France) is highly absorbent of sebum/oil and of pore-held toxins. It is a tonic and is stimulating to circulation.
Red clay contains more iron than other colours of clay.
Yellow clay can contain more sulphur than other clays.
Fuller’s earth is a sedimentary clay often recommended for acne and blemishes. It has a lightening effect on skin tone and is a potent detoxifier.
Rhassoul clay (aka Moroccan clay, as it is mined there) is rich in magnesium and silica. It makes a smooth paste and nourishes the skin.
Bentonite clay is actually volcanic ash, traditionally used as an internal supplement to treat mineral deficiencies, but as a face mask it can perform the same task externally.
Kaolin clay is found in commercial deodorants, moisturisers and some other cosmetic products. It is gentle and nourishing.
How to make a clay mask
Simply mix the clay powder and liquid to a paste of your preferred consistency. It is perhaps easier to sprinkle the powder over the liquid and build up from there. Once at the point where you think it’s almost done but a tad too runny, leave it to soak for 5–10 minutes just to see how it will develop. Finally, stir well and add more liquid or powder as needed. Wear for 20–30 minutes and then rinse off.
Modifying a mud mask to suit your skin type or needs
Most clay masks can be bought in powder form. The easiest way to maximise your mask is through the judicious choice of the liquid element – what you mix it with to turn it back into mud. It doesn’t have to be plain water.
• Witch hazel benefits oily skin.
• Diluted honey will hydrate dry skin.
• Rose water benefits sensitive skin.
• Fruit juice adds AHA to help renew the complexion.
• Any herbal teas recommended for your skin type or issues can bring their benefits to the mask.
• Hydrosols add fragrance and the benefits of the plant they are made from.
• Egg whites are used to firm skin.
• Egg yolks are used to nourish ageing skin.
• Beer is used for the restorative action of hops and yeast.
• A cup of coffee will energise.
• Cow’s milk provides extra exfoliation of dead cells.
• Asses’ milk will help if your aim is to rule Egypt.