Aztec Clay Masks: Uses and Surprising Benefits

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

If someone told you that there was a product out there that was inexpensive, that would make you more beautiful, boost your immunity and prevent illnesses, you would probably wonder what impossible dream they were trying to sell you, right? What if they told you that this product was all-natural and had been used to boost health for thousands of years? They wouldn’t be wrong. That product is clay. Yes, the kind you have probably had slathered on your face at some point by a beauty therapist. Clay is the new wonder product on the block, and it doesn’t just fix your problem skin…

Clay has been used for thousands of years as a treatment to enhance beauty and to promote good health. Many ancient cultures soaked or wrapped themselves in clay to rejuvenate and invigorate the body and to ward off diseases.The Romans used it in their spas and of course, clay facial and body treatments are still around in beauty salons and health spas today. There are many types of clay used in beauty products, but there’s one all-rounder that has the beauty benefits, and plenty more.

The ‘Aztec’ clay

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There’s one particular type of clay that has been making the beauty headlines in recent years; Bentonite or ‘Aztec’ clay. It’s been raved about by beauty editors as ‘the world’s most powerful facial’. It has been written about on health websites as a wonder detoxifier. There have been research studies carried out into its potential health benefits. And all this for around $12 for a 2lb tub!

The clay is a natural substance made out of aged volcanic ash. It is packed full of minerals which draw impurities out of the body. Bentonite clay has been shown to contain as many as 75 trace minerals; goodness does not come more natural than this.  

You can buy the clay in most health food stores and it usually comes in powder form. A good quality clay is cream or grey in colour and has no odour. It’s a safe, natural product which has many practical uses. To activate the clay, you have to mix it with liquid.

When it’s mixed with a liquid, the clay’s structure changes. It swells and acts like a sponge, soaking up bacteria and other debris from the skin. It develops a ‘negative’ electrical charge and any toxins in the body have a ‘positive’ charge, so when it is applied to the skin, impurities are literally lifted out of the body. This is what makes the clay such a good skin purifier and cleanser.  

So what is the clay used for?

Face Masks

Clay in beauty treatments is probably most commonly used and well-known in face masks. Clay face masks are excellent for people with oily, combination or spot-prone skin. Regular use of clay masks can help to control sebum (oil) production which causes breakouts. It also helps to dry out and heal existing blemishes, which is great news for acne sufferers. Masks also help to reduce pores and draw out impurities and they don’t leave a greasy film on the skin. A weekly treatment mask is usually enough, but as everyone’s skin is different, you might feel that two treatments per week is better. You might need an extra treatment if your skin is very oily. You don’t have to have ‘problem’ skin to benefit from a clay mask though. If you have normal skin, you will notice that the tightening and circulation-boosting effects of the mask will give you a gorgeous rosy glow. The tingling sensation you experience when using these masks is caused by an increase in blood circulation to the facial skin. Some redness in the skin is normal after the first few uses but this should lessen as time goes on.

Body masks

The ability of the clay to draw out toxins and impurities makes it the ideal ingredient for body treatments. As well as conditioning the skin, it has been found to reduce cellulite and bloating caused by water retention.The masks are also suitable for those with skin conditions, who are often unable to use many cosmetic products due to concerns about potential irritation from chemicals. The Aztec clay has been shown to be effective in healing and soothing eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis due to its antibacterial and antibiotic properties. Skin infections can be healed and calmed with a regular clay mask application.

Hair treatments

As well as being a natural cleanser for the hair, the high mineral content of the clay means it is very nourishing. Bentonite clay contains calcium, magnesium and silica, among other minerals. Silica is a well known supplement for hair and nail health, so you are in effect supplementing and feeding your hair when you use the mask.The mask also nourishes and calms the scalp, and a healthy scalp is the foundation for beautiful healthy hair.

How to make a clay mask

clay mask

The clay often comes as a powder, which is activated by liquid. You can make your own clay mask and tailor it to your needs by adding ingredients which are specific to your skin type. To keep masks as simple to make and as natural as possible there are only a few ingredients, and no nasties which might upset your skin. You can add essential oils, herbs or other natural ingredients that you might already have at home. The extra ingredients will help make your treatment smell gorgeous and make it soothing, moisturising or antibacterial, depending on your needs. Follow these recipe ideas for some all-natural pampering. Your skin will thank you for it!

Basic clay mask

What you’ll need:

3 tbsp Aztec Clay

3 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

Mixing bowl

Spoon

Mix the clay powder with the vinegar until all of the powder is absorbed. Apply a layer of the clay to your face, avoiding the delicate eye area and the lips. Leave the mask on for around 20 minutes, until it is completely dry. You will feel a tingling and tightening sensation as the mask dries. This is completely normal, it’s just the mask drawing the circulation to the surface of the skin. Wash it off with warm water and a soft face cloth. Use the mask once per week for clear, radiant looking skin. Use the mask twice per week if you have particularly oily or congested skin.

Relaxing clay mask

What you’ll need:

3 tbsps Aztec Clay

3 tbsps Apple Cider Vinegar

3 drops of Lavender Oil

Mix the ingredients until you get a smooth consistency. Apply a layer of the mask to your face and kick back and relax. Turn off your phone, relax for 20 minutes and enjoy some down time. Lavender is well known for promoting sleep, stress-reduction and relaxation and is great for headaches. This mask is the perfect antidote to a stressful day.

Skin clarifying mask- for acne prone/problem skin

What you’ll need:

3 tbsps Aztec Clay

3 tbsps Apple Cider Vinegar

A few drops of Tea Tree Oil

Mix the ingredients together and apply a layer of the mask to your face, making sure to avoid the eyes and lips. Leave the mask on for around 20 minutes then rinse off with warm water. Tea tree oil has well-known antibacterial properties and you will find it in a lot of ‘blemish fighting’ products. When added to the clay mask it will reduce the skin’s oil production which will prevent breakouts, as well as clearing up any existing pimples or blemishes. This is the mask you need when you get that pesky spot that always decides to make an appearance before a date!

Exfoliating mask

What you’ll need:

1 tbsp Aztec Clay

1 tsp Ground Oatmeal

1 tbsp Water

Mix the ingredients well, apply to the face in a gentle circular motion, and leave on for 15-20 minutes. This mask is great for eliminating blackheads particularly in the T zone. Rinse off with warm water and a gentle face cloth. Gently pat the face dry and apply a nourishing moisturizer.

Anti-ageing mask

What you’ll need:

A few sprigs of Sage

1 tbsp Honey

1 tbsp Coconut Oil

2 tbsp Aztec Clay

Juice of ½ Lemon

Mix the ingredients well, apply a generous layer to the skin. Relax and rinse off with warm water. Say hello to healthier, more radiant looking skin!

Hair mask

Hair mask

What you’ll need:

There are plenty of hair and scalp nourishing goodies in this one:

½ cup of Aztec Clay

1 tbsp Coconut Oil

1 tbsp Castor Oil

6 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

3 tbsp Water

Put the clay powder in the bowl then add the oils. Add the apple cider vinegar and let it foam a little before adding the water. Apply through the hair, working from roots to ends. It can be applied to wet or dry hair. Leave on for 20-30 minutes and rinse thoroughly. Be sure not to leave any clay in your hair! Use your usual conditioner after the clay mask, then rinse and style as normal. Your hair should feel and look ultra-nourished and healthy. Prepare to give people serious hair envy!

For an extra treat…a foot mask/scrub

What you’ll need:

2 parts Aztec Clay

1 part Water

1 part Olive Oil

3 tbsps Sea Salt

Massage the mixture into feet and rinse off, or leave on for a while as a foot mask. Detoxifying the body through the feet is a safe and effective method, and who needs an excuse to put their feet up?

So Aztec clay is a well-known skin and hair beautifier, but what else can it be used for? Well, quite a lot of things as it happens, and some of them will definitely surprise you!

It can heal eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, cuts and wounds

Clay binds itself to toxins and impurities in the skin once it is mixed with water. So breakouts, redness and allergic skin reactions are calmed. The antibacterial properties of the clay can calm skin infections and heal wounds when applied topically to the skin or used as a bath soak. You can add ¼ cup of clay to your bath and massage the skin with it, or you can just allow it to dissolve in the water. Rinse the skin with clean water afterwards.

To clean and heal a cut or a wound, apply the clay directly to it, then cover with gauze or a sticking plaster, leave for 2 hours then rinse.

Your gut will thank you for drinking it

Mixing ½ to 1 tsp of clay with water in a jar (or in something you can shake up) and drinking the mixture immediately, once per day will give you a whole host of digestive benefits.

The clay removes toxins, chemicals and heavy metals from the gut and promotes ‘good bacteria’ which improves overall gut health and immunity. If your gut is healthy, you can be sure that you are absorbing all of the nutrients from your food and that your body will be in a better position to fight off illness. Gut health is paramount, as much of your immune system is there.

The clay is able to kill off bacteria and viruses which eliminates many digestive issues.

It relieves nausea and vomiting in pregnant women, is a known remedy for constipation (clay is listed as an ingredient in many bulk laxatives) and it reduces incidences of IBS.

The clay has been shown to kill viruses, such as the harmful Rotavirus, which is a leading cause of gastrointestinal illness, and studies have researched how certain mineral rich products could be used as an inexpensive treatment against bacterial infections.

And get this, you can even use it the same way for your pets if they’re sick, just add ¼ cup to their water! They shouldn’t be able to taste or smell it, and it’s perfectly safe for them to consume.

It can help you recover after the gym

Bentonite clay can help get more oxygen into your cells. It removes hydrogen and makes way for more oxygen. More oxygen means you feel more energetic and recover from illnesses, and tough gym workouts quicker. Goodbye,next day aches and pains…

It can keep your mouth healthy

Sometimes the clay is used in natural toothpastes or combined with water and used as a rinse, because it binds with bacteria and other nasties that might invade our mouth and eliminates them. Gargling with the clay and water for up to a minute, just like a mouthwash can help keep your mouth healthy. Rinse with fresh water afterwards.

It’s a known water purifier

We are all concerned about levels of fluoride and other substances in our tap water, but the clay has been shown to be a good water purifier when mixed with magnesium.

It’s a good alternative to baby powder

You want anything that goes on your baby’s skin to be as natural and gentle as possible, so look no further than the Aztec clay, with it’s soothing and antibacterial properties. Apply it to skin as you would a normal baby powder, then wipe it off after a few minutes.

So is it safe for me?

Bentonite clay is generally considered safe, though there are things to be aware of if you plan to take it internally. Side effects may occur initially as your body adjusts. The most likely side effects are digestive disturbances, such as mild constipation, bloating and gas. Be sure to drink plenty of water if you are consuming the clay.

It is generally recommended that you avoid the use of clay during pregnancy or breastfeeding, as products may contain lead. Those with poor kidney function are also discouraged from using clay products, and those with high blood pressure, constipation or iron intolerance should use products with supervision.

Even natural products can be harmful to the body, particularly if they are used alongside prescribed medications or other herbal products. The clay can affect how you absorb some minerals and other nutrients, so if in doubt, check with your Doctor prior to use.

The health wonder with future prospects

Using clay in beauty treatments for the face, hair and body is certainly not new. But increasing research into its uses and benefits have opened our eyes to a new realm of possibilities. The potential to prevent illnesses, the potential to improve our immunity…the list goes on. And so does our search for more natural products which aren’t full of chemical nasties that might do us or the environment harm. We have more choice in terms of products now than we ever have had, but we also have more information at our fingertips. We can make informed choices and we are more discerning customers. We all want to feel beautiful and pampered, but now we realise we can have it all. Natural products do exist that give us all of the beauty benefits and more. Now, where’s my tub of clay?

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.