Unless you're an avid gardener (or a farmer), chances are you've never really given dirt much thought. Well, you're missing out: The earthy stuff is actually a pretty potent skin purifier. Clays, muds, and minerals have traditionally been used in skin-care products to cleanse and clear out pores, offering poor souls with congested skin some relief from the onslaught of blackheads and skin sludge.
"Clays can work to benefit the skin by cleansing, oil-absorbing, soothing, and protecting the skin. They can also exfoliate, depending on the particle size," says cosmetic chemist and founder of Beauty Stat
, Ron Robinson
"The thing about clay is that it can carry this abundance of remedies in such massive concentrations," adds aesthetician Tammy Fender
, who has her own eponymous line. It’s amazingly beneficial to allow those essential healing ingredients to absorb transdermally over the course of 10 to 15 minutes."
Fender says that different skin types can enjoy different benefits from clay. Acneic skin will appreciate the purifying and tightening effect; while dry and sensitive skin types are fans of the moist, cool healing sensation. But all skin types, notes Fender, benefit from the way clays remove dead surface skin cells, encouraging rejuvenation.
Both Fender and Robinson note that not all clays can be lumped under the same umbrella. "Some clays are highly absorbent, drawing impurities and toxins from the skin, along with excess oils," says Fender. "Some firm and tighten skin. Some enhance circulation and are dense with essential minerals that replenish dry skin. Each clay carries its own benefits."
And each clay also appears under a vast, somewhat confusing variety of names on beauty product labels. Is rhassoul the clay for you, or is volcanic ash more your speed? We asked Robinson to break down all of the different beauty dirts to help you tell your bentonites from your charcoals. Read on to get the, well, dirt.