Why Red Clay Is Your Skin's New Best Friend

Dirt is dirt. Which is all well and good, until you decide to rub it all over your face, body, and scalp. That’s when all the little micro differences — the mineral content, porosity, grittiness, organic matter — start to make a macro difference. Our latest obsession? Red clay, a variant that can hail from France, Morocco, and the good ole USA. The ruddy color indicates high levels of iron, which studies have shown carry major skin benefits.

“All clays contain minerals that soothe skin and absorb excess oil, but the high levels of iron oxide in red clay explain why it’s particularly useful for purifying, brightening, and strengthening the skin,” says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai in New York City. Cosmetic chemist and founder of Beauty Stat, Ron Robinson, also adds that red clay won’t leave your skin overly taut. Here, our favorite ways to see (and scrub and soak and smear and suds) red.
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A dose of red algae joins forces with a red kaolin clay to calm angry complexions and improve tone and texture. We’re awarding bonus points for the addition of the brand’s signature alguronic acid, which, according to Dr. Zeichner, is a second algae extract that’s been linked with wrinkle smoothing and increased cell turnover.

Algenist Perfect Clarifying Pore Corrector Mask, $55, available at Sephora.
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The first thing you’ll notice about this product is the David Blaine-style way it transforms from a silty putty to a creamy whip. Once you’re over this magic, you’ll appreciate the way the Brazilian form of red clay zaps blackheads and sops up shine. Papaya and mineral-rich sea salts add an extra skin-saving dimension.

BareMinerals Clay Chameleon Transforming Purifying Cleanser, $22, available at BareEscentuals.
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The gentle grit of mineral-rich red clay stimulates circulation within the scalp, promoting stronger, healthier, and more optimal hair growth. Watercress and apricot kernel oil lend soothing and brightening qualities.

ESPA Pink Hair & Scalp Mud, $69, available at Espa Skincare.
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If you’re expecting this deep cleanser with red clay to feel like, well, clay, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The light, gel formula foams up with water to swiftly remove all traces of makeup and gunk. Nonetheless, the red clay helps draw dirt and oil out of pores, which makes them appear smaller. It's also spiked with rosemary-leaf oil and antioxidants to unclog pores, even skin tone, and combat free radicals.

First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser With Red Clay, $24, available at Sephora.
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A microfine red clay pumice works to slough away dead cells, leaving dulled skin with renewed luminosity. Those with blemish-prone complexions will appreciate the zit-zapping qualities of botanicals like algae and tea tree leaf oil.

PCA SKIN Purifying Mask, $56, available at PCA Skin.
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Here, red clay used in conjunction with carrot, red vine, and rose hip extracts absorb dirt, grime, and slough off skin, leaving pores less obvious. Anti-inflammatories rosemary and chamomile oil also bring a zippy scent to the table.

Sisley Radiant Glow Express Mask With Red Clays, $128, available at Sisley Paris.
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If you’re one of those people who has to see it to believe it, this mask (which lists kaolinite, or Moroccan red clay, as the first of only four ingredients) is right up your ally. Just add your preferred liquid—raw honey, organic yogurt, pure aloe, vodka (kidding!)—to a small amount of this clay sand before smoothing on the face and allowing to dry. Skin will be left quenched, balanced, and ineffably glowy.

Fig + Yarrow Red Clay Mask, $18, available at Credo Beauty.
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First, draw yourself a steamy bath and stream a Spotify playlist of your most girl-powery tracks. Next, add in a generous scoop of this red clay and sea salt blend. Last, sit back and relax as toxins are drawn out of the body, and essential oils like cedar, neroli, and geranium seep in.

Red Flower Neroli Cypress High Atlas Mineral Soak, $52, available at Credo Beauty.
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