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Quite simply, green clay is a type of clay. More specifically, it’s referred to as illite, a subcategory of clays.
The name describes the color of the clay, which comes from its combination of iron oxides and decomposed matter — typically algae or chlorophyll.
The more vibrant green the clay is, the more valuable it’s considered to be.
In addition to the components that give green clay its coloring, the clay contains plenty of other trace minerals.
Not necessarily. It’s typically referred to as French green clay because of the large mineral-rich deposits of green clay off the southern coast of France.
However, green clay is also mined from other parts of Europe and the northwestern United States.
Many believe that green clay has internal (when ingested) and external (when applied to the skin) benefits.
However, there’s limited research on the scientific benefits of the clay. Many benefits are based on opinion or ancient beliefs.
Ancient beliefs suggest that green clay has a naturally negative electrical charge that will attach to positively charged toxins topically, in the bloodstream, or in the intestine.
Perceived topical benefits include:
- drawing out impurities from the pores
- exfoliating dead skin cells
- toning and firming the skin
- stimulating circulation
- helping heal blemishes
- soothing cuts and scrapes, minor burns, insect bites, and sore muscles
Perceived internal benefits include:
- delivering minerals to the body
- removing toxins
It’s important to note that internal uses aren’t supported by many medical practitioners.
You should always talk to a doctor or other healthcare professional before ingesting clay or other supplements.
There’s some, but certainly not enough.
Studies have also been conducted on other clays, including kaolin and bentonite.
However, research specifically on green clay is slim.
Further study is needed before scientists can confidently say whether green clays have certain benefits associated with topical or internal use.
Just like with anything else you might be applying topically or ingesting, there are always risks to consider.
When green clay is applied to the skin, it’s important to note that some people have reported heightened sensitivity, rashes, dryness, or flakiness — particularly if it’s applied in excess.
When ingested, green clay may cause constipation. Because this clay is rather absorptive, there’s also a chance that it could interfere with medications.
Remember, you should always talk to a doctor or healthcare provider about your individual risks before using green clay or other supplements internally.
Additionally, some anecdotal reports caution against storing green clay in metal containers or using metal spoons to mix or apply the substance.
It’s thought that doing so could hurt the clay’s perceived benefits, but there isn’t any research to confirm or deny this.
First, gently cleanse your skin and pat it dry. Then:
- Apply. Use your fingers or a face mask brush to spread a thin layer of clay to the desired area. For example, if you have an oily T-zone, you might consider applying the mask on your forehead, nose, and chin.
- Let it sit. Wait 10 to 15 minutes or the recommended time on the product’s packaging.
- Remove and dry. Once the mask is dry to the touch and feels tight, gently rinse it off. Don’t use a towel to aggressively wipe it off, as this could cause irritation.
Green clay can be drying to the skin, so avoid using it more than once a week.
Alternatively, if you have dry or sensitive skin, it might be best to only use green clay once every couple of weeks or so.
When shopping for green clay-based skin care, make sure to look for a formula that contains more than just clay.
Added hydrating ingredients, such as aloe and squalane, can help prevent the clay from drying out your skin.
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, keep an eye out for products with additional clays like kaolin or bentonite.
Here are a few popular products to consider.
If you don’t want to use a full-on face mask, consider a product that won’t sit on your skin as long, such as the Acure Brightening Face Scrub.
A more gentle physical scrub is ideal for sensitive skin types that get easily irritated.
Buy the Acure Brightening Face Scrub online.
Dry or flaky skin
For those with dry, dehydrated, or flaky skin types, the Biossance Squalane + Tea Tree Detox Mask is known for its gently moisturizing squalane-based formula.
Buy the Biossance Squalane + Tea Tree Detox Mask online.
Oily or combination skin
The bareMinerals Dirty Detox Skin Glowing and Refining Mud Mask is a great option for those with oily or combination skin.
The formula contains three other mineral-rich clays, as well as charcoal to help cleanse and refine skin texture.
Buy the bareMinerals Dirty Detox Skin Glowing and Refining Mud Mask online.
Irritated or acne-prone skin
Ideal for acne-prone skin or those with rosacea or eczema, the Lancer Skincare Clarifying Detox Mask with Green Tea + 3% Sulfur also contains sulfur, azelaic acid, and green tea.
Just remember not to apply it to open pustules or other wounds.
Buy the Lancer Skincare Clarifying Detox Mask with Green Tea + 3% Sulfur online.
Skin that shows signs of aging
Ideal for those with fine lines or other signs of aging, the Tammy Fender Purifying Luculent Masque contains the herb fo-ti, which is said to help with cell regeneration. The gentler formula also includes aloe to help prevent dryness.
Once you’ve used your green clay mask, follow the same order you would with any other skin care routine.
For example, those with a simple three-step routine might:
- Follow rinsing off the mask or scrub with a serum that targets specific skin needs. This helps minimize any clay-associated drying, making this step especially important for those with dry skin.
- Follow your serum with a moisturizer and/or facial oil.
- If you’re doing this during the day, finish your routine by applying sunscreen (SPF 30+) to help protect your skin from sun damage.
Immediately after using the mask, you should see clearer pores and a brighter complexion.
You might also notice that your skin has a red flush. This flush is temporary and is anecdotally believed to result from a boost in circulation.
After continued use, you might notice more even skin texture, refined pores, and less surface oils.
If you have oily skin or acne-prone skin, you might find that you enjoy green clay’s purported cleaning and clarifying effects.
However, you might want to test it out on one blemish or other small area of skin to make sure a full application won’t cause further dryness or irritation.
If you experience any irritation or have additional questions about your skin type, seek out a dermatologist. They’ll be able to assess your skin properly and can offer alternatives.
Jen is a wellness contributor at Healthline. She writes and edits for various lifestyle and beauty publications, with bylines at Refinery29, Byrdie, MyDomaine, and bareMinerals. When not typing away, you can find Jen practicing yoga, diffusing essential oils, watching Food Network, or guzzling a cup of coffee. You can follow her NYC adventures on Twitter and Instagram.