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Every morning, I always found a small cup on my grandmother’s kitchen counter with a smooth mixture of brownish clay, milk, and turmeric. After the morning hustle and bustle subsided, she’d apply it to her face, wait for 10 minutes, and rinse it off.

It was a ritual she followed religiously, claiming it was the secret to her smooth and glowing skin.

I often wondered what the clay was, and it was only much later that I realized that it was Multani mitti.

Also called fuller’s earth or mud of Multan, this ingredient has been used by homemakers like my grandmother and mother as well as skin experts for decades.

It’s also a staple ingredient in herbal formulations, Ayurvedic beauty treatments, and ubtans — Ayurvedic treatments to cleanse and detox the body often used before traditional Indian weddings.

Multani mitti is a mineral-rich clay-like substance that gets its name from its city of origin, Multan in modern day Pakistan. With a texture that’s much finer than clay and with a higher water content, Multani mitti is known for decolorizing oil and other liquids without harsh adverse reactions.

It’s composed of hydrated aluminum silicates and is rich in magnesium chloride and calcium bentonite, a composition similar to bentonite clay. It’s found in a large range of natural colors like brown, green, and white.

Multani mitti is known as fuller’s earth in English for its historic use by textile workers known as “fullers.”

Fuller’s earth was popularly mined in the state of Multan and exported to other regions of the Indian subcontinent. Thus, it came to be known as Multani Mitti,” says Jatin Gujrati, founder of Ayurvedic lifestyle brand Vedix. “Princesses and affluent women in Indian history always had a stash of Multani mitti along with sandalwood paste and gram flour, which they used for beauty treatments.”

A prime destination on the silk route, traders brought home Multan’s clay-like soil, and women used it extensively on their skin and hair at that time.

During World War II, fuller’s earth was mixed with water and applied to feet to reduce inflammation.

Multani mitti or fuller’s earth is used as a natural cleanser and astringent, offering a host of benefits for the skin, including:

  • reducing oil
  • fighting acne
  • balancing and brightening skin tone
  • reducing pigmentation

Oily skin

According to Rinky Kapoor, cosmetic dermatologist and surgeon at The Esthetic Clinic, Multani mitti contains mattifying properties that balance skin oils and remove impurities.

It’s especially beneficial for oily skin, as it helps open up clogged pores and absorbs excess sebum from the skin.

According to one study, Multani mitti removes dirt and absorbs excess oil.

Acne

According toVaishali Sawant, assistant medical director of Vedicure Healthcare and Wellness, Multani mitti is effective at treating acne. It does this by:

  • removing sweat, impurities, and dead skin cells
  • eliminating blackheads and whiteheads
  • controlling excessive oil production
  • shrinking the appearance of pores
  • cooling the skin
  • soothing irritation caused by inflammation

“The magnesium chloride in fuller’s earth is a magic anti-acne worker,” says Kapoor.

Skin tone and brightening

According to research, Multani mitti increases the cleanliness of the skin by removing dead skin cells from the surface, which results in:

  • increased retention of nutrients and moisture
  • improved circulation
  • a tightening effect
  • an exfoliating effect

These benefits provide a rejuvenated, glowing look.

Pigmentation

Multani mitti helps fight dark circles and sun damage due to its cooling effect on the skin.

“It gives you an even skin tone, tackles tanning and pigmentation, and is effective against sunburn, skin rashes, and infections,” adds Sawant.

Skin whitening or lightening

Given that Multani mitti is effective against removing excess oil, impurities, and dead cells, it gives the skin a natural glow.

“The ions in Multani mitti lighten the skin and heal the damage done by sun exposure,” says Kapoor.

Multani mitti can be used in multiple ways as a beauty treatment, including:

Face pack

In India, tightening face masks are often referred to as face packs. Multani mitti makes a great face pack and can be combined with other ingredients to suit different skin types.

It has both a cooling and tightening effect, helps reduce lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation while cleansing the skin.

You can try products like Reshma Beauty Fuller’s Earth Face Mask.

Spot treatment

Because of its oil-absorbing properties, Multani mitti makes a great spot treatment.

You can use a bit of a face mask or mix Multani mitti powder with water and dab it on pimples to dry them up and reduce redness.

In India, it’s popularly mixed with neem when used as a spot treatment.

Face mask

Multani mitti can be mixed with other ingredients to create a moisturizing and brightening face mask. Common ingredients include:

These ingredients can help add moisture or brightness to the skin.

Exfoliant

Multani mitti is very effective in removing dead cells from the surface of the skin.

Use it as a gentle scrub by mixing it with orange peel powder or powdered oats.

Want to give Multani mitti a try? The recipes below have you covered.

Simple face pack

For this face pack, you can use your favorite high fat milk if you have combination skin. Rose water works best for dehydrated skin.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Mix one tbsp. of Multani mitti with 1/4 cup milk or rose water
  2. Apply to a clean, dry face.
  3. Leave on for 10 minutes.
  4. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry.

Recipe courtesy of Manasi Shirolikar, head dermatologist at Remedico.

Spot treatment

This quick and easy spot treatment helps dry up acne fast.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Mix sandalwood, turmeric, and Multani mitti powder with water until you get a thick paste.
  2. Apply directly to acne pimples and let dry. You can also leave it on overnight.
  3. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry.

Recipe courtesy Jatin Gujrati of Vedix.

Cooling face mask

This simple face mask is moisturizing, brightening, and cleansing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp. sandalwood powder
  • 1 tbsp. Multani mitti powder
  • 2 tsp. coconut water
  • 2 tsp. high fat milk of choice

Steps:

  1. Mix the powders and liquids together.
  2. Spread paste on clean, dry skin.
  3. Leave on for 10 minutes.
  4. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry.

Recipe courtesy Jeeshant Khan, formulations scientist at I am Love.

Exfoliating papaya mask

This exfoliating mask features the skin benefits of antioxidant-rich papaya.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. Multani mitti powder
  • 1 tbsp. papaya pulp

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients to create a paste.
  2. Apply to a clean, dry face.
  3. Allow to dry completely.
  4. Wash off with lukewarm water and pat dry.

Recipe courtesy Sushant Shetty of Kaya Limited.

Moisturizing mask

For skin types that need extra moisture, mix your Multani mitti with equal parts aloe vera gel. Make sure it’s food-grade and has no additives.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. Multani mitti
  • 1 tbsp. aloe vera gel

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients.
  2. Apply to clean, dry face.
  3. Leave for 10 minutes.
  4. Wash off with lukewarm water and pat dry.

Lemon exfoliant

This simple exfoliant blend can help slough off dead skin cells and brighten with lemon.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp. Multani mitti
  • 1 tsp. glycerine
  • 1/4 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. rose water

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients to form a paste.
  2. Gently massage onto clean, dry skin in a circular motion.
  3. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry.

Lemon and other citrus fruits may cause skin irritation for some people. You shouldn’t use lemon if you know you’re going to be out in the sun, as doing so can increase your risk of sunburn and other side effects. Always do a patch test before you use lemon in your skin care routine.

People with highly sensitive or dry skin should avoid using Multani mitti. Because it absorbs oil, Multani mitti can leave your skin feeling thirsty.

If you have sensitive skin, it may lead to redness or irritation.

Always do a patch test to rule out sensitivity and allergy before using any new product.

Multani mitti offers plenty of benefits for the skin, including cleansing, brightening, and toning properties.

To reap the benefits, you can use it in simple DIY recipes, like face masks, exfoliants, and spot treatments.

While it’s generally considered safe, it may irritate sensitive skin. Make sure you do a patch test before you give it a try.


Rashmi Gopal Rao is a freelance writer from Bangalore. She writes on travel, art, culture, wellness, food, and design. You can read more of her work at Rashmi Notes.