AN ALL-INCLUSIVE GUIDE TO FRENCH CLAY VARIETIES & THEIR BENEFITS
- Clays are naturally-occurring, earthy, mineral-rich elements derived from various sources including volcanic ash, rocks, soil, or sediment.
- Each clay has a unique combination of minerals, such as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, and Silica, that gives it an inimitable composition.
- Used cosmetically or topically in general, French Clays attach themselves to oil, bacteria, and impurities from the skin to eliminate them and leave skin feeling cleansed, clarified, and balanced.
- Used in hair, French Clays remove product build-up from the scalp and strands, while eliminating dead cells, flakiness, and excess oil, thereby stimulating the growth of healthier hair.
- Used medicinally, French Clays are known to boost circulation, reduce inflammation, facilitate the body’s reparation of tissues and cells, and promote the elimination of toxins believed to cause headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, food allergies, and lethargy.
HISTORY OF FRENCH CLAYS
Formed as a result of worn and weather-beaten volcanic ash, rocks, soil, or sediment, Clays are naturally-occurring, earthy, mineral-rich elements derived from these various sources. Due to their fine grains and fine particles, Clays are soft in texture and are pliable when moist. Depending on its source, chemical configuration, and therapeutic properties, each clay has a unique combination of minerals – such as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, and Silica – that gives it an inimitable composition. The valuable individual characteristics make each clay advantageous for particular uses. This also makes it a challenge to discover two clays that are exactly alike.
Clays are often differentiated by their ability to absorb, adsorb, or do both. A clay’s absorption refers to its ability to attract elements into itself. A clay’s adsorption refers to its ability to attract elements onto its surface. To illustrate, an absorptive clay applied to the skin will draw oils, impurities, and toxins out from the skin and into itself, whereas an adsorptive clay applied to the skin will draw impurities out from the skin and keep them suspended on its surface. Furthermore, a clay that has only adsorptive properties will not draw oils out from the skin.
Due to their sorptive properties, Clays absorb minerals and organic substances; however, they themselves are natural sources of minerals, which are integral to the survival of all life forms on the planet. Minerals are responsible for and are thus essential for body processes, such as the contraction of muscles, the integration of proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, and fats, and the production of hormones. Additionally, they are able to absorb large amounts of water, which allows the minuscule particles in clays to expand when they come into contact with it. Their ability to capture bacteria and eliminate them by preventing their access to oxygen and nourishment lends an anti-bacterial property to clays.
Animals are known to consume and clean themselves with clays, which have purifying and remedial properties that address their illnesses and soothe wounds and sores. Animals are also known to use clays instinctively to relieve discomforts associated with harsh environmental elements and having parasites. It is believed that, after observing these animal behaviors, Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis began to apply mixtures of ochres, muds, and water to wounds and irritations to soothe and cleanse the skin in order to facilitate healing.
According to historical accounts, the medicinal use of clays was recorded as early as 2500 B.C on Mesopotamian tablets that were also made with clay. In Ancient Egypt, clays were used in beauty treatments, medicinal treatments, and funeral rites to maintain the appearance and texture of the complexion, to address inflammation and infection, and to preserve and mummify the deceased, respectively. In an Ancient Egyptian medical text known as “The Ebers Papyrus,” use of the natural earthy substance referred to as Ochre is described as being beneficial for ailments ranging from those associated with the eyes to those associated with the intestines. Despite the availability of progressive technologies and remedies, it was a common practice for notable doctors of the ancient civilizations to use clays to address ailments such as eczema and psoriasis as well as genito-urinary, circulatory, and musculoskeletal disorders.
There are 3 clay types that are commonly used in cosmetics: Montmorillonite, Illite, and Kaolinite. All the varieties of French Clays fall into all 3 of these categories. These categories of Clays are known to largely contribute soothing, astringent, drying, and mattifying properties.
MONTMORILLONITE CLAYS ARE:
ILLITE CLAYS ARE:
KAOLINITE CLAYS ARE:
The ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome, and Egypt used French Clay – specifically green French Clay – to address disorders of the skin and digestive system. French Clay is so called, because its deposits were harvested almost exclusively from rock quarries located in southern France until similar clay deposits were eventually discovered in Montana, Wyoming, some regions of Europe, and China. There are several varieties of French Clay that vary in their properties and their colors, depending on the layer or type of earth from which they are derived. French Clays can be Green, Pink, Red, Yellow, and White. When mixed with water, the common physical properties shared among all these varieties include their elasticity and their softness.
Their adaptability to various uses, ranging from therapeutic and medicinal to cosmetic, has allowed Clays to remain relevant since the time of the ancient civilizations. The cleansing, hydrating, nourishing, and toning benefits of clays continue to be used in various areas of the body at various temperatures in poultices, baths, and masks, depending on the treatment required. This article will highlight the various topical and therapeutic benefits and uses of French Clays in particular.
*Note: The veracity of the general statements made in this article will vary depending on the specific type of Clay used in a given application method and on the individual’s skin type and health condition.
FRENCH CLAY BENEFITS
The main chemical constituents of French Clays are: Minerals (Kaolinite, Illite, Montmorillonite, and Calcite) and Oxide Minerals (Silicon Oxide, Aluminium Oxide, Iron Oxide, Calcium Oxide, Magnesium Oxide, Sodium Oxide, Potassium Oxide, and Titanium Oxide).
Used cosmetically or topically in general, French Clays attach themselves to oil, bacteria, and impurities from the skin to eliminate them and leave skin feeling cleansed, clarified, and balanced. By restoring essential minerals to the skin, Clays nourish and replenish the skin’s moisture, enhance its function, promote the regeneration of cells, minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, repair damage, revitalize skin that appears to be dull, dry, and tired, and reduce the chance of congestion that leads to breakouts.
The drying action of Clays leaves pores looking tighter, clearer, and refined. Clays are known to soothe irritation and inflammation associated with skin allergies, skin disorders, rashes, and sunburns; enhance skin elasticity; brighten the complexion; and leave skin looking and feeling softer, smoother and suppler. Clays are often used to absorb bodily moisture and to neutralize unpleasant body odors.
Adding Clays to moisturizers such as body butter and lotions may contribute mattifying and deodorizing properties to the resultant product as well as a consistency that feels silky to the touch. When added to make up recipes, Clays can make for ideal loose or compact mineral face powders. By mixing several colors of French Clays, it may be possible to achieve an end product that matches the preferred skin tone.
Used in hair, French Clays remove product build-up from the scalp and strands, while eliminating dead cells and flakiness associated with dandruff. They gently remove excess oil without stripping the natural and necessary oils. All of these activities are known to stimulate the growth of healthier hair.
Used medicinally, French Clays are known to reduce inflammation by boosting circulation, which facilitates the body’s reparation of tissues and cells. This makes them ideal for facilitating the healing of ulcers and sores. Their ability to attract and bind to contaminants promotes the elimination of toxins that are believed to cause headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, food allergies, and lethargy. Clays are also able to draw certain toxic metals, such as Mercury, out of the body by preventing them from being reabsorbed into the body, thereby preventing potential poisoning.
As illustrated, French Clays are reputed to have many therapeutic properties. The following highlights its many benefits and the kinds of activity it is believed to show:
- COSMETIC: Cleansing, Toning, Reparative, Calming, Soothing, Revitalizing, Rejuvenating Nourishing, Refining, Astringent
- MEDICINAL: Anti-Septic, Analgesic, Regenerative, Astringent, Sedative, Relaxant, Anti-Inflammatory, Reparative, Detoxifying, Circulatory, Strengthening
CULTIVATING AND HARVESTING QUALITY FRENCH CLAY
French Clays are largely extracted from quarries in France. Many of the regions from which they are mined are known to experience more than the average amount of sunny days per year. This high number is significant due to the fact that the clay is activated by the sun; accordingly, a greater amount of sun means the clay will be more active.
HOW IS FRENCH CLAY EXTRACTED?
Once the clays have been mined, they are spread out and dried under the sun. This drying method removes excess water while allowing the Clays to retain all of their natural trace elements. This ensures that they will retain their valuable effectiveness. Next, the Clays are subjected to large hydraulic crushers until they are finely ground. The final stage involves drying the Clays under the sun once more to remove any remaining of water.
USES OF FRENCH CLAY
The uses of French Clays are abundant, ranging from medicinal and odorous to cosmetic. Its many forms include facial masks, mineral cleansers, body powders, body scrubs, body wraps, soaps, lotions, creams, cream-based cleansers, makeup, and bath salts.
Used in cosmetic or topical applications, Clay can be applied directly to the preferred area of skin by simply mixing a small amount (1 tsp.) of the preferred Clay with an equal amount of water in a glass bowl until the combination achieves a thin, paste-like consistency. The clay may be mixed using a face brush, if so desired. On the face, spread this mask in a thin, even layer using the fingers or the face brush. Leave this mask on until it begins to dry, during which time it will become sticky to the touch. After approximately 10 minutes, the mask should be dry enough to be rinsed off with lukewarm water. This treatment can be followed by a natural moisturizer such as Coconut Oil or Argan Oil. Alternatively, the Clay may be mixed with floral water, Aloe Vera Gel Juice, or Green Tea to make the paste. Adding a few drops of a Carrier Oil to the paste will contribute moisture, if using a Clay known to have drying effects. Other additives that may be mixed into the paste include Essential Oils, CO2 Extracts, Grain Products, Dried Herbs, and Powdered Herbal Extracts. For a facial mask that addresses excessive oiliness on the face, combine 1 Tbsp. of Clay with 5 drops of Jojoba Carrier Oil before adding water into the mix.
For an invigorating mask that includes more beneficial ingredients, mix 30 g (1 oz.) French Yellow Clay, 3 Tbsp. water (Floral Water or Aloe Vera Gel Juice may be used instead), 1 tsp. of Jojoba Oil, 2 drops Orange Essential Oil, and 2 drops Tangerine Essential Oil until they form a paste. Apply the mask to the skin and leave it on for 10 minutes before rinsing it off with lukewarm water. For a face mask that is soothing, 30 g (1 oz.) of French Pink Clay can be combined with 3 Tbsp. water (Floral Water or Aloe Vera Gel Juice may be used instead), 1 tsp. Jojoba Carrier Oil, and 2 drops of Chamomile Essential Oil. This mask can be left on the skin and rinsed off as per the typical mask application and removal procedure.
For a mineral bath, add ½ cup of French Green Clay or French Red Clay to a bathtub filled with warm water. This will soothe muscle aches as well as irritation, inflammation, or soreness. For a foot soak that eliminates unpleasant foot odors, mix ½ cup of French Green Clay or French Yellow Clay with ½ cup of water and 2–3 drops of Tea Tree Essential Oil. Apply the blend to the feet and keep them loosely swathed in cling wrap for 15 minutes. After rinsing the feet with cool water, apply a moisturizer.
For a natural mask that is reputed to address blemishes, mix 1 tsp. of French Green Clay with Lemon juice to make a paste. Apply this as a mask to the face or affected area, and leave it on for 5 minutes. Rinse it off with lukewarm water, then apply a moisturizer.
For a body wrap that addresses the issue of cellulite, first boil 6 cups of water mixed with 1 cup of dried Dandelion, Chamomile, or Parsley. Set this herbal infusion aside for 10 minutes. In the meantime, combine 2 cups of French Red Clay with 1 ½ cup of Apple Cider Vinegar, Witch Hazel, or Aloe Vera Gel Juice. To this, add 10 drops of Lemon Essential Oil. Next, pour in the herbal infusion and combine the two mixtures until they make a paste. Apply the paste to affected areas and keep them wrapped in a warm towel for 1 hour, after which time the cellulite mask can be washed off in the shower.
For a Clay mask that addresses the symptoms of acne, combine 2 tsp. French Red Clay,3 tsp. Plain Yogurt (Chamomile Tea or Peppermint Tea may be used instead), 2 drops Lavender Essential Oil, and 1 drop of Tea Tree Essential Oil. Apply this mask in a thin, even layer on the affected areas and leave it on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing it off with lukewarm water.
For a Clay mask that also functions as an aromatherapy application, combine ¾ Tsp. French Green Clay and ½ tsp. Rose Hydrosol or Rose Water. For a thinner mask, the amount of liquid can be increased to ¾ tsp. These amounts are sufficient for a single application. Next, add 1 drop of an essential oil of personal preference. Some suggestions include Tea Tree Essential Oil or Geranium Essential oil to address acne, Rose Oil to address mature skin, German or Roman Chamomile Essential Oil to address inflammation, or irritation, and Lavender to promote rest and relaxation. This mask can be left on the skin and rinsed off as per the typical mask application and removal procedure.
Used in hair, French Green Clay is reputed to effectively eliminate dirt, product build-up, dandruff, and toxins, while balancing oil production to cleanse excessive oils without stripping the natural oils. Simply create a Clay hair lotion by combining 1 tsp. of French Green Clay, 230 ml (8 oz.) Milk, and 3 drops of an essential oil. Suggested essential oils include Basil, Rosemary, or Eucalyptus. Apply this lotion to the hair, starting at the scalp and smoothing it down the strands. Leave this hair mask in for 15-20 minutes. In the shower, rinse it out with lukewarm water and shampoo the hair as usual.
Used in medicinal applications, French Clays are known to address the symptoms of arthritis such as sore muscles and joints. For its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, they may be applied to cuts, insect bites or stings, minor burns, and bruises. Alternatively, they may also be used to reduce stress. To create a soothing poultice, in a glass bowl mix the desired amount of a Clay with equal parts water and 6 drops of one of the following essential oils: Ginger, Lavender, Roman Chamomile, or Rosemary. Allow this mixture to sit for 2 hours. Next, on the amount of gauze needed to wrap around the injured area of the skin/body, spread the paste in a layer that is ¼ inch thick, then apply the gauze to the affected area. It is now a “poultice” that can be held in place with the aid of adhesive tape and kept on the area for a maximum of 2 hours. The clay should remain wet. After a single use, the poultice should be discarded.
A GUIDE TO FRENCH CLAY VARIETIES & THEIR BENEFITS
FRENCH CLAY GREEN
INCI Name: Illite
Country of Origin: France
- Be called Sea Clay or Marine Clay, as its quarries are often located in ancient sea/marine beds
- Be composed of Aluminum, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Silica, Sodium, and Titanium
- Be light green in color
- Absorb and eliminate impurities and oils from the skin
- Exfoliate dull skin to reveal a new layer of skin with a refreshed and healthy glow
- Be ideal for addressing acne, congested skin, cuts, cellulite, sprains, excessive sweating and infections
- Minimize the appearance of pores and tighten the skin for a refined, toned, and firmed look
- Calm and soothe the body to promote a general sense of well-being
- Be suitable for use on all skin types
- Get its color from Iron Oxide and decomposed plant material, such as kelp and algae
- Attract blood to the skin’s surface, thereby enhancing circulation
- Be ideal for use on skin that is oily and acne-prone
- Be anti-inflammatory and thus beneficial for soothing and facilitating the healing of wounds, allergies, and sunburns
- Have the highest purity
- Be non-swelling
FRENCH CLAY PINK
INCI Name: Illite/Kaolin
Country of Origin: France
- Be the result of combining Red Illite and White Kaolin clays rather than being mined in a pink state (White Clay gently cleanses dirt, build-up, and excess oil while mildly exfoliating the skin and refining the complexion for a softer, clearer, smoother look)
- Be the mildest purifier of all the clays
- Be best suited to sensitive, mature, irritated, and normal skin types
- Be composed of Kaolinite, Illite, Montmorillonite, Iron, Calcite, Iron Oxide, and Silica
- Be rosy pink in color
- Remove excess oil and impurities from the skin
- Exhibiting lifting action on the skin, when used regularly
- Remove dead skin cells and promote a glowing complexion
- Leave skin with a refreshed appearance
- Be ideal for use on skin that is acne-prone, oily, or afflicted with other ailments
- Be commonly used in the manufacturing of cosmetics
- Be ideal for enhancing circulation and for calming sun-damaged skin
- Have exfoliating properties and refining properties that minimize puffiness and the appearance of pores
- Even the skin tone, moisturize and soften the skin, and smooth the appearance of wrinkles
- Enhance the skin’s elasticity and ability to regenerate cells for supple skin that appears more youthful
- Minimize blackheads and reduce the appearance of broken capillaries and dark undereye circles
- Enhance skin elasticity and regenerate connective tissues
FRENCH CLAY RED
INCI Name: Illite
Country of Origin: France
- Be found in the Atlantic basin and the North of France
- Be composed of Illite, Kaolinite, Montmorillonite, and Calcite
- Be derived from Hematite Iron rock
- Be red in color and velvety in texture
- Be best suited for normal, oily, flaky, and acne-prone skin types as well as for skin with broken capillaries (also known as spider veins)
- Be red in color due to the high concentration of Iron Oxide and Copper Oxide present in Hematite Iron
- Cleanse skin while removing dead cells and reducing the appearance of enlarged pores, leaving skin looking refreshed and smooth
- Be commonly used in the manufacturing of cosmetics
- Be extremely absorbent and purifying
- Be a non-swelling clay
- Make an ideal color additive in natural products such as facial powders, masks, and soaps
- Have toning and humidifying properties that hydrate the skin and smooth the look of wrinkles
- Revitalize and exfoliate skin that appears to be dull, aging, and congested, giving it a brighter appearance
- Enhance circulation, thus leaving skin looking radiant
- Regenerate, strengthen, and firm the skin and tissue
- Repair skin damage caused by the sun and reduce the appearance of bruises, stretch marks, burns, broken capillaries, and varicose veins
FRENCH CLAY YELLOW
INCI Name: Illite
Country of Origin: France
- Be composed of Iron Oxide, Magnesium, and Silica
- Be a mild yet powerful cleansing clay that is best suited to dry, sensitive, or combination skin
- Be yellow in color and velvety in texture
- Have a high amount of Iron Oxide, though less than that of Red Illite
- Exfoliate and remove dead cells from the skin’s surface to leave it feeling smooth
- Tighten and tone the skin and connective tissue
- Stimulate circulation to leave skin looking fresh and radiant
- Remineralize the skin
- Be ideal for addressing acne, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and ulcers
CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR FRENCH CLAY
As with all other New Directions Aromatics products, French Clays are for external use only. It is imperative to consult a medical practitioner before using French Clays for therapeutic purposes. Pregnant and nursing women and those taking prescription drugs are especially advised not to use French Clays without the medical advice of a physician. The clays should always be stored in areas that are inaccessible to children, especially those under the age of 7.
Clays should be kept dry in order to retain their efficacy; thus, it is important to prevent moisture from entering their containers. Clays must also never be stored in metal containers or stirred with metal spoons, as metal causes them to lose some of their main beneficial properties. Accordingly, the only materials that are recommended to be used in the preparation and storage of clays are wood, glass, and ceramic.
Prior to using French Clays, a skin test is recommended. This can be done by applying a small mixture of the clay and water to a small area of skin that is not sensitive. French Clays must never be used near the eyes, inner nose, and ears, or on any other particularly sensitive areas of skin. French Green Clay is known to have the following potential side effects: areas of dry, flaky skin or skin rashes. Those with anemia are advised against using French Clays, as they may affect the absorption of iron and cause the condition to worsen.
In the event of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the product and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action. To prevent side effects, consult with a medical professional prior to use. Those seeking medical care to manage moods, behaviors, or disorders should treat this group of natural clays as a complementary remedy rather than a replacement for any medicinal treatments or prescriptions.
When applying the clays as a face or body masks, they should not be allowed to dry completely, as they continue to draw moisture out of the skin the longer they are kept on. This may lead to the formation of wrinkles and fine lines. Clays should not be used more than once a week, due to their drying effect. For those with dry or sensitive skin, it is not recommended to use French Green Clay as an ingredient when producing natural cosmetics and soaps, as it may further irritate the skin.
While many individuals may notice immediate results after their use of the clays, it may take longer for others to see any improvements in health and appearance, thus patience and consistent application are required in tandem with a healthy skin care regimen.
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