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Down and Dirty: Your Guide to Clays, Muds, and Charcoal in Skin Care

July 31, 2018

Down and Dirty: Your Guide to Clays, Muds, and Charcoal in Skin Care

Playing outside has always been one of my favorite things to do. It's a subtle reminder that it’s okay to bring out my inner kid and get a little dirty.  You can imagine how excited (and a little confused) I was when I learned that the very things that make us dirty in nature like clay, muds, and even charcoal, can also add some benefits when used as part of a skincare regimen.

What's the Dirt on Clay, Mud, and Charcoal?

Interestingly, each of these "dirty cleansers" targets different skin conditions. As a basic rule of thumb, clays dry, muds hydrate, and charcoals cleanse. Keep reading for a breakdown of the benefits associated with each!

Play With Clay

Skin care products containing clay are most beneficial for those with oily and/or acne-prone skin. Clay is composed primarily of extremely small minerals that can easily bind to and absorb a lot of different molecules.  When used on your skin, clay effectively removes water, oils, impurities, and secretions, making it a phenomenal clarifying cleanser!

If you've tried everything and are looking for a product that's got a little more power, you might want to give French green clay a try. One study found this clay to have a unique ability to kill common skin infection-causing bacteria. As a bonus, one animal study provided evidence suggesting that clay may even be able to boost your skin's collagen production!

Stuck in the Mud


Opposite of clays, muds are thought to be more beneficial for those with dry and/or aging skin. Some of our favorite muds include Moor Mud and Dead Sea Mud.

Widely used in Balneotherapy, Moor Mud contains plant enzymes, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins that are great for those with sensitive skin.

Mud from the Dead Sea is rich in a unique blend of minerals likecalcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. Research suggests that it may be beneficial for those with common skin ailments like psoriasis and dermatitis.

The Dirtiest Cleanser

Though it may seem like the last thing you should be using to cleanse your face — it is solid black, after all — activated charcoal is currently one of the hottest trends in skin care. Activated charcoal is a great choice for combination skin (aka all skin types!). Often used as an antidote for drug overdose and poisonings, activated charcoal is extremely effective at binding drugs, contaminants, and bacterial toxins. It is thought to act similarly when used on the skin. Now can you see why it's getting so much love for it's potential to "detox" your skin?  

Ideas for Using Muds, Clays, and Charcoal Masks at Home

  • Mix 2 tbsp of kaolin clay with 5 drops of rose absolute and 1 tbsp of rosehip oil for a creamy rose facial mask.
  • Mix 1 cup of fine dead sea salts, 4 tbsp powdered Dead Sea mud, 1 tbsp of green tea powder, and 10 drops of peppermint essential oil.  Stir contents until blended evenly. Add ¼ cup of carrier oil of your choice, and stir until the scrub is evenly blended.
  • Mix 1 tsp activated charcoal, 1 tsp bentonite clay, 5 drops each of tea tree and frankincense essential oils, 2 drops of peppermint essential oil, 2 tsp of distilled water to a bowl, stir, and evenly distribute over face and neck.  


        No matter your skin type, Mother Nature has got you covered! In addition to all kinds of wonderful skin care benefits these "dirty cleansers" have to offer, they also remind you that you're never too old to get down and dirty!

        Kara Montgomery, neurotoxicology researcher, product development specialist

        Kara believes the small choices of what we expose ourselves to on a day-to-day basis have a profound impact on our overall health. As a published neurotoxicology researcher, Kara has studied the link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease, participating in studies that have garnered around $1 million in NIH funding. With this knowledge, Kara takes a critical eye to the products and habits all of us engage with on a regular basis. She holds a BS in Neuroscience from King University.

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