Cleopatra swore by it (using it twice weekly), and Aristotle even recommended eating it! Ancients from around the world recognised the healing (and beautifying) powers of clay mud — for the eons-old natural wonder it is, and remains, today.

Made from volcanic ash, and created deep within the earth as ancient-rich deposits of minerals, clay is renowned as one of the purest natural skin beautifiers in the world. It has been celebrated for centuries, across cultures and civilisations, for its anti-inflammatory, purifying, and nourishing properties — and relied upon to detoxify, beautify and refresh when applied as a facial mask, since the time of Cleopatra.

From “band-aids” made from wet clay placed over a wound to mud baths frequented socially in ancient Rome and Greece, the topical use of clay for soothing and healing skin, and even for internal medicinal uses (Aristotle recommended the benefits of eating clay as far back as 384–322 BC), leaves its muddy streak throughout ancient history. Beyond the multitude of formulas incorporating clay to heal the skin and body that can be found in The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical texts ever discovered, it’s most likely that the use of clay as medicine traces back even further… and one only has to look at Nature to see animals using mud intuitively to protect themselves from sun exposure, to ward off insects and, essentially, to protect their skin.

It’s little wonder then that, in addition to Ayurvedic Haldi masks in India and Yang Guifei’s go-to face mask in China (a mix of pearls, jadeite, lotus root and ginger ground deftly into powder), clay mud masks are among one of the first reported — and made famous by the Egyptians. Along with egg whites to tighten pores and to give skin a youthful look (and her extreme affinity to roses), Cleopatra applied a dead sea mud face mask twice a week to deep-cleanse and detoxify her skin.

Classic texts from ancient Greek and Roman times mention its use as a natural remedy for skin problems as diverse as acne, eczema and psoriasis or simply for attaining a glowing, beautiful skin.

Beyond the Nile, clay (including masking) has been used by cultures spanning the Australian aboriginals, South and North American Indians, and Central African tribesmen, as an external and internal cleanser, known colloquially by names such as “the mud that heals”. In more modern times, before the French Revolution, mud masking featured in the famous health spas of Europe frequented by the rich and noble, and, in the 1920s, clay masks became very fashionable when they became the first commercially-manufactured cosmetic face mask to gain widespread use. Today, backed with clinically-tested scientific proof, this ancient skin remedy remains a beauty staple, and go-to (including DIY) detoxifier.

So what is “clay”, which one is best for skin, and what does it do?

Clays are defined as soft mineral substances from weathered volcanic ash. Broken down over time, clay is formed as a result of volcanic activity subjected to environmental (physical and chemical) influences. Sourced from different places on Earth, clays differ in structure and composition and, just as there are no two identical fingerprints, it is impossible to find two identical clays. Each comes with its own unique mineral compositions — making some better for beauty than others.

(Green) Bentonite Clay is undoubtably the best clay for beauty, and can be found as a usual suspect in the ingredient labels of clay mud masks and other detoxifying beauty products, including hair care. A super-absorbent, mineral-rich powdery clay, it is found in rocks that were deposited in the Ordovician to Neogene periods (about 488.3 to 2.6 million years ago) and takes its name from Fort Benton, Wyoming, which is the largest natural source of the clay (although it can be found all over the world).

What makes Green Bentonite Clay so unique — and brilliant for skin care — is its strong negative electromagnetic charge which, when activated by water, acts like a magnet in and on our bodies, drawing metals and toxins to it, and thereby helping to effectively pull (and remove) impurities.

While its ability to draw out toxicity from within the body and from the surface of the skin may be its most predominant function, Green Bentonite Clay is also rich in beautifying minerals including calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium, copper, iron and potassium. Its detoxifying abilities, nutritive qualities, and microbial balancing properties give it many reasons to use for the skin…

Green Bentonite Clay in Orveda

Launched this month, Orveda’s Deep-Clearing Mud Masque is a 21st century reinvention of the ancient skin remedy of clay mud masking — and takes it two steps further by effectively detoxing skin, without hydrating it (as a moisturiser would) it, in just 5 minutes. In a creamy yet mattifying texture, our mask boasts 9 actives concentrated at 28% to deliver total rejuvenation on skin tone and glow. As its hero ingredient, Green Bentonite Clay binds itself to bad bacteria and toxins living on skin’s surface to extract them, doing so without disturbing the healthy bacteria that our skin needs to remain protected. Ensuring skin is left hydrated and nourished is a potent mix of botanical glycerin, botanical oils and bamboo water; while papaya enzyme brightens and lightly exfoliates; as well as moringa seed extract, and black charcoal. Added to this is Orveda’s signature mix of bio-fermented kombucha black tea, an antioxidant marine enzyme and natural prebiotic that all work with skin, not against it.

For intensified detoxing results, incorporate our Clay-Mud Cleansing Powder into your evening routine twice a week (oilier skins can use up to four times a week) as your second cleanse after removing makeup. Also containing Green Bentonite Clay, this powder-to-foam cleanser is used in conjunction with our konjac sponge, in what we call our tool-augmented double cleanse™, which provides a deep detox and mild exfoliation in a gentle way, instead of scrubbing at skin.

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