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Clay Masks for Acne and Oily Skin

May 25, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Throughout history, adolescents and adults with acne and oily skin have utilized clay masks as a means of improving appearance. This technique may not be technologically advanced, but you’ll still find it featured in the most cutting-edge skin care lines and offered at clinics and spas in the ritziest neighborhoods. Still, historical practices and modern popularity don’t always guarantee a strong rationale for using a given therapy. Fortunately, in recent years, scientists have begun to examine whether therapeutic clay truly deserves a place in 21st century dermatology.

A just published study in Forschende Komplementarmedizin, a prestigious German medical journal, reports that applying a clay facial mask 2-3 times per week over a 6 week period reduced the number of acne skin lesions by 54% in a group of 194 adults. An interesting side note is that the researchers involved chose to add jojoba oil to the clay in this experiment. Jojoba oil is another traditional ingredient that is often touted as a hydrating and soothing agent for dry and irritated skin.

If the topical application of clay does in fact improve the condition of skin, the question that begs answering is why. Over the past few years, a handful of potentially relevant mechanisms have been established in the scientific literature. For starters, clay minerals possess antibacterial properties which may help manage skin infections. Also of significance is an animal study from March 2012 which determined that clay stimulates collagen production and could, therefore, be useful in improving thinning and wrinkling skin. In addition, the related practice of applying “mud packs” has been shown to increase skin microcirculation and balance pH and sebum production. Healthy blood flow is essential to the well being of all organs of which skin is the largest. An imbalance in pH and an overproduction of sebum results in inflamed and oily skin frequently associated with acne.

So, at long last science appears to be catching up and embracing one of the oldest of all cosmetic procedures. And, perhaps best of all is the fact that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to benefit from this holistic practice. Health food stores and online vendors are replete with affordable, all-natural clay powders and pure jojoba oil products. What’s more, you can very easily apply them yourself. In many instances, all it takes is mixing the clay with purified water and spreading a thin layer over the affected areas of skin. Adding oil, such as jojoba, is sometimes recommended for combination or dry skin. After the mask dries in about 15 to 20 minutes, you simply wash it off and moisturize, if desired.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Clay Jojoba Oil Facial Mask for Lesioned Skin and Mild Acne (link)

Study 2 – Bentonite, Bandaids, and Borborygmi (link)

Study 3 – Evaluation of the Medicinal Use of Clay Minerals as Antibacterial … (link)

Study 4 – Broad-Spectrum In Vitro Antibacterial Activities of Clay Minerals … (link)

Study 5 – Effect of Topical Clay Application on the Synthesis of Collagen (link)

Study 6 – Effects of Mud Pack Treatment on Skin Microcirculation (link)

Study 7 – Effect of Thermal Mud Baths on Normal, Dry and Seborrheic Skin … (link)

Examining the Antibacterial Effectiveness of Clay

Source: Int Geol Rev. 2010 Jul 1;52(7/8):745-770. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Detoxification, Women's Health

10 Comments & Updates to “Clay Masks for Acne and Oily Skin”

  1. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    I was sent to a dermatologist for my acne when I was about fifteen. The nurse applied dry-ice to my face causing a ‘burn’ that resulted in my skin peeling off. I underwent a series of 2 or 3 of these burns. The doc told me to avoid sweets, fried food, and chocolate. He had me take megadoses of vitamin A. It worked…my skin cleared up.

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Iggy. I had a similar experience in my adolescence. I never had seriously acne, but they applied dry-ice to my face nonetheless. In my case, I don’t recall them mentioning anything about dietary changes. Perhaps I received inferior care. It sure sounds like it! 🙂

    Be well!


  3. Dorothy B. Says:

    I have ance and my so oily, I’m interested buying clay masks for ance and oily skin can you email information I need.

    Thank you

  4. Dorothy Barnes Says:

    I have ance and my skin so oily I’m interested buying clay masks for ance and oily skin.How can I get with you,Please send information to my email.

    Thank you

  5. JP Says:

    Hi Dorothy,

    I described the simple process at the end of the column:

    “… all it takes is mixing the clay with purified water and spreading a thin layer over the affected areas of skin. Adding oil, such as jojoba, is sometimes recommended for combination or dry skin. After the mask dries in about 15 to 20 minutes, you simply wash it off and moisturize, if desired.”

    There are many natural, powdered clay products available. One that I’ve experimented with is: Indian Healing Clay made by Aztec Secret Health & Beauty.

    Be well and happy holidays!


  6. JP Says:

    Evidence supporting the use of essential fatty acids:


    Acta Derm Venereol. 2014 Feb 18. doi: 10.2340/00015555-1802.

    Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acid and gamma-linolenic Acid on Acne Vulgaris: A Randomised, Double-blind, Controlled Trial.

    Jung JY1, Kwon HH, Hong JS, Yoon JY, Park MS, Jang MY, Suh DH.

    This study was undertaken to evaluate the clinical efficacy, safety, and histological changes induced by dietary omega-3 fatty acid and γ-linoleic acid in acne vulgaris. A 10-week, randomised, controlled parallel dietary intervention study was performed in 45 participants with mild to moderate acne, which were allocated to either an omega-3 fatty acid group (2,000 mg of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid), a γ-linoleic acid group (borage oil containing 400 mg γ-linoleic acid), or a control group. After 10 weeks of omega-3 fatty acid or γ-linoleic acid supplementation, inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions decreased significantly. Patient subjective assessment of improvement showed a similar result. Heamatoxylin and eosin staining of acne lesions demonstrated reductions in inflammation and immunohistochemical staining intensity for interleukin-8. No severe adverse effect was reported. This study shows for the first time that omega-3 fatty acid and γ-linoleic acid could be used as adjuvant treatments for acne patients.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update: Clay also improves diaper rash …


    Nurs Midwifery Stud. 2014 Jun;3(2):e14180. Epub 2014 Jun 15.

    Shampoo-clay heals diaper rash faster than calendula officinalis.

    BACKGROUND: Diaper rash is one of the most common skin disorders of infancy and childhood. Some studies have shown that Shampoo-clay was effective to treat chronic dermatitis. Then, it is supposed that it may be effective in diaper rash; however, no published studies were found in this regard.

    OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to compare the effects of Shampoo-clay (S.C) and Calendula officinalis (C.O) to improve infantile diaper rash.

    PATIENTS AND METHODS: A randomized, double blind, parallel controlled, non-inferiority trial was conducted on 60 outpatient infants referred to health care centers or pediatric clinics in Khomein city and diagnosed with diaper rash. Patients were randomly assigned into two treatment groups including S.C group (n = 30) and C.O group (n = 30) by using one to one allocation ratio. The rate of complete recovery in three days was the primary outcome. Data was collected using a checklist and analyzed using t-test, Chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests and risk ratio.

    RESULTS: Totally, 93.3% of lesions in the S.C group healed in the first 6 hours, while this rate was 40% in C.O group (P < 0.001). The healing ratio for improvement in the first 6 hours was 7 times more in the S.C group. In addition, 90% of infants in the SC group and 36.7% in the C.O group were improved completely in the first 3 days (P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: S.C was effective to heal diaper rash, and also had faster effects compared to C.O. Be well! JP

  8. JP Says:

    Updated 1/4/16:


    Int J Dermatol. 2015 Dec 29.

    Dark chocolate exacerbates acne.

    The effects of chocolate on acne exacerbations have recently been reevaluated. For so many years, it was thought that it had no role in worsening acne. To investigate whether 99% dark chocolate, when consumed in regular daily amounts, would cause acne to worsen in acne-prone male subjects, twenty-five acne prone male subjects were asked to consume 25 g of 99% dark chocolate daily for 4 weeks. Assessments which included Leeds revised acne scores as well as lesion counts took place weekly. Food frequency questionnaire was used, and daily activities were recorded. Statistically significant changes of acne scores and numbers of comedones and inflammatory papules were detected as early as 2 weeks into the study. At 4 weeks, the changes remained statistically significant compared to baseline. Dark chocolate when consumed in normal amounts for 4 weeks can exacerbate acne in male subjects with acne-prone skin.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 05/06/16:


    Complement Ther Med. 2016 Apr;25:159-63.

    Does supplementation with green tea extract improve acne in post-adolescent women? A randomized, double-blind, and placebo-controlled clinical trial.

    BACKGROUND: Green tea is believed to have beneficial effects in the prevention and treatment of acne.

    OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of a decaffeinated green tea extract (GTE), providing a daily dose of 856mg of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) upon women with post-adolescent acne.

    METHODS: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted from May 2012 through October 2013. A final group of 80 subjects were randomly assigned to receive either 1500mg of decaffeinated GTE or placebo (cellulose) daily for 4 weeks. Inflammatory lesion counts were used as the major outcome measurement. At baseline and after 4 weeks of treatment, anthropometric measurements, fasting glucose levels and a lipid profile were measured from both groups.

    RESULTS: Sixty-four of 80 women, from 25 to 45 years of age with moderate-to-severe acne completed the study. Statistically significant differences were noted in inflammatory lesion counts distributed on the nose, periorally and on the chin between the two groups. However, there were no significant differences between groups for total lesion counts. Within-group comparison revealed that the GTE group had significant reductions in inflammatory lesions distributed on the forehead and cheek, and significant reductions in total lesion counts. GTE resulted in significant reductions in total cholesterol levels within the GTE group.

    CONCLUSIONS: GTE resulted in significant reductions in lesions located on the nose, perioral area and chin. More research is required to determine whether a decaffeinated GTE standardized for EGCG content will provide clinical benefits in women with post-adolescent acne.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Updated 09/14/16:


    Benef Microbes. 2016 Sep 6:1-6.

    Supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 normalises skin expression of genes implicated in insulin signalling and improves adult acne.

    Systemic supplementation with probiotics is increasingly being explored as a potential treatment strategy for skin disorders. Because both the gut-skin axis and dysregulation of insulin signalling have been implicated in the pathogenesis of adult acne, we designed the current study to evaluate the effect of supplementation with the probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 (LSP1) on skin expression of genes involved in insulin signalling and acne improvement in adult subjects. A pilot, randomised, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study was conducted with 20 adult subjects (14 females and 6 males; mean age: 33.7±3.3 years) with acne. Over a 12-week period, the probiotic group (n=10) consumed a liquid supplement containing LSP1 at a dose of 3×109 cfu/day (75 mg/day), whereas the placebo group (n=10) received a liquid lacking probiotics. Paired skin biopsies – one obtained before treatment initiation and one obtained at the end of the 12-week treatment period – were analysed for insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) and forkhead box protein O1 (FOXO1) gene expression. The clinical criterion for efficacy was the investigator’s global improvement rating on a five-point scale. Compared with baseline, the probiotic group showed a 32% (P<0.001) reduction, as well as a 65% increase (P<0.001) in IGF1 and FOXO1 gene expression in the skin, respectively. No such differences were observed in the placebo group. Patients in the probiotic group had an adjusted odds ratio of 28.4 (95% confidence interval = 2.2-411.1, P<0.05) to be rated by physicians as improved/markedly improved (versus worsened or unchanged) compared with the placebo group. We conclude that supplementation with the probiotic strain LSP1 normalises skin expression of genes involved in insulin signalling and improves the appearance of adult acne.

    Be well!


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