I don’t use masks often. To me, they just provide a nice pick-me-up for skin before a special occasion, but aren’t a necessary part of my skincare routine. But when I do use one, it usually contains a type of clay, more often than not bentonite. So, it got me thinking, what’s so special about it?
What’s bentonite clay?
Named by Wilbur C. Knight in 1898, after the Cretaceous Benton Shale near Rock River in Wyoming, Bentonite is an absorbent impure clay consisting mostly of montmorillonite. There are different types of bentonite, each of which owes its name to its dominant element, such as potassium, sodium, and calcium. Bentonite usually forms from weathering of volcanic ash, most often in the presence of water, but the term has been used to describe clay beds of uncertain origin as well.
Bentonite has excellent absorbent properties
Bentonite is often used in masks designed to reduce excess oil, shine and impurities due to its excellent absorbent properties. They have been demonstrated in a 1982 study, in which scientists used bentonite to soak up sebum in twelve subjects with inflammatory acne and in twelve control subjects, so they could measure how much of it their skin produced (those with acne produce about 3 times more sebum than normal).
Bentonite is also said to be able to draw toxins and impurities out of the skin. I admit I was sceptical, believing it to be one of those exaggerations skincare companies so much love to make. But, as it turns out, the army has been testing absorbing agents including bentonite for the “decontamination of supertoxic lethal chemical warfare agents on skin” with promising results. Still, when it comes to detoxification, it’s your liver and kidneys that do most of the job, so don’t rely on bentonite too much.
Does bentonite clay have any side effects?
Its absorbent properties make bentonite clay an ideal choice for people with oily skin who want to reduce excess sebum and shine. But they also make it unsuitable for those with dry skin. Dry skin lacks oil and, by absorbing that little their skin produces, bentonite clay makes things worse.
What are the best products with bentonite?
My favourite masks with bentonite are Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask ($19.00) and Nu Skin Clay Pack ($13.40). They are both packaged in air-tight, opaque tubes and also contain hydrating ingredients to counteract the potentially drying effects of bentonite, and antioxidants.
It’s true that antioxidants work best when left on the skin for hours instead than being rinsed off after 20/30 minutes, but they are still a nice addition, provided they don’t make the prices skyrocket.
The Bottom Line
Bentonite has excellent absorbent properties that make it an ideal treatment for those with oily, clogged skin. Those with dry skin, though, may find it a bit drying.
Do you use masks with bentonite clay?