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Social media is awash with literally millions of #mudmask pictures right now. But mineral-rich mud has played a role in beauty rituals for millennia. Centuries before influencers began slathering themselves with the stuff, Cleopatra and her ilk bathed in magnesium-rich mud from the Dead Sea. Nowadays, mud, clay, trace minerals, silica and volcanic ash are must-have ingredients in a down-to-earth beauty trend that goes beyond skin deep.
Cultivating a connection to terra firma is emerging as an antidote to our digital lives. Nature Deficit Disorder has become a real thing, and doctors are prescribing outdoor activities to stressed-out patients. At the same time, off-the-grid retreats are on the rise, while mud-races have become cult workouts. “Earthing” enthusiasts believe that walking barefoot on the ground helps discharge excess positive electrons (aka free radicals).
Wellness devotees are starting their day by drinking a thoroughly cleansing glass of bentonite clay—the taste is a little chalky, admittedly—or silica-rich fossil shell flour mixed with water Meanwhile, luxury spas are covering patrons from head to toe in mineral-rich mud and clay products like never before.
In the virtual world, MUD stands for Multi-User Dimension, meaning multiple players can play at the same time in various ways. And, in the beauty world, mud is equally versatile. It can detoxify, tone, and calm skin, while the minerals help to absorb excess oil and nourish skin. Mud is also an excellent delivery system for active ingredients, which explains why our favourite products are enriched with a cocktail of other elements.
Omorovicza founder Stephen de Heinrich says that while people often conflate mud and clay, they have different benefits. “Mud is mud, and clay is clay,” de Heinrich told us. “In our masks we have clay and mud. The mud has purifying and detoxifying qualities from the combination of the acids in it and the calcium and magnesium. In the masks, the clay is there to draw out impurities in the skin, and the mud purifies and cleanses the skin.”
Here’s the dirt on treating your skin to some earthy goodness …
Supremely cleansing, Omorovicza’s Thermal Cleansing Balm can break down even waterproof makeup. Hungarian Moor mud, famed for its ability to cleanse, soothe and protect skin, is the star ingredient. “It’s extremely high in magnesium and other trace elements that help energise and revive skin cells,” says Mecca Skin Specialist Lucy Simpson. “Plus, it contains sweet almond oil which is super moisturising,” she adds. For those who like to lather up with a traditional soap bar, Drunk Elephant Juju Bar is a multit asker that uses heilmoor clay to tone pores and detoxify impurities. (Heilmoor is another name for Moor mud from Austria.)
The best clay-based cleansers detoxify the complexion but leave it feeling nourished, not stripped. Ren Clean Skincare Clearcalm Clay Cleanser uses antibacterial kaolin clay to combat the three key causes of breakouts and blemishes: excess sebum, build-up of dead skin cells, and blemish-causing bacteria. Meanwhile, Bare Minerals Clay Chameleon Transforming Purifying Cleanser has a clay-to-cream formula powered by Brazilian red clay. This type of clay removes impurities but is less drying than some of its counterparts.
Mud scrubs are ideal for buffing away dead skin cells and clarifying your complexion, leaving it smooth, supple and luminous. Frank Body Creamy Face Scrub combines white kaolin clay with coffee, rosehip, coconut, almond and grapeseed oils to refine, purify and moisturise skin. Kaolin clay is also the pivotal ingredient in African Botanics Buchu Botanical Enzyme Polish, combined with fine granules of volcanic minerals to gently exfoliate skin and boost radiance.
Eve Lom Rescue Mask is “such a great mud mask without any side effects, like drying,” Simpson says. “It has kaolin clay, which helps to detoxify the skin and deeply cleanse, honey and chamomile to hydrate and soothe any irritation, and almond meal to gently loosen any stubborn dead skin cells.” Simpson also admires Patchology’s Detox SmartMud No Mess Mud Masque, a mud-powered sheet mask for when you can’t afford to get messy. “It’s such a brilliant way to use a mud mask, in the convenience of a sheet,” she says. Kaolin clay detoxes, charcoal removes pollution particles, while glycerine and collagen hydrate.
This Works Evening Detox Clay Mask contains malachite clay and is designed for city girls who need to shield their skin from environmental pollution. Apply in the evenings using the anti-bacterial charcoal brush applicator to wipe away dead cells and reveal brighter skin. Korres Natural Clay Deep Cleansing Mask refines the complexion with white clay and features a dash of cinnamon and sage for their astringent benefits. And African Botanics Mineral Cleansing Mask uses an African-derived white clay to absorb toxins and gently clear pores, while age-defying actives rejuvenate the complexion.
When unwanted eruptions do strike, harness the power of volcanic ash by applying Skyn Iceland Blemish Dots. These innovative single use, spot-clearing patches also contain pore-purifying salicylic acid and anti-bacterial tea tree oil to rapidly shrink blemishes and prevent the spread of bacteria. For an Instagrammable #mudmask session, nothing beats GlamGlow’s #GlitterMask GravityMud Firming Treatment, a sparkly, holographic version of the o riginal bestseller. You’ll want to shoot lots of selfies.
Words by Jody ScottMarch 2019
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