The Good Earth

Here’s the down and dirty on using mud or clay to beautify skin.

It’s the minerals in mud that matter to the well-being of skin.

Humans have turned to dirt as a beauty treatment for thousands of years. Who knows why some ancient soul decided to slap on a handful of wet soil for the first time, but the results—smoother, brighter skin—must have caused a stampede to the local mudhole.

Trial and error revealed that some locales yielded better results, so regions with mineral-rich soil became known for the quality of their earth. History holds that legendary beauty Cleopatra was so enamored of the skin-revitalizing effects of mud from the Middle East’s Dead Sea that she convinced Mark Antony to give her title to the region.

So, what do mud and clay treatments actually do for the skin? They’re said to draw out toxins and oils, to soothe and calm complexions, and to help heal such conditions as acne, eczema and psoriasis. Actually, it’s not the mud itself, but the minerals within that provide those benefits. Therapeutic earth from mineral-rich areas contains varying amounts of such elements as magnesium, calcium and potassium, all of which can improve the look of skin. Magnesium can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and it enhances hydration of the skin. Potassium and calcium are also hydrators and can encourage new cell growth.

Skin-enhancing mud and clay come from such far-flung regions as Israel and Jordan, home to the Dead Sea, as well as Morocco, China, France, Hungary, Australia and other locales. Clays derived from volcanic ash are especially prized for their purity and mineral content. They’re typically used as a facial mask that’s applied, allowed to dry and then rinsed off, but mud and clay can also be used in foot masks, body washes and hair cleansers.

There are plenty of newfangled skin remedies out there, but after thousands of years, mud and clay treatments have proved their value in naturally effective beautifying regimens. Instead of chasing after the latest promise of glowing skin in a jar, why not try something that’s stood the test of time? After all, it was good enough for Cleopatra.

360 Skin Care Detoxifying Foot Masque comes with a paintbrush to smooth on the mixture of kaolin clay (known to increase circulation and remove toxins), avocado oil, milk proteins and lactic acids. $18 at




Pure Earth Hair Wash uses clay from Morocco to clean hair without any chemical detergents and is available in natural lavender, mint, lemon and spice aromas, as well as fragrance-free. $10.75 at









BIOselect by Eurythmics Soothing Face Mask contains absorbent white clay, plant extracts to remove impurities and licorice extract to soothe and calm skin. $33.50 at






Two types of clay, kaolin and bentonite, are used to unclog pores and absorb oil and impurities in Revision Skincare’s Black Mask. $32; go to for local sources.







Auromére Herbomineral Rejuvenating Mud Bath & Mask combines four types of clay and 12 herbs for purifying, renewing and nourishing skin. Use it in a bath or shower instead of soap, or as a facial mask. $6.50 and $18.95 at





Mineral-rich mud, Himalayan sole (natural salt crystals) and organic hydrating elements are blended together in the Ila Revitalizing Mask. $90 at

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