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Unmasking the Benefits of Facial Masks: Pt 1

The use of facial masks dates back to ancient Egypt and China when several notable historical women used clays and creams to help purify their skin and preserve a youthful appearance. Masks have since become an integral part of any good skin care regimen – used across generations to clean up excess oil or acne conditions, maintain skin health, tone, tighten and brighten or simply provide some pampering time.

While most of your clients may be using masks, or at the very least familiar with them, many may not know the differentiation between the types available – clay, cream or powder-based masks – when and how to best use them, what each does for the skin, and how to enhance the results.

Masks are a dynamic component of the facial and are typically applied at the end of a treatment to hydrate, calm and soothe by working from the skin’s surface. When they are blended with corrective actives, however, results can be more targeted and the absorbability increases. A glance at the history of masks, the varieties available and how each works can help you educate clients and boost results in the treatment room.

Masks Throughout History

Masks have a very long history that weaves through ancient China and Egypt when herbs, fruits, flower extracts and certain clays were discovered for their powerful skin healing and pro-youth benefits. In fact, it’s been said Cleopatra, in addition to her milk and honey baths, used clay masks to draw impurities out of her skin.

Another notable was Yang Gui Fei, a royal in the Tang Dynasty, who was regarded as one of the “four great beauties” in ancient China. She was known for her masks of pearl, white jade and ginseng, which was ground into a fine powder and mixed with lotus root starch. This combination would lighten, brighten and tighten the skin. Today this similar practice may be used in masks utilizing various flower extracts to enhance the brightening, rejuvenation and toning of the skin. The value of hibiscus flower, lotus flower and other flower extracts hold valuable ancient traditions.

Given the results they realized from these masks, it isn’t any wonder their use has continued throughout history.

The Results are in the Base

Just as Cleopatra and Yang Gui Fei discovered, a variety of ingredients may be used to create different masks and thus results. While there can be nearly endless varieties of ingredient combinations, masks will typically fall under one of three base categories: clay, cream, or powder.

Clay masks – two superb clays are bentonite and kaolin. These are best known for their ability to draw out heavy metals and toxins, as well as clean up excess sebum and oil.

  • Bentonite clay is derived from volcanic ash deposits in marine environments. It is highly absorptive, and works to bind and draw out heavy metals and other toxins from the body. The mineral-rich clay also absorbs excess oil, reduces surface shine, and provides soothing and healing benefits.
  • Kaolin, also known as China clay, is a natural silicate clay mineral found in soils that have formed from the chemical weathering of rocks in hot, moist climates like tropical rainforest areas. It absorbs sebum, removes impurities from the skin, and helps prevent pore clogging.

We typically use the two in tandem in our Perfection Clay, Cacti Mud Mask, Rosemary Basil Maskand Grape Seed Parfait Mask.

Clay-based masks are extremely effective in treating acne as well, but also support dehydrated and aging skin, due to the strengthening and firming benefits. This time of year, clients may be experiencing dry, irritated skin as a result of the cool weather. Certain clay-based masks, such as the Grape Seed Parfait or Rosemary Basil, will help soothe and support the skin, and when using a clay mask for acne and purification benefit, such as Perfection Clay during winter months, a blend of two masks together will support hydration and impurities.

In the next post we’ll cover cream- and powder-based masks and how to enhance the results by blending them with actives.

Question: What is your favorite clay-based mask?