I love my clays, and it’s about time I got to know them a bit better. My oil and wax experiments have been invaluable to me and many readers, so I thought I’d take that approach and to my clay collection. Today we’re starting with the French Clays I own: green and red.

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Here are the questions I intend to answer about these clays:

  • What is the clay like? Does it seem heavy or fluffy, is it smooth or coarse? Does it have any distinctive scent? Is it uniform?
  • What is the colour like? How does it change when wet?
  • How dense is it? How much does 1 tbsp of the clay weigh?
  • How does it absorb water? How much water is required to turn 2 tsp of clay into a smooth paste that’s roughly the texture of cake frosting?
  • How does it hydrate? What is the consistency like when it’s been mixed with water?
  • How does it dry? How quickly, does it crack or peel?
  • How gentle or harsh is it on the skin? How does the skin feel after a mask made with the clay? (This question will obviously be somewhat objectively answered, but I’ll try my best to be consistent.)
  • Is there anything else worth noting?

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This was my methodology:

  1. Weigh out one level tablespoon of each clay into a glass dish and note the weight in grams.
  2. Handle the clay and make notes on texture and colour.
  3. Weigh out 10g (2 tsp/10mL) of water into a glass dish and whisk in a little clay at a time until a thick, frosting-like texture was achieved. Note volume and weight of clay added.
  4. Apply a face mask of each clay and time how long it takes for the mask to feel tight. Note how it dries.
  5. Rinse off the mask and note how the skin feels afterwards.

Alright! Let’s begin.

What is the clay like? Does it seem heavy or fluffy, is it smooth or coarse? Does it have any distinctive scent? Is it uniform?
Both clays are light, fluffy, and smooth. If the container is shaken and then opened a big pouf of airborne clay will emerge (don’t do this—you don’t want to inhale fine powders). They are uniform in texture, and fine enough that they do not feel rough or exfoliating on the skin when dry. The texture is similar to all purpose flour. A slightly dusty scent.

Smooth, fluffy clay.

Smooth, fluffy clay.

What is the colour like? How does it change when wet?
The green is a light, minty green, and the red is a deeper, russet red. Both darken when wet.

Both clays darkened when wet.

Both clays darkened when wet.

How dense is it? How much does 1 tbsp of the clay weigh?
1 tbsp of green clay weighs 7.6g, 1 tbsp of red clay weighs 8.3g.

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How does it absorb water? How much clay is required to turn 10g of water into a smooth paste that’s roughly the texture of cake frosting?
Both clays require more clay than water (by volume) to hydrate. Equal amounts of clay and water (by volume) gives a solution that’s basically just coloured water.

I used 5 tsp (or 20.2g) of green clay for 10g water, and 6 tsp (or 15.6g) red clay for 10g water.

How does it hydrate? What is the consistency like when it’s been mixed with water?
Both clays hydrate easily and smoothly, with minimal clumping (when the clay is added to water ~1 tsp at a time). With proper water to clay ratios you get a lovely frosting-like texture that’s creamy and lovely on the skin. It spreads onto the skin evenly—very much what you imagine when you think of a clay face mask in a stock photo.

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How does it dry? How quickly, does it crack or peel?
The green clay mixture dries to feel quite tight around 12 minutes, and by 16 minutes I’d hit the “ok, I need this off my face NOW” point. If left on for longer it begins to crack and flake off in powdery bits.

The red clay mixture began to feel noticeable around the 7 minute mark, and tight and itchy around the 17 minute mark.

Keep in mind that this is just clay + water; adding oil and other ingredients will change this.

How gentle or harsh is it on the skin? How does the skin feel after a mask made with the clay? (This question will obviously be somewhat objectively answered, but I’ll try my best to be consistent.)
French green clay is pretty average on the drying scale. It definitely leaves the skin feeling dry if you don’t hydrate afterwards, but not drive-you-crazy dry. My face feels gently exfoliated and a bit warm from increased circulation after removing the mask.

I found the French red to be a touch less drying than the green. Definitely drying, but I didn’t get to the point where I felt like I absolutely had to moisturize. The red left my skin soft and wonderfully smooth.

Is there anything else worth noting?
Don’t do a French red clay face mask while wearing white or cream. Fate does not need to be tempted that much. Also, don’t do a red clay face mask directly before going somewhere, as it’s a hard to get off and makes a great big mess (of your towels and your sink). You might want to plan to wash a red mask off in the shower. Don’t use good towels to wash it off your face. And be super thorough—after my first attempt I looked like an oompa loompa with a pigmentation disorder 🙁 It took a lot of scrubbing (likely where the majority of the exfoliation came from) to get my skin back to a normal hue… and even then the friend I met for coffee afterwards thought I looked a bit tanned.

 

French Green Clay French Red Clay
Weight per Tbsp (g) 7.6g 8.3g
Weight per Tbsp (oz) 0.26oz 0.29oz
Tsp of clay to 10g water 5 6
Clay to 10g water (g) 20.2g 15.6g
Clay to 10g water (oz) 0.71oz 0.55oz
Approximate ratio of clay to water (by weight) to make a smooth paste 2:1 3:2

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