Addressing the Causes of Acne

How using clay can keep you naturally beautiful
By Paul F. Petit, ND, CSSP

Clay has been used by man since the beginning of time. According to Hippocrates, Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Galen, the Greeks made use of clays extensively. The Romans used clay to clean their togas (detergents weren’t readily available in those times) and, according to Pliny, they used poultices to heal wounds. Avicenna favors it in his famous writings, and Cleopatra used it for beauty masks. Up to the beginning of the twentieth century, the French and the Russian army used it to disinfect contaminated waters and to prevent dysentery. The fact of the matter is, clay has been used by man far longer than modern drugs, never required any experimentation on animals, and is 100-percent natural. Animals even visit clay grounds to ingest clay and to cover their wounds.

Because clay has the power of drawing out impurities from the skin, it is an ideal ally against acne. The skin is constantly supplied with oil and water by the glands of the body. The sweat glands supply the water (and water-soluble elements like mineral salts) whereas the sebaceous glands supply the sebum (oil and oil-soluble substances). Both glands open into the follicles where they reach the surface of the skin. The sebaceous glands are under hormonal control whereas the sweat glands are under nervous control.

This is another area where the neuroendocrine system prevails. These secretions (oil and water) emulsify together with phospholipids to form the outer protective layer, or mantle of the skin, responsible for its protection and moisture. The skin must stay moist to be efficiently active.

The origin of acne starts with an excess oil production (sebum) by the skin’s sebaceous glands. This excess production is linked to hormonal activity (hence the prevalence of this condition during puberty) and/or stress or psychological factors. It can also occur whenever the skin must respond to external aggressions (all under hormonal responses).

Whenever there is an imbalance between the amount of water (sweat) and oil (sebum)—i.e., when the sebum is secreted in excess—the outcome produces an over-oily substance that can eventually clog skin follicles as it normally flows out to reach the surface of the skin. A comedo may develop: it is a blackhead if it is open to the outside (where the sebum oxidizes and appears black) or a whitehead if it remains closed. This is the common, or juvenile, acne.

If this imbalance continues, the walls of the follicle may rupture and inflammation may develop, causing a papule. This is inflammatory acne. If the imbalance still continues, conditions worsen and local infection of the follicle may occur, causing a pustule. This leads to bacteria growth that will further irritate the skin and increase the blemishes, resulting in acute acne.

Clay has an important effect on acne because it acts as a “vacuum cleaner,” absorbing the oil/water combo, unclogging the follicles, and giving a smooth, less oily skin. The only downside is that it will attract the contents of the follicles, increasing the quantity of visible substances on the skin. At first this will seem to worsen the situation, but this occurs because the clay is actively removing the substances causing the acne. Depending on the onset and the severity of the condition, it may take longer to stabilize the epidermal system achieving a healthy looking skin.

Because it is natural, safe, and gentle to the skin, clay can be used daily. Its natural detoxifying properties allow it to reduce acne appearance without damaging the skin. There are different types of clay, which can be identified by their structure. The colors vary depending on the types of minerals in the clay.

Here is a list of the most widely used French clays (easily distinguished by their colors), their properties, and what they are used for:

Green Clay

Prized by users for great healing properties and the ability to absorb toxins and clean the body, green clay is rich in minerals and gets its color from ferrous oxide. It is the most widely used for all skin types.


Illite is the most popular clay in France. Coming from the micas minerals of igneous rocks, it has a three-layer structure which accounts for its high absorption and adsorption properties, making this variety the most efficient in natural health care both externally and internally. It has a high diversified mineral content.


The second variety of green clay, Montmorillonite arises from the chlorite minerals of metamorphic rocks. Like the illite, it has a three-layer structure accounting for its similar properties of absorption and adsorption. The diversified mineral content is high. The color is less green than the illite, due to a lower concentration in ferrous oxide. This clay also may be used internally as well as externally.

Red Kaolin Clay

Red kaolin clay can be found next to yellow clay and gets its color from red hematite, containing ferric oxide and copper. It is a two-layer structure and has one of the highest contents of silica. There is an absence of aluminum, zinc, manganese, chlorine, and sodium. Due to its rich iron content, this type of clay is to be used by people deficient in iron. It is also widely used in skincare and cosmetics.

Yellow Kaolin Clay

Found near red clay, yellow kaolin clay gets its color from a yellow-orange iron oxide and can be found on hilltops drained by rain, thus washing out aluminum, zinc, manganese, sodium, and chlorine. With a pH of five and a very high concentration in iron but less aluminum, this type of clay is recommended for bone problems and tiredness (it should be used in conjunction with green clay).

Rose Kaolin Clay

Rose kaolin clay does not exist in a natural state. Rose clay is obtained by mixing red and white kaolin clays. The combined properties of both clays make the rose clay ideal for beauty preparations. Rose clay is soft, and is recommended for sensitive skin, dehydrated skin, baby skin, and facial creams. This clay is mainly used in external applications.

White Kaolin Clay

Known for its highly absorbent properties, white kaolin clay is particularly beneficial in removing impurities and tightening the pores, tonifying the skin, and reducing scars and inflammation in acne. It is very effective with sensitive skin and is suitable for both children and adults. Known for its healing properties, white kaolin clay has a high concentration of aluminum and no phosphorous and chlorine.

Clay can be applied as a mask. A clay mask will benefit the skin because it has the ability to absorb water, bacteria, and toxins on and beneath the skin surfaces. The exfoliating and astringent properties of clay address the root causes of acne.


Paul F Petit, ND, CSSP, a French family care physician focusing on natural health, founded Naprodis over 15 years ago. Naprodis distributes natural materials including the most popular French clays and brand products he has been formulating since 1985.