Mud may not be magnificent on the surface, but its hidden properties have drawn beauty-seekers for centuries. For example, it’s been said that Egyptians used muds and clays more than 2,000 years ago to keep their skin glowing.
Containing an abundance of minerals, nutrients and additional benefits, these earthly elements are featured in a variety of spa treatments ranging from detoxifying masks to luxurious body wraps. These services can entice potential spagoers who are seeking help with skin challenges—or those who simply long for a relaxing escape.
“Clients are attracted to muds and clays for their healing benefits. They continue to be popular because they provide therapy to the skin and also feel good—two important components to a successful treatment,” says Lisa M. Crary, owner and CEO of Sanítas Skincare. “Clients want products that produce change in their skin, and muds and clays accomplish that while also providing essential minerals from the earth.”
Read on to learn more about these indulgent treatments and what they can offer to your day spa clients. Whether they’re drawing out impurities or soothing skin irritation, muds and clays provide a relaxing escape from everyday stress. We’ll also show you effective strategies for introducing these services to your guests.
Muds and clays can detoxify, absorb excess oil, tone and soothe, and seal in other products applied to the skin. “Clay masks are good for someone who has toxic skin or poor health habits, such as smoking or eating a lot of fatty fast foods,” says Linda Nelson, N.D., Ph.D., president of M’lis Company (www.mlis .com). “Anyone who has large pores full of pollution, such as blackheads and whiteheads, or anything that’s the result of something internal such as acne—we use clay to draw out the infection.”
Muds and clays are usually derived from sea, glacial or volcanic sources, and they often provide similar benefits. “The primary difference between them is that they contain various quantities of trace minerals due to their environment and their creation,” says Wallace Nelson, Ph.D., executive vice president of M’lis. Therefore, although muds and clays produce basically the same effects, the distinction is in the types of minerals and nutrients each contains. Clay is mostly composed of finely granulated minerals and made flexible when water is added, but it hardens when there’s none present. It’s also drying to the skin. However, mud is comprised of a combination of clay with soil, silt and water. Several varieties contain a large percentage of clay while others have only a little. Some muds can dry the skin, and others may hydrate. Benefits do vary depending on the source. Mud from the Black Sea—which is located just north of Turkey between Europe and Asia—is more concentrated and darkly pigmented. This means that it contains high levels of iodine and salt, according to Sonia Boghosian, international educator for and CEO of Bio Jouvance. These are used therapeutically to not only detoxify, but also to smooth and hydrate the skin. “The Brittany Coast of France is always foggy and cold. The plankton, seaweed and sea minerals that you find in the mud coming from that area is different from the Black Sea or other locations,” Boghosian says. For example, Moor mud, which typically comes from Europe and northern Africa, nourishes and detoxifies with decomposed plants.
Clays are also popular options for cleansing the skin and promoting circulation. But because some varieties are gentler than others, they can also be used for sensitive skin, according to Shelley Bawiec. “We can’t make any specific claims about treating a medical condition, but a lot of traditional uses of clays and muds can ease some skin problems—seborrhea, eczema, psoriasis and acne specifically,” says the director of spa sales and education for Aveda. For instance, bentonite clay is used to attract and draw out impurities from the skin.
“Clays are harvested all over the globe,” Wallace Nelson says. ‘French’ green clay was originally produced only in France, but similar types have been found in other locations. Other examples include Indian Fuller’s Earth, which is sourced only in mines in India, and most bentonite used in the United States comes from Montana and Wyoming. Clays detoxify through their ability to remove substances suspended in liquid. “Many industrial pollutants that can negatively harm your body are held in the skin and can be removed through the drying action of the clay. The body has a difficult time removing those types of toxins on its own,” Wallace Nelson says. In addition, he says that minerals in clay hold an ionic charge, which can draw particles out of the skin.
When muds and clays are used to detoxify, they dry the treatment area as they extract impurities and waste products. Therefore, it’s important to feed and rehydrate the skin after using them, according to Linda Nelson. “Being a holistic doctor, my whole philosophy is to heal. With the skin, you need to do externally what you do internally,” she says. “You need to detoxify, you need to feed and you need to hydrate.”
Given the absorbent quality of muds and clays, it’s important to know their compositions. Spas should be careful about the sourcing of these products to ensure that they don’t contain impurities that can seep into the skin. “They might also contain some heavy metals in the form of fine particulates that could be inhaled,” says Vivian Valenty, Ph.D., founder of VB Cosmetics. Therefore, she recommends that estheticians spritz water on muds or clays to keep them from drying completely. That way, they can remove any masks or body wraps without creating airborne dust.
New Trends and Ingredients
Due to the fact that muds and clays are mined from the earth, they can be subject to the planet’s misfortunes. “Most of the time, clay isn’t going to be tainted by pollution or impurities due to its location in deep underground veins. Any contamination will occur after mining and during processing,” M’lis’ Wallace Nelson says. “Pollution is of much greater concern with muds, as they’re most often harvested on the surface. Marine varieties, in particular, are easily affected by pollutants washing downstream into lakes and oceans.” Therefore, the areas being developed for harvesting muds are remote, such as new sources in South America and Alaska, he says.
He expects to see more manufacturers combining sources of muds and clays rather than simply relying on one variety. “For example, we’re going to see more blends of volcanic and glacial or marine clays to flesh out the profile of all of the nutrients present,” Wallace Nelson says. He adds that there’s a lot of crossover in the primary action of muds and clays, so treatments can be specialized by including other ingredients. “By adding in essential oils, we can then increase and tailor the services,” he says. “So not only is the product actually moisturizing the skin as it’s working, but we’re able to also calm or invigorate it as well.”
Those oils that are typically mixed with muds and clays for body treatments include rose oil to hydrate; orange blossom to detoxify; mint to invigorate; and lavender, which calms the skin and has soothing aromatic properties. Along those same lines, Jean Shea has recently heard of facilities that add wine to muds and clays for its antioxidant purposes. Given this possibility, the CEO of Biotone says that spas may want to explore adding other healthy ingredients, such as pomegranate juice. Skincare manufacturers do the same thing by combining their mud- and clay-based products with ingredients that directly tackle specific problems. A blend of kaolin clay, a white variety that heals and detoxifies, with mineral-rich bentonite and Redmond clay—which is oil-absorbing and anti-inflammatory—makes an effective treatment for blemished skin, according to Sanítas’ Crary. Such a mixture can also be fortified with salicylic acid to absorb sebum, diminish acne, tighten pores and eliminate excess keratin, as well as tea tree oil (which kills bacteria and promotes healing) and a blend of medicinal herbs (such as rosemary) to act as free-radical scavengers.
Marine algae extracts can also be combined with mud to deliver essential minerals to the skin that clients may not receive on land, according to VB Cosmetics’ Valenty. “The modern Western diet is deficient in magnesium, calcium and zinc,” she says. “Clay used for spa treatments may contain one or more of these nutrients, while marine algae is rich in all of them—as well as iodine, iron, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and the trace minerals copper, manganese, boron, selenium, strontium and vanadium.”
Offering Mud and Clay Services
While treatments that incorporate muds and clays have been around for centuries, there are still multitudes of new ways in which spas can offer them to clients. These include options that take the current push toward greener technologies into greater consideration. “Many spas incorporate clay and mud treatments with steam showers, Vichy showers and soaking tubs. Clays are quite conducive to those types of therapies,” Crary says. “Our customers indicate an increased use of clay treatments in traditional services such as facials and body wraps, and they report great results.”
However, Boghosian believes this equipment isn’t necessary when offering mud and clay treatments. “With today’s technology, as well as the ways in which the products are refined and mixed with essential oils or plant extracts, muds and clays can come off easily with towels,” she says. Therefore, she explains that these kinds of services, especially those that use essential oils, can be offered by making a small investment.
Moreover, Aveda’s Bawiec says she believes that more day spas in the United States are removing their hydrotherapy treatment rooms. These services tend to account for a small percentage of their business and consume large amounts of water. For these facilities, she says that muds and clays can be used more successfully for limited, targeted treatments, such as facial, foot or back services.
In a similar way, muds and clays can also be utilized as add-on treatments for a variety of other menu options. “A clay mask is something that you can add on to almost anything you’re doing in the spa,” Linda Nelson says.
For example, during a reflexology treatment, a paraffin service on the hands or feet, or a head massage, a client may enjoy a clay facial mask. Oran esthetician can provide a mud treatment to the hands or feet while the client receives another service. Biotone’s Shea suggests giving away one “Incorporate ingredients that make your treatments individual.” of these treatments for free as a way to promote smaller mud and clay services. These treatments also have the potential to attract male clients, mostly due to their no-fuss scents and colors. “Men love clay masks,” Linda Nelson says. “Their skin usually hasn’t been cared for as well as women’s has, so clay works well for them.” In addition, she offers a holistic “facelift” program for clients in which they receive a series of healing and cleansing masks that use muds and clays over several weeks.
Shea also suggests expanding the treatment concept by creating a relaxing atmosphere for application and setting the scene with essential oils. “Think outside the box when offering a mud or clay treatment,” Shea says. “Incorporate ingredients
that make your treatments individual, and expand them to be relaxing and aromatic as well.”
Some spa facilities have truly personalized the mud-and-clay experience by making it DIY. Mud bars—and even mud rooms—are gaining popularity across North America. They allow a guest to sample and sniff the varieties available, select a concoction that’s customized for her, and then head for a private area where she can apply the product on herself or to a partner as part of a couple’s treatment. “It’s selfservice, but we provide instruction on applying the muds to the face and body,” says Victoria Baker, spa director of SkinSpa in Encino, California. “Afterward, couples can shower in their cabana, or our Niagara water room.” Other facilities give clients the option to sit in a dry sauna or steam room to
enhance the qualities of the treatment. (To read more about services such as these, check out Spa Hopping on page 20.) Although more than two millennia have passed since Egyptians pampered their skin with muds and clays, the popularity of these ancient
beauty agents has endured. Entice your clients to soothe, heal and smooth their skin by exploring the benefits that these treatments offer. • Diane Donofrio Angelucci