Spa at home: Take a clay bath

Your skin is the largest organ on your body and it plays a very active role in maintaining your good health: Keeping bacteria and other pathogens out, expelling toxins through your pores, and even absorbing minerals  into your tissues. Some harmful chemicals can absorb through your skin too — so what you put on it makes a big difference.

That’s why pelotherapy, the practice of using mud baths and poultices to heal or detoxify your body, is so effective. But you’re not supposed to slather on just any old mud — we’re talking pure healing clays, usually one of the smectite or bentonite  clays that swell up like a sponge when mixed with water. (You may also see the term “montmorillonite” used interchangeably with the other two.)

Clay baths are a powerful tool for detoxing from heavy metal and chemical contamination; the minerals absorbed from the clay bind with the contaminants, allowing your body to excrete them more effectively. Clay baths also alkalize your body, soften your skin, and can reduce irritation or inflammation — although you should consult a doctor before taking one if you have open wounds or sores.

Taking food-grade clay internally is also a traditional remedy for eliminating intestinal parasites.  But beware, clay will also bind with supplements and medications that you take, and may even reduce absorption of some nutrients from your food. So separate your clay baths — or intake — from any meals by at least one hour, and from supplements or medications by at least two hours.

Finding the right clay

Because the minerals from clay absorb through your skin (and because clay binds with compounds in its environment), it’s important to buy as pure a product as possible and then store it properly.

Look for medicinal- or herbalist-quality clay, and keep it stored in a completely sealed glass or ceramic jar. If you don’t have glass or ceramic at your disposal, food-grade plastic is your next best option. Stay away from metal containers and utensils when you’re dealing with clay, as metal can react with its mineral content.

Taking a clay bath

The amount of clay you use in the bath affects how much of a detoxifying action you get — but more isn’t always best. The more toxins you have built up in your body, the slower your body can safely release them. Most people can start with a 15-minute bath in tepid water with a cup of clay, then gradually increase soak time (or the amount of clay you use) from there.

The cleanest way to create your bath is pre-mixing five parts water to one part clay (remember, in a glass or ceramic container) and then adding the slurry to your bath water.

Some spa pools contain tons of clay, and for really heavy-duty detox, some people use as much as 5 to 10 pounds of clay in a single bathtub! But that’s the sort of thing you should only be doing under the guidance of a health professional (and maybe a plumber too). Seriously, don’t even think of trying that if you have old or finicky plumbing.

Not matter how much clay you’re using, get out of the bath immediately if you find yourself feeling overly fatigued, shaky or ill; that means you’ve done too much, too soon. But as long as you don’t overdo it, you can look forward to clay baths as a soothing, relaxing — and cleansing — part of your self-care routine.