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Montmorillonite Clay Is This Chef’s Holy Grail Self-Care Product

Benne on Eagle chef and Eater Young Gun Ashleigh Shanti went “clay crazy” when she discovered the multipurpose clay at the health-food store

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Eater Young Gun Ashleigh Shanti (’19) isn’t totally sure who first told her about montmorillonite clay, but it’s been a staple of her self-care routine for at least three years now, purchased in bulk from her local health-food store. “When I first started using it I went clay crazy,” says the chef de cuisine at Benne on Eagle in Asheville, North Carolina, who is known for her expertise in fermented foods and thoughtful menus drawing from traditional African-American Appalachian cuisine. “I was using it to brush my teeth, in detox baths, in my hair mask.”

Montmorillonite clay, also sold as French green clay or European clay, is a mineral powder similar to bentonite clay (which is the primary ingredient in Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay ($10), the best-selling facial mask on Amazon). Shanti’s preferred montmorillonite clay is from vitamin and supplements brand Now Foods (from $7), which she uses on its own or in a couple of easy homemade recipes she keeps going back to. “I’ll mix the clay with honey and lemon juice,” Shanti says. “I’ve also done some avocado too. My face is naturally oily but my partner, her face is more normal, so she normally puts some avocado in hers.”

Medicinal clays are reported to have antibacterial properties, and devotees swear that a clay face mask can help with acne and clogged pores. For Shanti, a clay mask has immediate results: “Instantly I notice that my skin is much brighter, my complexion is much clearer.”

Mixing up a clay mask also gives Shanti a moment to unwind from hectic days and nights in the kitchen, a boon since time to herself is at a premium. “I’m not doing a lot of self-care these days, unfortunately,” she says. “I eat fermented foods — that’s definitely self care.” But when she does have the time to slap on a clay mask, Shanti says, “It makes a huge difference.”