Kaeline, the French/Moroccan cosmetic company with a thing for argan oil,  has just launched its Le Hammam line in the US and sent Copley some samples. I am afraid I pounced on the Rhassoul Clay Maskwith undignified eagerness - what can I say, I love Kaeline's Argarome Jour with vitamin E-rich argan oil.Rhassoul is a clay that is found in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Exotic as that might sound, it is really exactly the same as hectorite (the only ingredient that is listed on the jar). Hectorite, which seems to be mined exclusively in Santa Barbara, is widely used in cosmetics. Its role, however, is a rather humble one. Hectorite has the ability to become soft and gel-like and, as a result, is used as a thickening or suspending agent by potion makers.

Kaeline's clay mask is a jar of taupe-colored, powdered hectorite. The instructions are a little vague: "mix some with warm water and argan oil to obtain a paste". Common sense and your own supply of argan oil are required. I mixed two teaspoons of the powder with a little Argarome Jour and water until I got a consistency that I hoped would stay on my face for the designated 20 minutes.

The mask, once rinsed off, had done an excellent job of removing excess oils and closing pores. Although the process is a bit messy, I would definitely use it again on those days when one's nose is in serious need of a touch up. Kaeline recommends using it for the hair as well. But I can't imagine why one would (the mineral content of hectorite is mostly magnesium and lithium and I haven't been able to connect either of them to hair care).