"To keep your skin looking healthy, a clay mask can help."
Take a look around the skin care aisle—at any drugstore or department store, for that matter—and you’ll likely see clay masks galore. In the world of face masks, clay formulas currently reign supreme. Most often, they’re lauded for their impressive detoxifying properties…but here’s the thing: Not all clay masks are created equal, nor do they do the same thing. Here, the complete lowdown, with everything you need to know about what they can do and how to use clay masks to get your best-looking skin ever.
“Many people assume that all clay masks are drying and are pulling oil out from your skin,” says Jeff Rosevear, founding scientist and Head of Product Development for Skinsei. And, indeed, there is a large category that does just that; traditionally, that has been their function and clay mask benefits usually include detoxifying and mattifying your skin. These formulas often use bentonite clay, which acts like a magnet, working to pull out excess oil, dirt, and other impurities from your pores. Other popular types of clay include French Green Clay, also known as Sea Clay; this one is so good at sucking things up, that it not only gets out oil, but also pulls blood to the surface of your skin, which is why you’ll often find it in masks touting brightening or glow-enhancing benefits. There’s also Rhassoul Clay, which, along with its purifying abilities, is also a great exfoliant and it’s often combined with other ingredients in masks for your skin, or even hair and scalp. All of these types of clay are a top pick for oily or acne-prone skin, when the mask can act as a weekly deep clean, working to remove any leftover gunk and grime that may be clogging your pores and that your standard cleanser simply can’t wash away. Plus, because these types of clay masks also absorb oil, they’re a great choice for helping to mattify shiny skin. That being said, this is also why, as anyone who has ever used one of these masks will tell you, they can often leave your skin feeling tight and even a little stripped afterwards. You can actually see these formulas dry out and start to crack on your skin as they sit; they almost turn into a powder by the time you remove them, notes Rosevear.
So, what if your skin isn’t particularly oily or prone to breakouts? What if it falls more on the sensitive side of the spectrum? Can you still use a clay mask? Here’s where the type of clay makes a big difference; specifically, for more sensitive skin, in which case pink clay takes top marks. The major difference between the pink stuff and its clay counterparts is that it’s an excellent skin-soother. “It contains calamine, and is used to help calm and soothe irritation,” says Rosevear (think back to the pink calamine lotion your mom put on you when you had chicken pox or poison ivy—same concept). It still works in a similar way—pulling things out of your skin—but rather than just pulling out oil and dirt, "pink clay is also helping to remove potential triggers that may be irritating your sensitive skin” says Rosevear.
Take the Skinsei Mad Deep Clay Face Mask: The pH balanced formula helps purify and detox. But what’s especially noteworthy is its ability to soothe the surface of the skin. Sensitive skin types, rejoice. Finding the right face mask can often be tricky for you, because many have potent ingredients, which can often be too intense. Others can be drying (per our point on many other kinds of clay). That’s why this particular face mask is an A+ pick for sensitive skin.
Because pink clay is so different, that means the entire sensorial experience of using this type of mask is going to be a little different. While yes, it will dry out a little because there’s going to be some water in any type of clay mask, it’s not going to end up looking—or feeling—so cracked and brittle. In fact, while you might have to physically wipe off another type of clay mask, pink clay masks can generally just be rinsed right off.
So, how often should you use a clay face mask, you ask? Regardless of whichever one you choose, it shouldn’t be one of your daily, go-to products. Instead, consider it an add-on to incorporate into your routine once or twice per week when your complexion needs a little extra boost of TLC. When you do reach for one, wash your face first then apply the mask, leaving it on as long as directed; usually this is anywhere from five to 20 minutes, though it’s always best to follow product directions. Afterwards, rinse or wipe off (depending which kind of clay you used and how dry the mask got). After drying, slather on a serum (because hey, a little extra hit of good-for-your skin ingredients never hurt anyone). If you’re using one of the more purifying clays, you may want to finish off with a moisturizer, though with pink clay, you may find that your skin actually feels pleasantly soft and hydrated even without it.
Not sure if mask if really your thing? Try our holistic diagnostic tool and find out if one of our many masks is the step you are missing to reach your skin goals.