Achieving a natural, dewy glow when you have oily or acne prone skin can be an impossible task. Glow-inducing serums and ultra-hydrating sheet masks often provide too much moisture and only aggravate blemishes – definitely not the look you want. Oily skin types, it’s time to meet your new best friend – the clay face mask! Often considered the best mask for acne, clay masks are packed with oil-absorbing natural clays that detoxify the skin and minimize the look of large pores and as a bonus, can be a seriously soothing way to indulge in some self care. We’re breaking down all the benefits of a clay mask, plus sharing a few of our favorites to restore your skin’s natural (never greasy) glow.
What does a clay mask do?
Slathering on a clay face mask at the end of the day can do wonders for oily and mildly blemish-prone skin. But keep in mind, it may not work for everyone. Board-certified dermatologist and LovelySkin CEO Dr. Joel Schlessinger says,
“Clay masks are a great tool for anyone with oily skin or those who have mild breakouts. If you have hormonal or cystic acne, don’t expect a clay mask to fix it. Schedule a visit with a dermatologist for treatment, as that type of acne usually requires a prescription regimen.”
How does a clay mask actually work? Here are four top benefits of clay masks:
Benefit 1: They absorb excess oil and toxins. While there are many different types of clays (with each having a unique benefit to the skin), bentonite clay is the superstar of excess oil absorption. This type of clay is made up of a mixture of volcanic ash and a group of minerals called montmorillonite found in Fort Benton, Wyoming, that when mixed with water, transforms into an incredibly porous mixture and creates a negative electrical charge that has the ability to absorb toxins and excess sebum from the skin. Your skin will be glowing in no time!
Pro Tip: Although clay masks are a staple for oily skin types, anyone can benefit from a clay mask. They key is frequency – oily skin types can use clay masks a few times a week, whereas anyone else should be more on an “as needed” basis. If you have drier skin, choose a clay mask that is also fortified with moisturizing ingredients like aloe or shea butter to ensure skin won’t become dehydrated.
Benefit 2: They provide gentle exfoliation. Many clay masks are formulated with kaolin clay, a silica-based clay that also has the ability to absorb excess oil but because of its unique makeup, also provides a gentle exfoliation for polished, smooth skin.
Benefit 3: They temporarily shrink pores. Unfortunately, clogged pores are often oily skin’s annoying sidekick. Excess oil, dirt and debris can clog pores, stretching them out and making them even more apparent. While you can’t do anything to change the actual size of your pores, regular use of a clay mask can help draw out those impurities, minimizing their look. The best part? You’ll typically see (and feel) immediate benefits to your pore size after removing the mask.
Benefit 4: They infuse minerals and nutrients into the skin. Bentonite clay is packed with skin-loving minerals like iron, calcium, silica, copper, potassium and magnesium.
Pro Tip: Are you allowing the clay mask to dry out and crack on your face before you remove it? Stop right there! That’s actually counterintuitive to achieving the benefits you want. When the mask is still wet on your face is when your skin absorbs the most nutrients. As it begins to dry is when it absorbs oil and stimulates blood flow. If you let it dry completely and start to flake, it can dehydrate skin and even cause irritation. It’s best to remove the mask when it’s still a bit sticky.
Ready to get glowing? Here are our top clay masks to try, based on your skin type.
If you have sensitive skin try:
AFA Micro Exfoliating Masque – This weekly masque is powerful enough to work for all skin types, yet gentle enough for even the most sensitive skin. Formulated from bentonite clay and a proprietary blend of powerful amino fruit antioxidants, it is incredibly effective at exfoliating the skin and improving texture while simultaneously helping it retain moisture. In addition to mattifying oily skin, this creamy masque is also very efficient at reducing existing sun damage! It’s only available through licensed dermatologists and you can find one that’s closest to your location here.
SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Masque – This mask purifies skin with bentonite and white kaolin clay, which is considered the gentlest clay, making it a perfect choice for sensitive or drier skin types. This type of clay isn’t as absorbent as others, but is very efficient at smoothing and gently exfoliating the skin. It’s also formulated with botanical extracts, aloe and chamomile to soothe skin and enhance healthy cellular turnover.
If you have existing breakouts try:
While a clay mask shouldn’t be your only go to skin care product to clear up breakouts, you can help speed up the process by choosing a clay mask that also contains blemish blasting ingredients.
LovelySkin Pumpkin Clarifying Mask – This clarifying mask uses kaolin and bentonite clays to absorb oil, reduce shine and gently exfoliate skin, but also includes salicylic acid to help clear debris from pores. Plus, it contains exfoliating pumpkin enzymes to help dissolve dead skin cells for smoother, softer skin.
Revision Skincare Black Mask – Keep skin smooth and clear with this gentle exfoliating mask that uses bentonite and kaolin clays and European freshwater silt to absorb excess sebum and salicylic acid to further unclog pores and exfoliate the skin. It’s also fortified with tea tree oil, a natural plant oil that has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties to further clarify acne-prone skin.
Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Masque – This medicated face mask contains bentonite and kaolin clays for oil absorption, plus 10% sulfur to help clear and prevent mild to moderate inflammatory acne. Sulfur also helps the skin to shed more quickly, further unclogging and clearing pores. It also contains aloe vera to soothe any irritation.
If you prefer natural skin care products try:
Dr. Hauschka Clarifying Clay Mask – If you’re a natural kind of person, try this natural and organic clarifying mask that uses loess clay, which is a mixture of clay, sand and silt and has been known to be called “healing earth.” This fine mixture helps absorb excess oil and unclog pores while gently exfoliating the skin. Plus, it contains witch hazel to provide skin with antioxidant benefits. With weekly use, this mask can help reduce unwanted shine, acne and blackheads.
If you’re still loving the sheet mask trend try:
patchology SmartMud No Mess Mud Masque – If you want all of the benefits of oil-absorbing clay without the mess in your sink afterwards, this sheet mask is a must! This easy-to-use sheet mask uses kaolin clay, volcanic ash and activated charcoal to absorb oil and detoxify the skin without leaving it dry or tight-feeling. Hydrolyzed collagen helps plump and smooth the skin for a clear, smooth-feeling complexion.
Want to become a face mask maven? Check out our blog for more tips and tricks on the best face masks for your skin type.