Ask the Expert: How Do Clay Masks Actually Work?
Clay is not new to the skin care game. The use of medicinal clay for certain skin conditions goes as far back as Ancient Egypt. Now, after thousands of years in existence, clay is having a serious comeback.
Clay masks are trending, and it’s not just because they make for great selfie opps on social media. Masks formulated with clay offer a wide range of skin benefits, including removing impurities and reducing the appearance of large pores. Benefits aside, clay masks are also incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is apply one to your face, allow it to sit there (and—in most cases—harden) before rinsing off. The whole process usually takes under 20 minutes, which has us asking ourselves (or the experts, rather): how do clay masks actually work, and much do they really do for our skin? Read on for the answers!
THE BENEFITS OF CLAY MASKS
Arguably, the principle benefit of clay masks is that they can detoxify the skin, while reducing excess oil, and kicking pore-clogging impurities to the curb. As a result, clay masks are a favorite among oily and acne-prone skin types, though all skin types can enjoy them.
But before you start grouping all clay masks in one group, keep in mind that not all are formulas created equal. For starters, clay masks can feature different clays, or a variation of clays, which can offer different results due to their various compositions of minerals. Popular picks for skin care include kaolin and bentonite, though the list goes on and on. While the results of each clay mask out there can vary, there are a few clay mask benefits that remain universal:
Benefit #1: They can help draw out impurities.
From pollution to dirt and grime, your skin comes in contact with quite a few aggressors on a daily basis. Daily cleansing can help eliminate these skin invaders well, but clay masks—used a few times per week—can up the ante and ensure a clean canvas. Why is a clean canvas so important? Because when impurities, dirt and bacteria linger on the skin for too long, they can wreak havoc in the form of a dulled complexion or breakouts. Just be sure to follow with moisturizer to hydrate your skin post-mask.
Benefit #2: They can eliminate excess shine.
Oily skin types can relate to the ever-present struggle of a shiny, greasy-looking complexion. To help mattify the look of your skin, board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali recommends a routine application of a clay mask. “They’re great at absorbing oils and other impurities that can clog pores,” Dr. Bhanusali says. “Kaolin is an important ingredient to be on the lookout for.” Kaolin—also known as white clay–is the mildest of clays and works to draw out oils without being harsh on the skin. You’ll find this ingredient formulated in many masks on the market, including L’Oreal Paris’ range of Pure-Clay Masks. There are five clay masks in total, all of which are formulated with a blend of kaolin, montmorillonite, and Moroccan lava clays, as well as one unique ingredient.
Benefit #3: They can be hydrating.
One of the key components to skin care is moisturizing. Getting a healthy amount of moisture helps skin to remain supple and looking healthy. Yet some people may find their skin to still be dry and itchy no matter how much moisturizer or lotion they lather on. You may not think of a clay mask as a product that can help strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier, but some formulas in fact can, like the Vichy Mineral Pore Purifying Clay Mask. Not only does this clay mask include the dynamic duo of kaolin and bentonite clays, but it’s also formulated with Vichy Mineralizing Water, which can help to protect skin against external factors by strengthening its moisturizing barrier.
Benefit #4: They are calming.
Nothing against expensive spa days (let’s face it: we all could use one during periods of high stress), but part of the beauty of face masks in general is their ability to transform an otherwise mundane skin routine into an at-home spa day. Not just because they give you an excuse to kick up your feet while they get to work, but also because of their calming benefits. New York-based dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Joshua Zeichner explains, “Clay has both skin calming and oil-absorbing properties, making it useful both for those with sensitive skin, as well as oily or acne-prone skin.” The next time you’re looking to wind down, grab a few chilled cucumber slices for your eyelids, smooth on a clay mask and enjoy the calming benefits all around!
HOW TO APPLY A CLAY MASK
If you’re of rookie status when it comes to using clay masks, there’s no need to be intimidated. The entire process of application and removal is incredibly easy. You can apply them any way you chose, either with a tool such as a makeup sponge or just by using your own fingers. Make sure the clay mask is applied evenly across your face so all areas are targeted equally. Lather some on to your neck too, just to make sure it’s getting its fair share of care too. Then just sit back, maybe grab a glass of wine or a book, and let the formula get to work.
WHEN TO USE A CLAY MASK
Face masks in general have boomed in popularity. That means that there’s more of a variety out there, each requiring a different method of use and even a different time to be used. Some masks are meant to be worn while you snooze while others you can wear during the day. Clay masks can generally be worn any time you’d like, but only for a limited amount of time. Wearing a clay mask for too long by going passed the recommended time may dry out your skin. Give the packaging’s directions a look-over to see what the suggested clay-time is—we’re sure it’s more than enough to finish that glass of wine.
HOW TO REMOVE A CLAY MASK
Clay masks are just as easy to take off as they are to put on. Since most masks harden from their original state, removing them is not difficult in the slightest. Simply wash the mask off with lukewarm water, either in the shower or with a non-abrasive towel. Feel free to polish your skin off with a cleanser and remember, give your face one more layer of moisturizer to help lock in any lost moisture.
THE BEST CLAY MASKS TO TRY
Know that no matter what the reason you’re checking out clay masks may be, there’s a clay mask out there for you. Here are a few of our picks of the best clay masks—from the L’Oreal portfolio of brands—to get you inspired.
SKINCEUTICALS CLARIFYING CLAY MASK
Looking for a clay mask that not only gets rid of surface impurities but makeup and dead skin buildup as well? Then look no further—SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Masque is here! This mask’s formula includes botanicals such as aloe and chamomile, and has a hydroxy acid blend. Keep in mind, this mask doesn’t harden like others, so set the timer to about 10-15 minutes for wash off.
SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Masque, $55 MSRP
GARNIER SKINACTIVE CLEAN+ PORE PURIFYING 2-IN-1 CLAY MASK/CLEANSER
Beauty is all about the charcoal at the moment. Charcoal has the natural ability to attract dirt and other impurities from your pores, making it a great product for those with oily skin. This 2-in-1 cleanser from Garnier is the is perfect for beauty junkies looking to try both the clay mask and the charcoal trends. Plus, it helps to tighten the look of pores and smooth skin at the same time.
LA ROCHE-POSAY EFFACLAR SHINE CONTROL CLAY MASK
The La Roche-Posay Effaclar Shine Control Clay Mask contains gentle clay which helps to lift dust and other pollutants from your pores. It also helps to eliminate any excess sebum, keeping your skin from looking too greasy.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Shine Control Clay Mask, $19.99 MSRP