Do Clay Masks Really work?

A clay mask can either leave your face sucked of its last drop of moisture or squeaky clean and glowing- here’s my guide on how you can strike the right balance. 

I came here to write a post reviewing the numerous purifying clay based masks that I own. But I realised that there is really nothing to choose between them in terms of effect. So what’s the deal with clay masks? How do they work, which mask should one buy?
Do Clay Masks Really Work? Row of tubes of mask
Whenever you read about skincare for oily skin and acne, clay masks are suggested as a regular treatment to withdraw impurities from the skin. Any time my skin is feeling particularly congested and spotty, I dutifully pop one on. And I find the results are pretty minimal really. My skin feels very clean after using any clay mask, but I can see no long lasting effects. 

As you can see from the photos I possess several detoxifying clay masks. You know how it goes, “that supermarket one didn’t do anything so I’ll buy one from an organic shop? That’ll be good”…”No, that one didn’t work, I’ll buy a really expensive one next…”. I’m a bit like a gambling addict, but with clay masks. My clay mask horse has never come in, I’m starting to wonder if it’s not just a problem with my clay mask selection abilities. It could be that I am expecting too much, or maybe I’m doing something wrong. 

I have set about on some research (mainly by googling and using my science brain) to try and find out where I’m going wrong. Here is what I’ve come up with-

What Are Clay Masks Supposed To Do, Exactly?

Clay masks use different sorts of clay to draw impurities and toxins out of the skin. This is where I start tapping my chin. As someone with a decent understanding of the processes that go on inside the human body this statement doesn’t make any sense. Can you really just suck out nasties through the pores?

What impurities and toxins are these masks on about? Toxins can be defined anything that is poisonous to humans, which could mean bacteria, heavy metals, carbon monoxide, chemicals from plastics (BPA)… There is no universal understanding of what a toxin is. 

From what I can gather, clay masks  actually will remove is dirt, makeup traces and sebum (the natural oil your skin produces which is in no way toxic). I don’t think a clay mask will suck out any mysterious toxins (I’m not the only one, this is what a dermatologist has to say about clay masks). After a clay mask you will have very clean mattified skin after the absorbent clay removes surface oils and dirt. Apparently clay can temporarily improve circulation to the surface of the skin to give a rosy glow. 

How to Use a Clay Mask Properly

You should apply your mask to clean dry skin using a mask brush or fingertips. (I personally can’t be dealing with the idea of something else to clean). 

During my research I came across some articles that said that you’re not meant to let the clay dry on your face!! Who knew! To let it dry would mean that the clay is removing moisture from the skin and would leave the skin irritated. You’re meant to rinse it off before it goes all stiff and powdery. That really is news to me. Every time I’ve used a clay mask I have waited until the mask was preventing my face from moving and quite enjoyed the stiff feeling. 

It stands to reason that if you leave the clay to dry out fully it will suck the moisture out of the skin which will lead to dryness and cause irritation. Clay masks can be a messy pain to remove, a warm wet cloth will help proceedings. 

Which Clay Mask To Buy

There are several different sorts of Clay- bentonite,rhassoul, kaolin, French clay, green clay, black clay. They are all have differing levels of minerals and absorbency. Bentonite is the most absorbent, Kaolin is the most gentle and Rhassoul clay is jam packed with minerals. Clay masks are generally most suited to oily skin, they can be drying. 

One way to choose your clay face mask is based on the other ingredients it contains aside from the clay. 

Like my Ren Clarimatte Invisible Pores Detox Mask (my most expensive clay mask purchase at £19) contains-

Aqua (Water), Kaolin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Spirulina Platensis Powder, Lactic Acid, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Callitris Introtropica Wood Oil, Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Water Extract, Limonene, Linalool

So Clarimatte also contains antibacterial bergamot and lavender, exfoliating Lactic Acid and Vitamin and mineral rich Spirulina. This makes it a good choice for those with acne prone skin. 

The Ren Clarimatte mask certainly leaves my face clean, but I can’t say that my pores look any different than they do if I had just cleansed thoroughly or used a less expensive mask. I think you can definitely save some money in the clay mask department. Clay is not an expensive skincare ingredient. 

Simple does a clay mask for £3.99 that I’m sure would do the job nicely. 

A great way to incorporate clay into your skincare is to buy clay powder. You can get Bentonite Clay Powder from Amazon. Miss Patisserie does a range of dry powder masks for different skin types.

Miss Patisserie Walnut Stone Clay Mask Powder
Miss Patisserie Walnut Stone Clay Mask Powder

That way you can mix the clay with what ever your skin desires. You can use water, oil, acid, honey, avocado, milk, whatever you fancy, to mix with the powder. It does make the whole mask process more messy and time consuming, but it allows for flexibility based on your needs. You could use apple cider vinegar if you felt the new for a bit of exfoliation. Or honey and tea tree for purifying. 

Clay Masks- The Take Home Message 

  • They’re best suited to oily skin
  • You don’t need to spend a fortune 
  • An unmixed powder mask offers flexibility 
  • Don’t let it dry until it’s cracking 

I don’t find that clay masks transform my complexion as I hope they would. I get on better with acid based masks (Ren’s Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask is my all time favourite for instant glow). BUT there are many people who hold great stock in clay masks for skin purification (Caroline Hirons for one, who can argue with that). Maybe I shouldn’t count them out. 

What do you think? Do you have a clay mask that you love more than life?



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One Comment Add yours

  1. ksloves says:

    Interesting and new post idea! I love it.

    Liked by 2 people

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