If you've ever struggled with acne, you know that face masks can be a powerful addition to your daily skincare routine to help detox, hydrate, and soothe the skin. When choosing a face mask, there are a lot of great options. However, clay masks (sometimes known as mud masks) work wonders for all skin types, especially acne-prone, combination, and dry skin.
Clay masks are an incredible way to harness some of the earth's richest, most potent ingredients to help rejuvenate the skin. Why are clay masks good for acne, how do they work, and what is the best type of clay mask for you? Read on to learn more!
What is clay, and why are clay masks good for acne?
Clay is a naturally occurring substance rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, silica, and iron. Depending on the type of clay used, clay masks can help draw out impurities from deep within the skin to treat acne, heal blemishes, remove toxins, and balance oil production. Clay has also been shown to increase collagen production, improving skin firmness, and reducing signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.
In addition to clearing up existing acne breakouts, clay masks can prevent future flare-ups by exfoliating dead skin cells, stimulating new cells' growth, and tightening pores for a smoother, more radiant complexion.
How do clay masks work to treat acne pimples?
When the clay mask is wet, its molecules produce electrical charges that attract bacteria and debris and pull it out of the skin, providing a gentle yet effective, deep pore cleansing.
Think of applying a clay mask to your face as a purification ritual: It will clarify congested pores, soak up toxins, and exfoliate dead skin to leave your face feeling clean, refreshed, and smoother than before. It's the perfect addition to any skincare routine.
What are the best types of clay masks for acne-prone skin?
Many different types of clay masks available today are suitable for a variety of skin conditions. The differences between these clay masks has to do with the kind of clay used and the ingredients added to these clays. Many clays come in pure, powder form allowing users to mix it with water or apple cider vinegar (a natural toner and pH rebalancer) for an added touch of natural treatment.
Here are some of the best types of clay to look for when your skin needs some extra purifying love.
Kaolin Clay: Kaolin clay comes in a different colors; white, yellow, red, and pink are the most common.
White and yellow kaolin clay for dry and sensitive skin
These clays—sourced from France, England, Germany, and the United States—are the more gentle clays in the Kaolin family and are a wonderful choice for people with dry or sensitive skin. While high in calcium, silica, zinc, and magnesium, they do not have as powerful absorption capabilities to remove excess oil and toxins compared to its Kaolin clay cousins.
Red kaolin clay for oily skin
Red clay has the most substantial absorption properties of the Kaolin clay family, making it an excellent option for oily skin.
Pink kaolin clay for combination and acne-prone skin
This clay—sourced from Australia and France-is essentially a mixture of white and red kaolin clays, making it an ideal clay mask for all skin types, especially combination and acne-prone skin. This Pink Clay is known for its ability to draw out impurities, exfoliate dead skin, and rejuvenate the skin by increasing new skin cells' turnover rate.
Our Pick: MDacne Clarifying Pink Clay Mask.
Made with pure Australian pink clay, this mask includes retinoids, beta hydroxy acids, and natural plant-based boosters to remove toxins, reduce inflammation, and provide hydration to the skin. This mask is designed to complement the MDacne Customized Acne Treatment system but can also be used independently.
Bentonite Clay (Natural Calcium Bentonite Clay): Bentonite clay—derived from volcanic ash sediments— is one of the most popular types of clay used in face masks, and for a good reason!
Bentonite is one of the most effective clays at absorbing excess oil from the skin. It is fantastic at healing skin lesions, making it an awesome choice for people with acne. Bentonite clays also have a high concentration of skin-loving minerals such as silica, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, and potassium.
Our Pick: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
French Green Clay: This clay—derived from decomposed plant matter and iron oxide— provides exfoliation as well as oil-absorption. Because it's derived from rich plant material, this type of clay has a rich green color.
Rhassoul Clay: Rhassoul clay—derived from Morocco—is very rich in minerals with strong exfoliating properties. It's gentle enough for daily use when used in small doses and makes for a heavy-duty exfoliator when mixed with other ingredients like crushed oats or almonds.
How long should you leave on a clay mask?
Although it is commonly thought to leave a clay mask on your face until it's "bone dry" and cracking to experience the full effects, it's better to remove a clay mask before it's fully dry to prevent dehydrating the skin.
You'll still absorb all the valuable nutrients and benefits even if your face doesn't feel like a crumbling stone! The best way to decide if it's time to remove the mask is to do a simple touch test. When you start to see it lightening in color, but it still feels slightly sticky to the touch, wash it off! If you have a stubborn zit, you may use your clay mask as a spot treatment overnight. After you remove your mask, be sure to follow up with a rebalancing toner and hydrating moisturizer.
How often should you use a clay face mask?
In general, using clay masks 1 - 2 times per week is the best cadence for most skin types. Those with more oily skin can indulge in applying a clay mask up to 3 times a week, but make sure you give your skin a break between treatments to prevent further issues!
People with dry, sensitive skin may want to start by using a maks every 10 - 14 days and work up to weekly as long as their skin does not get irritated.
What are the ingredients to add to clay masks for acne-prone skin?
The most effective clay masks usually combine a high-quality clay with active, moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, anti-inflammatory agents like aloe vera, and exfoliating components such as beta hydroxy acids (BHAs). Here are some of our favorite clay mask boosters for acne-prone skin:
BHAs: Clay has great absorption power but is weak at exfoliation. Beta hydroxy acids (such as lactic acid) are the perfect ingredient to add to a clay mask for gentle exfoliation without over-drying the skin. These beta hydroxy acids clear excess sebum and dead skin cells, and ultimately, help prevent new blackheads and whiteheads.
Retinoids: Added retinoids make weekly mask rituals even more useful. Retinoids are a powerful ingredient that helps enhance skin cell turnover rate, prevent acne breakouts, and improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and scars. This can help with brightening the complexion and detoxifying the pores.
How to use a clay mask with your acne treatment
While masks can be a super helpful tool to use in your acne treatment program, they should not be considered a replacement for other topical acne treatments. To effectively treat and prevent acne, it's crucial to commit to a practical, daily topical treatment plan including active acne treatment ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
In some cases of severe, cystic acne or hormonal acne, it may also be necessary to add oral therapy such as antibiotics, Accutane, Spironolactone (females only), or hormonal birth control (females only). However, the right skincare products should provide significant, if not complete, acne treatment for most people within roughly three months of consistent use. Be sure to talk to your dermatologist if you have any questions.
- Essential and toxic elements in clays for pharmaceutical and cosmetic use
- Effect of topical clay application on the synthesis of collagen in skin: an experimental study
- Bentonite Clay as a Natural Remedy: A Brief Review
To find the right acne treatments for your unique skin, take the free skin assessment by clicking here.