There are many ways to pamper and preserve your youthful visage through skincare, and clay masks are one of the quickest-and most fun-of them all!
But if you think clay face masks only dry out your skin and leaves unwanted redness, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Learn to use a clay mask the proper way with our handy guide!
What You'll Need to Apply a Clay Mask
Get these ready in advance for a smooth clay mask experience:
- Non-metal, glass or plastic mixing bowls
- Non-metal, plastic or wooden spoon
- Dry clay powder mix of choice
- Warm water
- Clay mask applicator brush, usually included in a face mask pack
Important note: Why the emphasis on non-metal bowl and spoon? Well, it’s because the clay you’ll be using has been “activated” to absorb heavy metals when it comes into contact with liquid.
So we want the mask to absorb the metals that may have been left on your skin, rather than the ones from a metal bowl or spoon.
All About Mixing Clay Face Masks
Once you have your materials ready, you can break down the process of how to use a clay mask into three phases:
How to Mix Your Clay Face Mask
Step 1: Start by adding 1 teaspoon of clay into the bowl.
Step 2: Add 1 teaspoon of warm water to the clay and mix with the spoon until it forms a paste.
Step 3: The amount varies depending on the clay. It’s better to start with as little water then keep adding until you get a smooth clay paste.
PRO TIP: If you think you’ve made too much of your clay mixture, don’t worry because you can always store the excess. Seal the clay in an airtight container and it will last in the refrigerator for around one week.
How to Apply a Clay Mask
Step 4: Your clay mask is now ready for application! Start by taking a small amount and spread a thin layer on your face and neck, too, if you wish.
Step 5: Add a second layer until the mask is about an eighth of an inch thick. This should be enough because a thicker layer DOES NOT mean a more effective clay mask.
Step 6: Clay draws moisture from the skin’s surface so for normal skin, leave the mask after around 10-15 minutes.
For drier skin or sensitive skin types, just around 5-10 minutes to avoid irritation. For oily skin, you can leave the clay mask to almost dry.
How to Remove Your Clay Mask
Step 7: For easier removal of clay masks, rinse it with water! Use warm water or a damp face cloth to help you remove the mask with your hands.
Step 8: When you’ve removed the mask completely, you may feel a tightening effect on the uncovered skin. Gently pat your face dry with a cloth until completely dry.
Step 9: Finish the experience with organic oils which can help moisturize and soothe your skin.
The Three Phases of Drying Clay Masks
There is conflicting information online about the effectiveness of clay facial masks.
Sharon McGlinchey, celebrity facialist and founder of MV Organic Skincare offers her professional insight:
Many think the tight sensation after removing the clay mask is part of a firming effect.
However, that’s not quite true. That feeling is actually because the mask has been left to dry for TOO LONG!
This may be why those with dry or sensitive skin types tend to find clay face masks too drying while those with acne-prone skin like how it can prevent clogging.
So how DO you know if it’s the perfect time to remove your clay mask? First, imagine that the clay mask dries in three phases:
- The damp phase – when your skin absorbs the active minerals from the clay
- The initial drying phase – when the clay cools the skin to diffuse redness and evens out the skin tone
- The drying phase – when the clay dries and reabsorbs moisture and the natural oils from the skin’s surface
The first two fall under the beneficial dry phase-where the “magic” happens. The drying phase, on the other hand, is the one you have to AVOID.
McGlinchey recommends removing the clay mask while it’s still damp across the cheeks and forehead but starting to dry around the edges of your face, eyes, nose, and lips.
1. How Does a Clay Mask Work?
Clay masks are known to naturally detoxify skin, absorb excess oil, and nourish through beneficial minerals.
Studies on clay face masks have found the presence of NEGATIVE charge in the clay may help it bind to POSITIVELY charged toxins and metals such as mercury and lead.
The surface of our skin tends to carry these impurities after being exposed to environmental pollution.
And so, most popular Korean face masks are a great help when you want to control excess shine.
2. Can People of Any Skin Type Use Clay Masks?
If clay face masks work best with oily or acne-prone skin, does that mean other types of skin should avoid them?
NOPE, you just need to know which kind to use!
There are many different masks to choose from. For some kinds, you can identify which clay face mask suits your skin by their color:
- For a gentler skincare treatment, get WHITE clay! While it can be less absorbent, it’s the perfect choice for sensitive skin.
- For more acne-prone, oily, and combination skin, use GREEN clay. It’s one of the most common types and tends to possess the highest mineral content.
- For drier skin or normal skin type, grab PINK or RED clay! These are kaolin-based types that have more silicate than other masks.
- For sun-tanned and dull skin, look for YELLOW clay. This is one of the rarer colors and is known to enhance circulation and exfoliate the skin.
If you’re still unsure about which types of clay masks are good for you, read on for more on your skin type and the treatment it needs:
Oily and Acne-Prone Skin
Since clay face masks provide a deeper cleansing experience, they can help prevent mild acne that forms when your pores are clogged due to excessive dirt or makeup.
If you have combination skin, you may need to experiment with which masks work best. You also might have to use two kinds since you’re dealing with a combination of skin types.
According to research on red facial clay mask, it creates a film once it hardens which may help skin stay hydrated by trapping more moisture.
However, it was found that short-term use of hydrating masks did not improve the overall firmness of the skin.
If you have dry, matured skin that’s also sensitive, try not to overuse clay masks since they have the potential to dry your skin too much.
3. How Often Can I Use a Clay Face Mask?
The frequency you can use a clay mask per week can still vary depending on factors beyond your skin type and kind of clay facial mask.
You also need to consider the weather and the climate. Some people may find their skin reacts when the summer heat dries their skin more whereas others get dry skin more often in the winter.
Clay draws moisture easily so a clay mask is not something for daily use. Most would recommend you stick to ONCE or TWICE a week as a standard or use WHITE CLAY MASKS.
It’s also best to apply a moisturizer afterward. Jojoba oil is a popular choice since it contains Vitamin E and B which nourish the skin.
Still, it’s best to pay attention to how your skin reacts after each treatment.
Potential side effects you may experience when overusing a clay mask include:
- Allergic Reaction
- Clogging of Pores (due to some ingredients that might be comedogenic)
4. Should I Use the Clay Mask Before or After I Wash My Face?
Clay masks are a great way to unwind at the end of the day. It’s perfect since you may experience some redness after removal, so as you sleep, your face has enough time to rest.
If you plan to incorporate clay masks into your nightly skin care routine, you’ll find various answers as to where in your routine to position it.
Some swear by using the mask before washing or showering because it may be too drying, especially for dry or sensitive skin.
A cleanse after using the clay mask would then help restore some of the moisture you need.
Moreover, your pores would be opened after washing, so your skin will absorb more of the product. Applying the clay mask after washing would mean increased chances of skin irritation.
There are also some who say to use the mask after you cleanse your face to remove dirt, oil, and makeup.
Leaving your skin unclean can hinder the clay and active minerals from seeping into your skin.
In addition, you may be trapping bacteria and other impurities into your pores.
This method works for those with oily skin type because this will allow the deep cleansing masks to remove excess oil or makeup more easily.
So now you know: the dryness and redness from clay masks are a typical side effect but you can easily avoid it by not letting it totally dry before removing.
As long as you remove the mask when it’s still a bit wet around the forehead and nose, you are unlikely to experience too much tightness.
Despite how these may be better suited for oilier skin, people with dry skin can still use them. Just remember to use them less often per week and to remove them before the mask is dry.
Try checking out our favorite Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask.
And so the next time you encounter these masks, don’t be too wary of them. Read through our step-by-step instructions above for guidance.
All it takes is some practice and insider tips to discover a new aspect of your skin care!
September 6, 2021 – Improved article formatting, reviewed and updated overall content
July 19, 2021 – Reviewed and updated article links