The best clay face masks for your skin type: Acne, oily, ageing
If you thought only those with acne or oily skin could benefit from a clay mask, you would be very wrong - clay masks can actually work wonders for all skin types. Slot one into your routine and you'll notice a big difference to your complexion. Here's how to find the right one for you.
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How do clay masks work?
Clay masks are formulated with naturally occurring clays which draw out impurities such as blackheads, blemishes, dead skin cells and surface oils to reveal smooth, clarified and clear skin. Their mineral compounds bind to dirt and bacteria making them a go-to for those who have acne and oily-prone complexions. They can also tighten skin, making enlarged pores appear smaller. So far, so good, right?
“White clay is a powerful skincare ingredient that works to purify and rejuvenate skin,” explains Dr Howard Sobel, NYC Dermatologist and founder of aesthetic centre Sobel Skin.
“The nourishing minerals naturally found in clay travel deep into pores to unclog them and absorb excess oil. Clay also acts as an exfoliant by gently removing the top layer of dead skin cells, leaving skin healthy and glowing.”
Traditionally, clay masks were available as a paste or scrub which, for anyone who has ever tried a clay or mud mask would know, can make them quite a messy ordeal. Ahh, there’s the catch. Fortunately, innovations in skincare have seen the powerful properties of clay masks extended to a wide range of products such as sheet masks, soft creams, customisable powders, peels and mask/cleanser duos to appeal to everyone’s unique skin types and lifestyles (*cough* budgets).
What skin types benefit from clay masks?
Turns out that oily, combination and acne-prone skin types aren’t the only ones that can flaunt buffed, smooth and glowing skin post clay mask. In fact, most skin types can experience significant improvements in their complexions from regular clay masking - even those with sensitive, inflamed, ageing/mature or dry skin. It just depends on which kind of clay you’re using and whether or not it has been formulated with additional ingredients that’ll give your skin some active encouragement.
The different kinds of clay and what they do
Clay masking, in all of its positively primal self-care glory, can get confusing, fast. There are all different shades of clays sourced from different parts of the world each bringing a unique bounty of benefits for your skin. Green clay from France; Red clay from Morocco; Pink clay from Australia; mud from Rotorua… We break down which colours generally do what:
White clay: Bentonite and kaolin are the most widely used white clays because they're mild on skin and both draw out water and oil making your pores temporarily appear smaller. White clay is the best place to start for its ability to soothe, repair and revitalise. While it’s suitable for all skin types, white clay is especially beneficial for sensitive, dry or mature skin.
Red clay: Introducing the king of clays: red clay owes its hue to a high concentration of powerful iron oxide which stimulates and revitalises skin for a bright, radiant complexion. Red clay soothes irritations, reduces redness, absorbs excess sebum and evens skin tone. Tick, tick and tick.
Pink clay: Combining the powerful properties of red and white clay, pink clay provides instant gratification (aka that ‘gram-worthy glow) to sensitive or reactive skin types in need a well-balanced dose of TLC. Pink clay cleanses without irritation to restore radiance, reduce redness, smooth and hydrate.
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Green clay: Prevent acne and oil from running the show with super absorbent green clay. Green clay contains more minerals than white clay making it particularly apt at extracting toxins, regulating sebum production, reducing the appearance of blackheads and enlarged pores, and mattifying your complexion.
Purple clay: If your complexion is more tired and dull than a Monday afternoon, purple clay may be your saving grace. Purple clay smooths and purifies the skin with a lower concentration of mineral salts ideally suited to dry and delicate skin. It’s not the most readily available clay, but sought-after nonetheless.
Yellow clay: Yellow clay’s gentleness is ideal for dry, sensitive and mature skin. It causes less irritation as it cleanses impurities and stimulates the production of collagen due to lower levels of iron oxide.
Which clay mask is right for you?
Regardless of which clay mask you choose, be prepared to have to shop around before you find your perfect match for your skin type. While cult brands may seem like a good starting point, it’s important to look past the hype.
If you’re susceptible to flare-ups, keep an eye out for potential irritants such as phthalates, alcohol, lanolin, sulfates, and artificial dyes and fragrances. Sensitive skin types will do well from soothing and nourishing ingredients like chamomile, aloe, manuka honey, jojoba, oatmeal and shea butter etc.
Particularly oily skin types will appreciate formulas that have been combined with ultra-detoxifying charcoal, or alpha or beta-hydroxy acids which encourage natural exfoliation to smooth, tighten, firm and brighten.
“Clay is a powerful ingredient,” says Dr Sobel, “but when you combine it with charcoal, it works overtime to draw out impurities and toxins from deep within pores, reducing their appearance and leaving skin soft, refined and revived.”
If you suffer from dry or ageing skin, clay masks packed with antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, or ingredients renown for hydration and repair (think evening primrose, olive oil, apricot, berries etc) will protect and brighten without the abrasion.
If in doubt, multi-mask it out
Chances are, as you read through the aforementioned clays and their benefits, you’re probably thinking that you need them all - and you’re not alone. Enter, multi-masking.
Multi-masking has become widely practised in beauty regimens for those who have combination complexions and multiple complaints to address. Shiny t-zone, dry jawline, dehydrated eye area… that kind of thing.
Tips for using a clay mask
Apply to a cleansed face using clean hands
Use consistently! Aim for 1-2 times per week
Apply moisturiser immediately after rinsing off your clay mask
Multi-mask to target skin concerns
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Words: Terri Dunn
What are your favourite clay masks?