I spent the greater part of my youth marinating beneath a thick coat of Amazonian clay powder mixed with apple cider vinegar. It would literally crack and start to fall off in chunks – presumably taking half my barrier with it. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t great for my acne-prone skin, but there had long been this belief that an “effective” clay mask was one that would dry the sh*t out of your face.
Maybe for some people this still rings true, but generally speaking, it’s smarter to go for a gentle clay mask that will clear out pores and blackheads without taking all your precious water content with it. And praise be, the skincare industry has come so far that there are countless products that do just that.
So if you’re in the market for a treatment product that’s deeply cleansing but not going to hurt, take your pick out of the below.
BEST FOR NORMAL TO COMBINATION SKIN
Go-to Skincare The removalist, $48. shop now
If you like your skincare both effective and grape candy-scented, familiarise yourself with this lush clay mask from Go-To. It’s full of koalin and zinc to clean pores and reduce shine, willow bark to prevent breakouts and vitamin e to prevent over-drying. It’s unique in that it doesn’t really “set”, but still remove it after 10 or so minutes with a warm flannel. Follow up with a nourishing serum and you’ll be smooth, bright and clear.
BEST FOR DAILY USE
Chanel Beauty Anti -pollution vitamin clay mask, $82. shop now
French clay is thought to be a more gentle option when compared to other clays (like bentonite and kaolin), and it makes sense it’s the star ingredient in this cleanser-mask hybrid from Chanel. Creamy and thick, you can use it daily to remove all traces of makeup, dirt and SPF, or once a week as a treatment. Unlike traditional clay-based products, this doesn’t dry out or tighten – instead, it leaves the skin soft and purified.
BEST FOR BREAKOUTS Biologique Recherche Mask Vivant. SHOP NOw
Acne needs three things to flourish: an over-production of sebum, abnormal skin cell turnover and the presence of P. acne bacteria. Mask Vivant works by encouraging good bacteria growth on the skin, thus forcing the bad P. acne varietal to buzz right off. It does this through mass quantities of yeast extract (hence the Vegemite smell), alongside lactic acid and kaolin clay. Use it to ward off breakouts, and to treat existing spots – it works equally well all over the complexion of as a spot treatment. Hardcore BR users might even want to add a sprinkle of bicarb soda to really boost its cleansing powers.
BEST FOR A DEEP CLEAN
Omorovicza Deep cleansing mask, $143. shop now
Rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium, fulvic acid, kaolin and white clay, this stuff glides across the skin like butter. Rather than drying out, it seems to sink into the skin, mopping up bad stuff (oil, dirt, dead skin) and leaving calm, clear, soothed skin behind. Think of it as an intelligent version of the mud masks you’d wear as a teen.
BEST FOR DRY SKIN Dr. barbara sturm face Mask, $171. shop now
Yes, this costs a pretty penny but it’s magic. There’s something about the combination of kaolin, sweet almond oil, fermented extracts, chamomile and purslane that refine the look of pores without dulling or drying out the skin. The secret is in its removal – instead of washing it off, Dr. Sturm suggests rubbing the mask off with fingers. This method increases circulation and leaves you looking like a baby-faced cherub.
BEST FOR BLACKHEADSKiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque, $51. shop now
A classic for a reason, this mask from Kiehl’s wields serious power when it comes to dislodging stubborn blackheads. A hard-hitting blend of bentonite and kaolin draw out oil and dead skin cells, while allantoin prevents too much irritation. Use it on particularly congested parts of the face and body, like the nose, chin and shoulders.