Best Clay Masks

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

52 Models Considered
9 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
402 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best clay masks

Last Updated September 2019

The use of clay for masks and beauty rituals dates back thousands of years. Cleopatra was a fan. So were the ancient Romans, including Pliny the Elder, who wrote about the uses of clay for treating blackheads, pimples, and for tightening skin. Today, there are many options for face masks, including sheet masks and rubber masks, but if you have acne-prone or oily skin, clay masks are unrivaled. The clay naturally detoxifies skin, absorbing grease, drying pimples, and clearing clogged pores.

There are a few different types of clay used in these masks, such as white, red, and green. Bentonite clay is a classic, potent clay used not only in face masks but also for hair and scalp treatments. Many clay masks are drying to skin, but with the right moisturizing routine and application, this can be minimized. Some clay masks include hydrating ingredients as well.

Not sure where to start? Keep reading our shopping guide on clay masks, including a breakdown of the different types of clay and tips on usage. If you’re in a hurry, check out our top recommend products that we’ve vetted for quality and price.

The texture of clay naturally exfoliates skin.

Key considerations

What are clay masks?

Clay masks are designed to be applied to the face for a short period of time: 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the brand and skin sensitivity. Bentonite and some green clay masks come in a powder form that needs to be mixed with water or apple cider vinegar to a form a paste that is then applied to the face. Clay masks are typically washed off with water or, in some cases, peeled off.

Clay masks are purifying due to clay’s natural ability to detoxify and draw out impurities. This includes congestion like blackheads and other debris or dirt trapped deep in your pores. Clay is also super absorbent and soaks up any excess sebum and rebalances oil. Clay even exfoliates the skin. All these properties help clear up and prevent acne.

Lastly, clay masks have a tightening effect on the skin, minimizing pores and leaving you with a shiny glow and a complexion that looks and feels squeaky clean.

Types of clay

  • White: White clay masks generally consist of either bentonite or kaolin clay.

    • Calcium bentonite clay is formed from volcanic ash. Its super-absorbent quality makes it a champion detoxifier. Some users even ingest a small amount to detox the body of heavy metals, pesticides, and other harmful toxins (but please don’t attempt this without medical supervision). It also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which is why bentonite is a favorite with acne sufferers.

    • Kaolin clay is another white clay that is popular in masks that provide deep pore cleansing. It’s not as absorbent as bentonite clay, making it better suited for dry or sensitive skin. It also provides mild exfoliation and a softening effect on the skin. Yellow kaolin clay offers even stronger exfoliation and oil absorbency.

  • Red: Red clay, like Rhassoul (or Ghassoul) clay from Morocco, is a mineral-rich clay containing high amounts of silica, potassium, and magnesium — all great for the skin. This negatively charged clay attracts impurities like a magnet and unclogs congested, blackhead-riddled skin. Red clay also helps even out skin tone and reduces redness caused by hyperpigmentation.

  • Green: European green clay, or illite, is a great option for sensitive-complected folks. Derived from a combo of volcanic ash and mineral-rich decomposing plants, green clay softens dry and/or rough skin. It also does all the good things red and white clay masks do: tones skin, reduces pores, draws out impurities, and rebalances oil, but with a gentler effect on your skin. These masks often come as powders that need to be activated by water.

  • Pink: Pink or rose clay masks are gentler for the skin than white or red clay while being a gentle combo of both clays (red plus white equals pink!) These masks are great for sensitive or dry skin types that are in need of mild exfoliation and detoxification.

Premade vs. powder

Clay masks come in two different forms: premade formulas and powder.

  • Premade: These clay masks can be applied directly from the jar or tube to the face, making them way more convenient than powder. However, the container size is a lot smaller and more expensive than mixing up a clay paste DIY style. Premade clay masks come in cosmetic jars, tubs, or tubes ranging in size from 1.7 to 8.8 ounces.

  • Powder: These clay masks require you to mix the clay powder with water in a separate container. This requires the extra steps of measuring out amounts, mixing, and cleanup. However, a mask in powder form is much more economical than a premade mask, and a big jar or bag of powder can last from months to years. Clay powder, such as bentonite or green clay, comes in jars containing from 3.0 to 16 ounces or in bags of 16 or 32 ounces.
DID YOU KNOW?

It’s best to apply a 1/8- to 1/4-inch-thick layer of clay mask to your face.

DID YOU KNOW?

Bentonite clay carries a slight electrical charge that has a special ability to attract negatively charged toxins deep in the skin.

DID YOU KNOW?

As a clay mask dries on your face, it stimulates blood flow to the capillaries.

Clay mask features

Peel-off: These clay masks come off in easy pieces, like sheet masks. Clay masks are notoriously difficult to remove when hardened (dry), so much so that you could be tempted to swear off them altogether. Peel-off clay masks can save you a lot of frustration.

Moisturizing: These clay mask offer hydrating ingredients to offset the drying effect of clay on the skin. These might include plant-based oils like jojoba or shea butter.

Dead sea mud: Sourced from the Dead Sea in Israel, a wellness destination for tourists, this mud has been touted for its healing properties since ancient times. The “mud” is in fact sedimentary clay chock-full of 21 minerals and purifying abilities, as well as  a hydrating component. Look for this imported ingredient added to clay masks.

Activated charcoal: This ingredient sometimes featured in clay masks is detoxifying all on its own. Charcoal is also superb at combating acne-prone skin.

Pore-refining and cooling

For sufferers of oily skin and blackheads, this clay mask is, in fact, super. After one application, watch pores shrink and oily skin turn to a matte finish. Its lingering cooling effect is also nice on skin that’s prone to reddening, especially when using clay masks.

Clay mask prices

Inexpensive: The lowest-priced clay masks are bentonite clay powder. Expect to pay $7 to $15 for a one-pound quantity. Green clay mask powder also is priced in the higher end of this range, and up to $18 for a pound. You can also score drugstore-brand, premade clay masks in this price bracket.

Mid-range: Mid-priced clay masks range from $15 to $20 and are generally premade and may include red clay, kaolin clay, and features like Dead Sea mud and activated charcoal.

Expensive: High-end clay masks run anywhere from $21 to $40, and even upwards of $50. These include pink clay and may also contain bonus skincare ingredients like collagen.

Tried and true

A wildly popular DIY clay mask that’s no longer the secret to busting acne. When mixed with water or apple cider vinegar, this pure, unadulterated bentonite powder creates a clay paste that pulsates on your face as it brings impurities to the surface. This is a potent acne treatment that won’t break the bank.

Tips

  • Do a patch test first. Even if you’ve used a clay mask before, if you’re switching to a different type of clay or a new brand, always do a patch test first to see how your skin reacts.

  • Apply a clay mask to your neck, back, or chest. Clay masks don’t have to be limited to the face. Apply one to any other area prone to breakouts.

  • Apply the mask with a spatula or brush. This will help you to evenly coat the skin and reduce mess.

  • Use it as a spot treatment. A clay mask can also double as a natural spot treatment for acne breakouts.

  • Don’t wait for a clay mask to dry completely. It’s a common mistake. Rinse off the mask when it starts to dry (the outer edges turn a lighter color) to prevent irritating and dehydrating the skin.

  • Remove the mask with a washcloth and lukewarm water. Wipe gently. Clay masks can be difficult to remove, but go at it by wiping more frequently, not harder. Follow up with a moisturizer.

Other products we considered

If you’re in the market for a cheap mask but want to avoid the hassle of mixing it up yourself, look no further than this incredibly inexpensive L’Oreal Paris Skincare Pure-Clay Face Mask. Containing red algae (to shrink pores) and three types of clay, its creamy formula won’t leave your skin dying of thirst. It contain montmorillonite clay, which is much gentler on the skin than other types, and combined with kaolin and Moroccan red clay, it’ll still do the trick on excess oil while providing mild exfoliation. For a luxury clay mask, the Pure Biology Premium Face Mask is a premade, bentonite-and-kaolin-clay combo that works on all skin types, including acne-prone and sensitive skin. It’s packed with premium skincare ingredients like retinol to diminish fine lines and wrinkles, collagen and B vitamins to restore moisture to the skin, and alpha hydroxy acids to even and brighten skin tone. Expect luminous skin to follow after using this high-end mask.

You may experience a contracting and tingling sensation on your skin as the clay mask dries and hardens.

FAQ

Q. How often should I use a clay mask?
A.
Most beauty experts recommend using a clay mask once a week. However, if your skin is excessively oily, two to three times a week may benefit you. Some clay masks are milder than others, so factor that in as well as your skin’s sensitivity.

Q. How long should I leave a clay mask on my face?
A.
Clay masks can be left on the skin anywhere from 3 to 20 minutes for best results. It is not recommended that you leave a clay mask on for more than 20 minutes because it can be dehydrating and strip your skin of its natural oils. Beauty experts recommend removing the clay mask when it’s still damp, not when it’s already dry. Since every skin type is different, see what length of time works best for your skin, and always follow the directions on the label.

Q. What’s the difference between a clay mask and a mud mask?
A.
Although they’re sometimes used interchangeably in the beauty industry, clay and mud masks are kind of but not really the same thing. Clay is a more defined term, containing certain minerals and particle sizes. Mud has a more all-encompassing definition: it can contain soil, silt, and clay, and it may or may not contain minerals. However, most mud masks on the market contain kaolin, a common type of clay found in clay masks. It’s up for debate which masks are better for your skin, however.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ana
    Ana
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Ola
    Ola
    Writer

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