How Do Clay Masks Work?

There's nothing that feels quite as satisfying as a clay mask, especially when you're dealing with a fresh breackout or your skin feels extra greasy. The way the clay hardens and tightens on your skin can make it feel like it's, truly, definitely working.

But are they truly doing that much for your skin? And how do clay masks work? The good news: Clay has legitimate benefits, especially for certain skin types. Here's exactly how clay masks work—and what they can do to improve your skin in the long run.

If you had a dollar for every clay mask ever produced, you'd be en route to somewhere warm on your private jet. It's not only masks, either. Clay is popular in skincare products, in general, because it's so effective at clearing out skin.

"Clays help to detoxify the skin and draw out impurities and oils from the surface of the skin," says cosmetic chemist Peter Konish, the Director of Product Development and Strategic Product Innovation for the Prestige Beauty at Johnson & Johnson. "This is especially helpful to those people with acne or oily-prone skin." But even if breakouts do not plague you—in which case, lucky you—clays can be rich in minerals and acids that can benefit other skin types, too.

If you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may already be very familiar with clay masks. Clay is popular for these skin types for a good reason. "It helps draw out the impurities as well as absorb excess oils that are on the surface of the skin," explains Konish. "Additionally, it helps reduce excess shine." You can kiss your clogged pores goodbye.

How Do Clay Masks Work

Everything you need to know about clay masks.

The extraordinary cleansing power of green clay

It's been used for donkey's years, and now green clay's back under the cosmetic spotlight. Not least because of its amazing detoxifying properties. Here's the lowdown.

Green Clay, What's The Deal?

This highly valued clay is known to treat a number of ailments. It's been slowly creeping back into the limelight. Here's why a humble mud, which is dried to make a powder, has once again taken the beauty world by storm.

Green clay can be dissolved in water and drunk (you'll find it in specialist shops) or applied externally in cosmetics - purifying face masks being the most popular choice.

A Turbo-Charged Skin-Friendly Detox

Green clay is used to deeply purify the skin. When applied as a mask, it draws out impurities (just like a magnet) without drying our skin. Indeed, quite the opposite.

Whilst it sucks up grime, sebum and makeup, it also pumps our skin full of beneficial minerals.

It's packed with silica, aluminium, calcium, iron, magnesium, selenium, zinc and potassium. It softens, hydrates and revitalizes skin whilst giving it a thorough cleanse. It combats ageing and re-oxygenates our skin.

How Green Clay Helps Our Faces

Apply a green clay mask (paying attention to the troublesome T-zone but avoiding the eyes), leave it to work for several minutes and then rinse off and dry your face. Your skin will be freed of impurities. You'll have clean, smooth and glowing skin.

And once your skin can breathe, it'll be adequately oxygenated. If you suffer from pimples/blackheads or live/work in a highly polluted area, then applying a green clay face mask several times a week will give your skin a purifying world of good.

Green, pink, white: try all the colours of the clay rainbow.

Clay has been used as a quick and effective beauty trick for thousands of years worldwide.

It's a star ingredient that comes in loads of colours, thanks to different mineral properties, and they all meet different skincare needs. Here's your colour-coded guide to which one to use.

Green Clay Controls Sebum

clay mask

Green clay, often called French green clay, is the most commonly used in skincare, and it's great for combination oily and acne-prone skin. It is a bio-mineral that is made up of both decomposed plant material and trace minerals, and as such, is naturally rich in calcium, aluminium and magnesium.

This helps to purify, regenerate and detoxify the skin while controlling excess sebum. It is also a highly effective antibacterial, making it an all-around great skincare product.

Pink Clay Softens

A subtle blend of red and white clay, pink clay is the gentlest of all the clays, making its cleansing action fantastic for sensitive and irritated skin.

Rich in trace elements, which include kaolinite, iron and calcite, pink clay aids regeneration of skin cells, and used once a week, it will calm and moisturize the skin.

White Clay Purifies

White clay is essentially kaolin and is known for its gentle cleansing qualities. Its silica-rich properties make it brilliant for softening, purifying and cleansing sensitive skin without irritating. It doesn't draw out oils, so it is ideal for dry skin, too.

Red Clay Brightens

Thanks to its complex range of minerals, red clay is highly absorbent and has excellent exfoliating properties. It has been used for centuries to help restore radiance to tired faces, even out skin tone, close pores and smooth skin.

If you are susceptible to blackheads, regular treatment with red clay will work wonders. You'll also notice a difference if you suffer from dry, flaky skin.

Black Clay Detoxifies

Known for its iron-rich content and oxygenating properties, black clay contains active cleansing ingredients that nourish skin and eliminate toxins.

It is also rich in magnesium and calcium and is great for combatting blocked pores and smoothing out wrinkles.

How does clay work when applied to my skin?

Detox, healing, soothing, cleansing, hydrating, remineralizing… We all know the good a clay mask can do to our face. But which is the best addition to your specific skincare routine? We take a look.

White Clay Mask For Dry Skin

Kaolin clay is perfect for dry skin: as it is "washed" by rainwater or streams, it is the least rich clay in metals, and therefore the most gentle addition to your skincare routine. It also has fortifying properties; it encourages the elimination of toxins and will remineralize the skin.

Green Clay Mask For Combination to Oily Skin

It is the perfect clay for combination to oily skin and traditionally the most popular in France for clay masks, as it is widely known as the most versatile kind of clay.

It is recommended for combination skin to oily skin as it absorbs and regulates excess sebum. It can also be used on spots to dry them out. 

Yellow Clay Mask For Mature Skin

The manganese content of yellow clay adds a regenerating effect to your skincare routine.

This natural anti-wrinkle substance is rich in minerals and will stimulate the production of iron and collagen, which will improve cell oxygenation and tone up the skin.

Red Clay For Tired Skin

Red clay boasts soothing and detoxifying properties, making it ideal for tired skin suffering from reactions and rosacea.

It is rich in oligo-elements and iron, boosts circulation and brings radiance and glow back to your skin. It is the perfect clay mask for dull skin!

Pink Clay Mask For Sensitive Skin

Pink clay is a combination of 3/4 white clay and 1/4 red clay and is ideal for sensitive skin.

It softens and cares for intolerant skin that is prone to redness. So, add it to your skincare routine if you are looking for a clay mask that cleans delicate skin deeply without irritating it.

clay masks

Purple Clay Mask For Fragile Skin

Purple clay is a mixture of several natural clays that make it particularly rich in calcium and low mineral salts. Its properties are similar to white clay, making it particularly useful for fragile, delicate skin. It softens and purifies the skin while fighting inflammation.

This mud has been used since the dawn of time to heal, beautify and purify the skin. Natural, inexpensive and very effective, clay is the active star ingredient in many cosmetic products.

Clay, A Natural Beauty Product

Clay is soil that's formed from the decomposition of sedimentary rocks. 100% natural, it's packed with minerals (silica, iron, magnesium) which, in turn, determine both its colour - pink, green, white, blue, grey- as well as its properties. In addition to its organic properties, clay is 'clever', as its ingredients are activated when moistened and will naturally focus on the imperfection being treated.

From ridding the skin of impurities and toxins to balancing excess sebum, drying spots, healing, cleansing, helping to repair damaged skin... This is nature at its best!

Different Clays Treat Different Imperfections

There are numerous varieties of clay, and each one can target a specific problem. Green, pink and white clays are the best known and are widely used in cosmetics: green absorbs excess sebum and mattifies the skin, pink soothes irritations and white clay - AKA kaolin - gently purifies.

And that's not all! Yellow clay purifies and exfoliates the face, red brightens the complexion and refines skin texture, black removes toxins, and purple is a great cleanser. As for rhassoul clay (known as the cleansing clay), it rids the skin of impurities without affecting the hydrolipidic film.

Clay Face Masks

The earthy texture of clay makes it ideal for masks or poultices, combined with a few drops of vegetable oils. Face masks are worth their weight in gold, as they both cleanse and heal, with an immediate soothing and boosting effect. By applying a thick layer to the face, clay masks increase the penetration of its ingredients: the skin benefits from an active soak!

To increase its skin brightening effect: steam your face for a few minutes over a bowl of piping hot water. This will open the pores for deeper penetration of the active ingredients. Amazing results in record time!

3 Clay Face Mask Mistakes You Might Be Making

Clay has long been used for its medicinal properties1, in particular when it comes to skincare. Studies2 report that applying certain clays to the skin can help purify, absorb excess oil and refresh the skin's surface, as well as promote the healing of topical blemishes.

However, a number of myths still surround clay face masks. We take a look at the three most common misunderstandings so that you can get the most out of your clay face mask.

MISTAKE 1: NOT CHOOSING THE RIGHT CLAY FOR YOUR SKIN TYPE

What does a clay face mask do for your skin?

Clay is a general term for a variety of natural mineral compositions, and each type of clay has different properties – meaning they each suit different skin types and concerns to promote skin health.

White clay is a fine-grained gentle purifier that reduces excess oil without drying the skin (great for sensitive and dry skin), while green clay has more powerful absorption properties, making it suitable for oily skin types.

Charcoal - almost pure carbon, so, not a clay - is reputed for its ability to draw out impurities and toxins.4

MISTAKE 2: LEAVING YOUR CLAY FACE MASK ON FOR OVER TEN MINUTES

Is it bad to wear a clay face mask for too long? Clay face masks permeate into the skin to soak up excess oil (absorption) while also attracting and binding impurities (adsorption).

However, this also means that clay face masks can end up drying out the skin if left on for too long.

Instead of waiting for your clay face mask to dry out entirely, it's better to leave it on for no more than ten minutes – as recommended for Vichy's Pore Purifying Clay Mask.

If you are wondering what you do after a clay mask and if your skin feels dry or tight after removing a clay mask, follow with the soothing Minéral 89 hyaluronic acid face moisturizer to rehydrate.

MISTAKE 3: ALL-OVER CLAY MASK APPLICATION

Different areas of the face have separate requirements. You might have an oily T-zone, for example, but dry skin around the cheeks.

Applying the same clay face mask everywhere won't necessarily help treat the different concerns and may even aggravate the skin in places.

Instead, opt for targeted application or multi-masking. This means either limiting your mask to the affected areas or using separate masks on different areas of your face.