How to choose the right clay mask for your skin

It’s one of earth’s oldest ingredients, but new innovations are turning clay into beauty’s hottest property. The benefits are proven, but which clay is best for you? By SHANNON PETER


Why is clay on our radar again?

Using clay is not a new idea. But as the demand for natural, wholesome ingredients increases, scientists are spending more time refining them, resulting in infinitely more powerful products. Plus, the sensorial qualities have vastly improved – a far cry from crack-when-you-smile face masks that leave skin tight and dry. “The clays themselves haven’t changed,” explains Colette Haydon, founder of cult brand Lixirskin, “but we are now able to focus in on the specific qualities of clay and purify them so that they are even more effective. Newer clay products combine hydrating agents, making them creamier, easier to use and more comfortable.”

Skincare companies are investing in finding finessed ways to harness clay’s skin benefits, with potent active ingredients and more moisturizing formulas. Niod Myrrh Clay Mask, for example, is thinner than most, so there’s none of that disturbing face-freezing effect. This new generation of sophisticated masks is not just for oily and acne-prone skins – they’re suitable for almost everyone.

Which mask is right for your skin type?

Congested or oily skin: With the ability to draw debris from below the dermis surface, clay masks are ideal if you need a pore-deep clean. “Clay is great at absorbing what we don’t want in our skin by drawing out impurities and sebum from deep inside pores,” explains Haydon. Treat problem areas with Dr Sebagh Skin Perfecting Mask: the kaolin clay targets grime and harmful pollution particles.

Dry or dehydrated skin: Surprisingly, dry skin can also benefit from clay, according to NYC-based esthetician Joanna Czech: “It detaches dehydrated patches from the skin, creating a smoother, brighter complexion.” This Works Evening Detox Clay Mask contains fruit acids to break down dull skin cells, while Lixirskin’s Soft Clay Rubber mask rubs off, lifting up dead skin cells as it goes.

Sensitive or irritated skin: The cooling properties of clay work wonders on inflamed skin – try Aesop’s calming Chamomile Concentrate Anti-Blemish Masque – while also offering a tightening (not uncomfortable) effect. After ten minutes underneath the Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask, skin emerges looking lifted and cheekbones appear more defined. Don’t be tempted to treat the eye, though: “Avoid the eye area with all clay masks, as they drain sebum and this skin has less sebum than other areas of the face,” warns Czech.

If you don’t have time for a mask…

Clay masks aren’t instant fixes: you need to commit around 10-15 minutes while they work. Clay-infused cleansers provide similar pore-clearing benefits without the wait. Elizabeth Arden Superstart Probiotic Cleanser takes on multiple textures throughout the cleansing process to purge pores, while African Botanics Marula Baobab Clay Oxygenating Cleanser contains vitamin C and African potato extract to brighten and soothe. Use after a long-haul flight or if city living is taking its toll to leave your skin feeling nourished and soft.

The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown.