10 best clay face masks
Up the ante on your skincare routine with a cleansing, reinvigorating clay treatment
Face masks are an under-appreciated addition to skincare routines, either consigned to the retro, peel-off variety of teenage sleepovers or else saved for those once-a-year evenings where you actually have time for a bath and some ‘pamper time’. But, used once or twice a week, a good clay mask can go a long way to draw out impurities, brighten dull, tired skin and, in the long term, help prevent breakouts.
The two most common types of clay you’ll find in masks are kaolin and bentonite, both of which mattify by absorbing excess sebum and draw impurities out of clogged pores, but many of the best also include exfoliating acids and doses of vitamins to resurface and treat tired skin.
All of the masks we tested work best massaged gently into the skin with your fingertips, left for the prescribed amount of time (anywhere between three and 15 minutes) and then gently removed with a damp flannel. Don’t feel you have to go for the full face – if you have combination skin and find clay can be drying on your cheeks, try only using your mask on oily or congested areas, and many of them also work well to help reduce redness and speed up healing of spots when used as a treatment.
1. Balance Me Radiance Face Mask: £18, Balance Me
We love Balance Me for the brand’s winning combination of reasonable prices, natural ingredients (in this case, kaolin clay to purify and fruit acid to exfoliate) and brilliant results, and this mask is no different. Our tester found that it left her dry and slightly sensitive skin moisturised, smooth and noticeably brighter.
2. Origins Clears Improvement Active Charcoal Mask: £23, Origins
Efficiency is the order of the day with this mask. Our tester found that it gave their skin a really deep clean, leaving pores visibly clearer, and dramatically reduced breakouts when used twice a week over four weeks. It does dry to the point that it’s not easy to take off, so we recommend lightly going over it with a warm, damp flannel first to get some moisture back into the mask before applying pressure to remove to avoid aggravating your skin.
3. Eve Lom Rescue Mask: £35, Eve Lom
Every now and again you stumble across a wonder product, and this is one of them. Pores are cleared and tightened without sking being stripped of all moisture or aggravated (perfect for normal-dry skin types). Our tester found that using it twice a week almost entirely eliminated breakouts – straight into the hall of fame.
4. GlamGlow Supermud Clearing Treatment: £40, Feel Unique
Eve Lom’s Rescue Mask may be a new entry to the hall of fame, but GlamGlow has been there for a while. The original formula has been revamped for Supermud so that as well as the pore-cleaning power of mineral ash and clays, it also contains glycolic, lactic and salicylic acids to refine the skin’s texture. Fantastic for oily skin or areas, but perhaps not one for sensitive or dry skin types.
5. Simple Kind to Skin Deep Cleansing Face Mask: £3.99, Boots
It may be cheap and cheerful, but our tester found that this does a remarkably good job at clearing pores and reducing redness and swelling of spots compared to the big-money brands. It is perfume-free and really gentle so good for sensitive skin, and also gives your skin a vitamin boost (E and B5). Not bad at all for under a fiver.
6. Liz Earle Deep Cleansing Mask: £15.75, Liz Earle
Liz Earle’s mask is a great choice for regular use as it is gentle on skin, keeps breakouts at bay and not so expensive that you don't want to use it too often. A thin layer twice a week absorbs excess oil and brings impurities to the surface, while softening ingredients such as aloe vera and manuka honey soothe any irritation or inflammation. Remove with the exfoliating sponges included.
7. Sisley Radiant Glow Mask with Red Clay: £73, John Lewis
I really didn’t want to like this product because it is so eye-wateringly expensive, so it is with a heavy heart that I have to report that I love it. Unlike most of the masks here, it doesn’t give a deep clean, but goes on really creamy and leaves pores tighter and skin glowing in just three minutes and has no drying effect. It’s become my go-to for a super-speedy pep-up before a night out or to fake a good night’s sleep the next morning.
8. Skyn Iceland Fresh Start Mask: £25, Marks & Spencer
Like GlamGlow, this mask uses a mighty combination of blue clay to draw out impurities and AHA acid to gently slough away dead skin cells. Its slightly unusual application requires you to first apply the blue clay, then a layer of the ‘activating gel’ over the top and massage the two together. Leave for 10-15 minutes then flannel off for refreshed, clean and plump skin – the next best thing to a facial at home.
9. Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask: £60, Omorovicza
This is, as our tester commented, “jokes expensive”, but it’s also highly effective. She found that it cleared out pores and left skin smoothed, plumped and moisturised rather than stripping moisture and aggravating. It also works well as an overnight spot treatment to reduce swelling and redness.
10. Estee Lauder NightWear Plus 3-Minute Detox Mask: £32, Estee Lauder
One of the biggest appeals of this product is that it takes just three minutes to do the kind of deep cleaning that many take 10-15 minutes to achieve, which makes it a realistic midweek addition to your skincare routine – no need to save it for special occasions. It also has the same lovely refreshing cucumber-like scent of the rest of the DayWear/NightWear range. Our tester found it fairly drying, even on combination skin, so follow it up with a good facial oil or night cream.
Our money is (literally) on GlamGlow and Eve Lom for a super-efficient, glow-giving deep clean, but for almost-as-good results at half the price, Balance Me and Origins’ offerings are vying for first place.
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