“Breakthrough formula” is frequently used to describe any new beauty product that hits the market. It may be true for some science-backed launches, but new doesn’t always mean better. There are many tried-and-true skin care ingredients that have been around for years, if not centuries. Clay is one such humble-yet-effective ingredient that may not get a lot of buzz but endures as an essential component of many of today’s best-selling products.
One of the reasons clay has remained a staple, especially in masks, is its versatility. According to Dr. Jamé Heskett, author of The Well Path, clay absorbs excess oil, cleanses, exfoliates, improves circulation and binds to toxins. Additionally, clay is able to reduce swelling and inflammation. It’s beneficial for all skin types, including those with rosacea or redness, dull skin, acne and fine lines.
There are multiple forms of clay found in beauty products, the most common being bentonite, rhassoul, red clay, kaolin, green clay, fuller’s earth and pink clay. Tara Pelletier, founder of Meow Meow Tweet, says there’s a good clay match for each skin type. French green clay is known for its toning and stimulating effects, so it’s ideal for oily and combination skin types. Those with sensitive skin can try kaolin clay, which gently exfoliates without being too drawing. When trying out a new product, Sarah Hamilton, co-founder of Sand & Sky, recommends doing a patch test before applying it to the entire face to ensure it’s suitable.
Because of clay’s deep-cleaning ability, the ingredient can sometimes dry out skin when used too frequently. Experts agree that it’s best to limit clay masks and products to two to three times a week for oily skin and one to two times per week for dry skin.
Click through the gallery above to see the 12 best clay masks for your face that work like a vacuum to dislodge deep-down dirt and oil from pores.