Whether your skin is dull, congested, or shiny, a clay mask is hands-down one of the best treatments to help refine and rebalance it. “Clay masks are good for a wide variety of skin types and concerns,” explains Dr. Jeanette Graf, a board-certified dermatologist. “They can brighten your skin, absorb excess oils and toxins, hydrate, prevent breakouts, restore skin’s balance, regulate sebum production, oxygenate your cells, and more.”
So no matter what your skin type, it’s a great product to have on hand as either a quick fix or a weekly ritual. But not all clays (and clay masks) are the same, so it’s important to choose a formulation that aligns with your needs. For example, oily complexions will fare well with a detoxifying option, whereas dry complexions will require additional moisture.
To narrow down the options, we handpicked 24 of the most popular clay masks on the market and asked our testers to try them out. After putting the clay masks to the test in The Lab, our Manhattan testing facility, testers judged each one based on feel, consistency, and overall skin appearance. The highest-rated products made this list. Keep reading to discover the best clay masks of 2023, according to our testers.
Cetaphil Pro DermaControl Purifying Clay Mask
Gently shrinks pores
Creamy, luxurious texture
Can cause purging
Very few masks can target a wide range of skincare concerns as effectively as this one from Cetaphil. The mask contains bentonite clay, which is a potent detoxification agent, making it ideal for people looking to combat excess oil and acne. Whether you use your fingers or a brush to apply, we love that it’s super creamy and goes on evenly (aka doesn’t clump or get patchy).
According to our tester, it feels like a “luxurious cream” that slowly dries down and feels slightly tingly. This didn’t really bother the tester; in fact, she said it was her favorite part about the mask. When she washed it off, she was in complete awe at the state of her skin, going as far as saying that the texture looked as smooth as “a baby’s bottom.” Plus, the pores on her nose—one of her biggest problem areas—looked like they shrunk in a matter of minutes, prompting her to call this mask a “masterpiece.”
You may experience some purging, or the skin’s response to an active ingredient that increases cell turnover, in the form of increased breakouts. But don’t worry—this is totally normal and a sign that the mask is actually hard at work getting rid of the gunk in your pores.
Price at time of publish: $13
Ingredients: Bentonite clay, Kaolin clay, Cucumber seed extract | Size: 0.3 oz.
What Our Testers Say
“I would take out a billboard and advertise this stuff so everyone would know how good it is. I wish they sold it in buckets so I’d have enough to slather all over my body.” — Elena Garcia, Associate Commerce Director, Beauty Testing
Best Overall, Runner Up
OLEHENRIKSEN Cold Plunge Pore Mask
Cooling and refreshing
Contains pore-clogging avocado oil
Inspired by the “cold plunge” part of a Scandinavian sauna cycle, the cooling mask deeply purifies the skin and shrinks the look of pores with the help of a powerful blend of antioxidants, active botanicals, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and bentonite clay. As the name suggests, it’s refreshingly cool upon application (thanks to eucalyptus, kelp, and Irish moss extracts) and, according to our tester, even smells like a spa. She described the cooling sensation to be “minty” and “tingly,” but her sensitive skin never felt irritated or uncomfortable. The longer she kept the mask on, the tighter and drier it felt, but she was able to talk, laugh and move her face. When she washed it off, she shared that her enlarged pores were less noticeable, and the tone of her skin appeared more even. For at least an hour after washing the mask off, she still felt refreshed, tingly, and cool.
It’s worth noting that although the mask targets pores, avocado oil (an ingredient present in the formula) can be potentially comedogenic for some skin types. We recommend testing the mask on a small patch of skin to see how it will react before applying it to your entire face.
Price at time of publish: $41
Ingredients: Bentonite clay, Salicylic acid, Avocado oil, Peppermint oil | Size: 0.3 oz.
What Our Testers Say
“I would highly recommend this product to friends and family. Using the mask felt like I was going through a spa experience. It is a little pricey at $41 for 3 oz., but a little bit goes a long way, and I feel totally refreshed.” —Amy Kwan, Product Tester
L'Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Detox & Brighten Face Mask
Not ideal for sensitive skin
Get the most bang for your buck and check out this clay face mask from L’Oréal Paris. Packed with three types of clay (including kaolin, montmorillonite, and ghassoul) and charcoal, an ingredient that doubles down on excess sebum, this hard-working drugstore mask is a nice treatment for oily, congested skin. According to our tester, the mask dries down quickly—almost upon contact with the skin—but doesn’t feel tight or restrictive. She was pleasantly surprised by how easy and mess-free the removal process was, despite the mask being jet-black in color. Her skin was “balanced” and “clean” after the mask, which is all you can ask for.
Charcoal and clay have similar benefits (like exfoliation and oil absorption), but when combined together, they can really pack a punch. While this can be great for some skin types that need a little extra help, those with sensitive or highly reactive skin might want to use this mask sparingly or find something more gentle.
Price at time of publish: $13
Ingredients: Moroccan lava clay, Charcoal powder | Size: 1.7 oz.
Tatcha The Clarifying Clay Mask Exfoliating Pore Treatment
Thick and luxurious
Unique warming and color-changing formula
If you’re going to spend extra money on a face mask, it better be good. Tatcha’s The Clarifying Clay Mask isn’t just good (it’s great), and there isn’t anything else on the market quite like it. It goes on gray, but once applied to the skin, it turns pinkish red. Though we aren’t sure of the exact reason why the mask changes color, we believe it has something to do with the Japanese volcanic ash and konjac root infused into the formula.
The texture—which our tester described as “luxurious” and “goopy in a good way”—actually has some grit to it, making it an ideal exfoliator. It doesn’t need a long time to work its glow-enhancing magic; in fact, you can feel free to wash it off after five minutes. Post-wash, our tester was pleased with how refreshed, even, and soft her skin was. Though the mask is worth the splurge, we wish it came in a bigger size to get more out of one tub.
Price at time of publish: $70
Ingredients: Kaolin clay, Okinawa kucha clay, Japanese konjac, Japanese volcanic ash | Size: 1.7 oz.
54 Thrones Kahina Lava Cleansing Mask
Generous size tub
Meet the Kahina Lava Cleansing Mask from 54 Thrones—it’s really special. Between the ingredients you can actually pronounce, its affordable price point, and a super-luxe glossy black packaging, it’s no wonder our tester was hooked. Part of what makes the mask so unique—besides ingredients like rhassoul clay powder extracted from deposits found in the Moroccan Atlas mountains, coconut charcoal, marshmallow root, and cacao— is that it comes in powder form. At first, this threw our tester for a loop. But once she mixed the mask up for herself, she totally understood the hype. She admitted that the mixing process can get a little messy, but it’s super easy—all you have to do is mix a tablespoon of the mask with water.
Upon application, the mask felt comfortable. As it dried, our tester noted that it got tighter and tighter, but never to the point where she felt like she couldn’t move. Once dried (around the 10-minute mark), it washed off easily and left her skin looking “brighter and cleaner than before application.”
Price at time of publish: $46
Ingredients: Rhassoul clay, Coconut powder, Charcoal, Rose petal, Vanilla | Size: 3.3 oz.
What Our Testers Say
“My skin looked brighter, less red, and much cleaner after using this mask. It was as if my skin went through a detox.” —Mandy Shum, Product Tester
Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask With Rose Clay
Hygienic squeeze bottle
Creamy yet gritty
Can be very drying
“Kaolin and bentonite clays absorb excess oil and reduce impurities,” explains Dr. Graf, which is why we love this mask from Origins that contains both. To simultaneously exfoliate, smooth, and decongest, you won’t regret giving this one a try. This pretty pink mask is formulated with clay (obviously), exfoliating jojoba beads, and soothing willowherb. The gritty little beads gently exfoliate the surface of the skin, while the willowherb and two types of clay work to restore and clarify. Our tester, who regularly uses a mask in her skincare routine, was surprised by how refreshing this mask felt, calling it a “deep cleanse.” After use, her skin felt clean and smooth. It’s also worth noting that the mask comes in a hygienic squeeze tube that deposits the mask into your hands, preventing contamination from grubby fingers.
Because it has such drying ingredients and abrasive little beads, less is more. Try not to rub too hard, and be sure to wash it off once it’s dried onto your skin. To keep your skin from looking extra dry after using, we recommend following up with a moisturizer.
Price at time of publish: $32
Ingredients: Kaolin clay, Bentonite clay, Grapefruit peel oil, Sugar cane, Willowherb, Exfoliating jojoba beads | Size: 2.5 oz.
Fenty Skin Cookies N Clean Whipped Clay Pore Detox Face Mask with Salicylic Acid and Charcoal
Great for those with acne
Thick and sometimes hard to wash off
At first glance, this mask from Rihanna’s eponymous beauty brand Fenty looks abrasive and tough. But, to our tester’s surprise, it’s actually the complete opposite. In fact, it’s thick, jelly-like, and contains little black beads that break on contact with the skin (instead of scratching it). The mask contains a lovely blend of clays (kaolin and bentonite), charcoal powder, salicylic acid, and ginger root, making it an ideal treatment for those dealing with inflammation. As it dries, it tightens on the skin but doesn’t feel tingly or uncomfortable at any point.
Because the mask is so rich, it can be annoying to get off. Our tester noted that although she got it all off eventually, she said she wishes she could have just jumped in the shower to get it off faster. Nevertheless, her skin appeared “glowy and fresh” after one use, and the tiny clogged pores on her cheeks looked smaller.
Price at time of publish: $32
Ingredients: Kaolin clay, Bentonite clay, Charcoal powder, Salicylic acid, Ginger root extract | Size: 2.5 oz.
What Our Testers Say
“I would recommend this to my friends! I think the product requires consistency to see noticeable changes. If this is put out by Rihanna, it has to be good. She can do no wrong.” — Samantha Aronson, Tester
Mario Badescu Super Collagen Mask
Soothing and calming
Great for dry, dull skin
Tough to remove
Clay masks have a rep for being super drying, but with the right ingredients, they can be really hydrating too. Containing kaolin clay, oat flour, and collagen, this mask from Mario Badescu is a great example. According to our tester, the mask feels good on contact and offers a cooling, hydrating sensation similar to a “thick, refrigerated face cream.” You can expect the mask to sit pretty comfortably on the face (albeit the dryness that typically accompanies clay masks) without burning, stinging, or tingling. She admitted that since it dried so hard (“rock hard” were her exact words), it was tricky to get off. She recommends using lots of water and a gentle hand to remove the mask. Ironically, after she got every last remnant of the mask off, she said her skin felt “more hydrated than before” and ended up skipping out on moisturizer.
Price at time of publish: $18
Ingredients: Kaolin clay, Oat flour, Collagen | Size: 2 oz.
What Our Testers Say
“My skin felt refreshed and more youthful after using this mask. It looks and feels like any impurities from overnight and my commute had washed away. My skin feels soft to the touch. I actually feel comfortable not putting on makeup for the rest of the work day because my skin looks so good barefaced right now.” — Erika Reals, Commerce Editor
Best Pore Cleansing
innisfree Volcanic AHA Pore Clearing Clay Mask
Helps refine clogged pores
Not ideal for sensitive skin
This catch-all mask is a popular one for many reasons, and Dr. Graf agrees. “Ideal for all skin types, this mask utilizes volcanic clusters and alpha-hydroxy acids to minimize the look of pores, absorb sebum, gently exfoliate, deeply cleanse, even out the skin tone, and cleanse away debris.” If you’re eager to address a pore-related problem, this super-potent mask will have an immediate effect on the skin. Our tester swears she noticed that the mask improved the look of her skin in just one use. Her skin appeared brighter, and a breakout looked like it started healing faster than usual. Whether you use it on your entire face or as a spot treatment on a problem area, you’ll want to keep this mask on hand for breakout emergencies.
Price at time of publish: $16
Ingredients: Bentonite clay, Kaolin clay, Volcanic ash, Jeju volcanic clusters, Lactic acid | Size: 3.38 oz.
Fresh Umbrian Clay Pore Purifying Face Mask
Dries in patches
Using Umbrian clay sourced from Italy, this mask from fresh is a favorite among Byrdie editors and testers alike. Because it’s naturally rich in minerals that promote a calm, clear complexion, the mask works exceptionally well to address a bunch of concerns across a wide range of skin types. It has a nice, spreadable texture that glides on easily and doesn’t dry down as much as one might expect. Our tester was surprised, as he usually experiences cracking and drying when he uses clay masks. Although it dried in patches, his skin looked supple and dewy afterward. Overall, he was pleased with the fact that the mask reduced the oiliness on his skin and made his pores look tighter.
Price at time of publish: $60
Ingredients: Bentonite clay, Kaolin clay, Volcanic ash, Jeju volcanic clusters, Lactic acid| Size: 3.38 oz.
Best for Sensitive Skin
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Hyaluronic Clay Pore-Tight Facial Mask
Hydrating and softening
Micro beads may be irritating
Clay masks aren’t known for being the most gentle, which is why we recommend this soothing weekly treatment from Glow Recipe for those with sensitive skin. Formulated with hyaluronic acid, this mask supports the skin’s moisture barrier while also gently purifying and decongesting pores. Those with sensitive skin will appreciate that skin stays soft and dewy despite the fact that it has microbead exfoliants in the form of blueberry seed powder. Our tester described her skin post-mask as “bright, fresh, bouncy, and clean,” which is exactly what one would want after a pore-refining mask. Plus, features like a nice smell and a cute glass pot make it even more enticing.
Price at time of publish: $40
Ingredients: Kaolin clay, Hyaluronic acid, Watermelon enzymes, Beta-hydroxy acids, Blueberry seed powder | Size: 2.03 oz.
Best for Oily Skin
Youth To The People Superclay Purify Clear Power Mask
Kills acne-causing bacteria
Micro beads may be irritating
Shiny skin is no match for this purifying formula, which counts on three different types of clays (kaolin, bentonite, and montmorillonite) niacinamide, salicylic acid, and kombucha to regulate sebum production within the skin. The thick mask is soft and spreadable, which our tester found especially helpful during the application process. It has a subtle cooling sensation, but our tester didn’t mind. She actually loved that she could feel the mask getting to work inside her pores. The pro-grade facial mask only needs to stay on the skin for ten minutes to reach its full potential, so take the time to sit back, relax, and let the mask work its magic. When the time is up, and the mask has dried, wash it off and follow up with an oil-free moisturizer for best results.
Keep in mind that because the mask contains microbeads, you should take caution when applying it to the skin. If you’re too abrasive, you can run the risk of causing irritation.
Price at time of publish: $36
Ingredients: Kaolin clay, Bentonite clay, Montmorillonite clay, Niacinamide, Salicylic acid, Kombucha | Size: 2.03 oz.
buttah Charcoal Detox Mask
Powerful but gentle enough for sensitive skin
Results after repeated use
This mask features antibacterial properties that help remove pore-clogging bacteria. Especially if you have skin prone to acne and blackheads, using a charcoal mask every so often (aka weekly) can be a great addition to your skincare routine. The Charcoal Detox Mask from buttah wowed our testers with its super creamy formula, nourishing ingredients, and ease of removal. The combination of clays alongside the charcoal powder can be drying on their own, but the added shea butter and argan oil help balance everything out. The result: Comfortable, hydrated skin. Our tester raved about how “clean and fresh” her skin felt after using the mask. Though she didn’t notice too much of a difference, it’s important to remember that good things take time. You may have to use the mask repeatedly for a number of weeks before you see any drastic results.
Price at time of publish: $24
Ingredients: Bentonite clay, Kaolin clay, Activated charcoal powder, Argan oil, Shea butter | Size: 1 oz.
Testers loved the Cetaphil Dermacontrol Purifying Clay Face Mask with Bentonite Clay, a super creamy mask for all skin types. The gentle-yet-effective formula harnesses Kaolin and Bentonite clays to purify the skin. If you’re looking to spend a little more, the Tatcha The Clarifying Clay Mask is an all-in-one mask that warms on contact with the skin, opening pores, absorbing excess oil, gently exfoliating, and decongesting skin without irritation.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Jeanette Graf is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Mt Sinai School of Medicine.
- Melanie Grant is a celebrity facialist, esthetician, and founder of Melanie Grant Skin Health, a clinic with outposts in Australia and Los Angeles.
How We Tested Clay Masks
Byrdie editors did extensive research on popular clay masks, taking expert recommendations and consumer reviews into account before choosing 22 to test out first-hand. Our testers applied each clay mask on clean skin with both a cosmetic applicator and their bare hands. Each formula was assessed based on feel, how the mask settled into the skin, efficacy, and overall appearance before deciding on a rating from one to five. Those with the highest scores made the list. All tests were performed in The Lab, our Manhattan product testing facility.
What to Look For in a Clay Mask
Types of Clay
When deciding between clay mask formulas, Dr. Graf recommends paying attention to the type of clay. “There are four different types of clay that are used in face masks for skin health,” she explains. “Although the types of clay used in skin products are meant to draw out impurities and gently cleanse the skin, some are better than others for your skin type.”
White clay (like the clay in Mario Badescu’s Super Collagen Mask) works well with all skin types—especially mature skin. “White clay draws out excess oils and dirt,” she says. “It’s a gentle exfoliant that refines the surface of the skin and works to reduce pore size.” To note: Kaolin clay is a type of white clay.
Green clay, like that of the clay in Ole Henriksen Cold Plunge Pore Mask, is a good go-to for people with oily, acne-prone skin. This type of clay balances pH levels and acts as a strong cleanser. “It soaks up excess oils that can lead to the clogging of pores and acne,” she adds.
Pink clay (like the clay in Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay) is ideal for improving skin elasticity and cell renewal. “This is also ideal for mature skin that has begun to lose its elasticity,” Dr. Graf shares. “Pink clay is a gentle exfoliator that’s light on the skin.”
And, finally, bentonite clay (like in innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask) is known for its detoxification properties. “Bentonite clay is an extremely efficient detoxing and rejuvenating clay that’s suitable for many skin types, but especially oily and acne-prone,” Dr. Graf says. “It exfoliates and draws out excess oils, impurities, and more, while also restoring mineral levels and removing toxins.”
You should also consider a formula’s additional ingredients when shopping for a clay mask. Extra exfoliating ingredients, like the TK in TK, can help speed the cell shedding process along, while hydration-boosting elements (like shea butter in buttah Charcoal Detox Mask) can prevent irritation.
Finally, you should check out the size of the mask. Since masks are typically applied to the entire face, it’s safe to say a decent amount of product is used each time. If the mask’s container is on the smaller side, you’ll likely get less use out of it than one in a larger package.
What does a clay mask do for skin?
According to Melanie Grant, a facialist and celebrity esthetician, clay masks can do a lot for the skin. “Clay masks thoroughly cleanse pores by lifting impurities to the surface and drying out any existing blemishes,” she explains. “If dull, congested, oily skin is normal for you, I recommend adding a clay mask to your routine.”
How do you use and remove a clay mask?
Grant suggests painting your preferred clay mask onto the skin directly after cleansing. “Leave the mask on for 10 to 15 minutes and gently rinse away with warm water in circular motions,” she says.
How often should you use a clay mask?
Ultimately, how long you use your clay mask depends on the mask being used and your skin type. It’s important to remember that clay can be a powerful ingredient, so try to ease into it by starting to use it once a week.
Which type of clay mask is best to use?
While it varies from brand to brand, certain types of clay can be better suited to certain skin conditions (for example, bentonite is great for acne-prone skin). Your best bet is to check out other ingredients within the product to decide if it’s right for your complexion.
What Is Byrdie Verified?
Did you notice the Byrdie Verified seal of approval at the top of this story? This seal means that our team has researched and tested every product on this list using a unique methodology that’s designed to focus on what our readers really want to know—and to deliver insights that you can’t find anywhere else. Occasionally, beauty brands and PR agencies will send us samples for coverage consideration, but our thoughts and opinions are fully our own. If you visit links within our content, we may receive commissions from your purchases, but we never receive any compensation or consideration for the content of our recommendations. In short, the Byrdie Verified seal stands for product recommendations you can trust.
Why Trust Byrdie
Caitlyn Martyn is an experienced beauty writer and product tester specializing in cosmetics. She has been a staff writer at Byrdie since 2022, where she covers all things beauty and fashion. She has used several clay masks over the years, including some on this list from brands like Olehenriksen, L’Oréal, Glow Recipe, and Youth to the People.
Emily Algar is an experienced freelance writer who covers all things beauty. Her work has also appeared in Popsugar, Vogue Australia, Grazia, Cosmopolitan, and more.