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There’s a reason mud-masking has been around for centuries. Vitamin and mineral-rich, good-for-you earth is easily one of the best things you can slather on your skin. Plus, clay masks feel great on the skin, and they’re practically made for easy at-home use. What other skincare product can you actually see working—drying out to unclog and detox pores in a matter of minutes?
So we agree: Clay masks are awesome. But they aren’t all created equal. Sure, the formulas will differ, as some gently exfoliate while others refine and a select few plump the skin, but the differences run deeper than that. The type of clay and even where the clay was sourced can make a huge difference in a clay mask’s efficacy, and there are a lot of products on the market to sift through for these differences. So we did the hard work for you and compiled a list of the all-time best clay masks.
Read on to find the best clay mask for you.
Best Overall: Fresh Umbrian Clay Pore Purifying Face Mask
Upon discovery of this mask, Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue's world was rocked. (You can read all about her Italian beauty experience.) The clay is sourced from Umbria, Italy (otherwise known as the "Green Heart of Italy"), and incredibly mineral-rich, which is how it so thoroughly cleanses and purifies the skin. Sandalwood oil, chamomile flower, and lavender water are also included to calm and soothe your complexion. Just trust us when we say it's so good.
Best Budget: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
This cult-favorite is a 100% natural bentonite clay mask derived from volcanic ash, making it rich in minerals. It comes in powder form in a big tub and only a few teaspoonfuls are needed to make an effective mask. It’s highly recommended to mix with apple cider vinegar, which reacts well with the powder clay and essentially turns it into a sponge that absorbs any excess oil and sucks out all impurities. The result? A brighter and tighter canvas. Because the clay is so potent, use this mask as a deep treatment once or twice a week when you need a major skin boost.
Best for Blackheads: Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask
Amazonian white clay is the star ingredient in this creamy, powerful face mask. Fairly sourced from the Amazon River, this light clay really dives deep into pores to clean them out. Say goodbye to sebum and dead skin as the product works as a mild exfoliant to remove toxins, dirt, and dry skin cells. Although the formula works well with all skin types, it’s especially useful for acne-prone skin as it gets rid of impurities that can clog pores and cause blemishes. However, this clay isn’t drying thanks to the inclusion of aloe, which majorly hydrates and calms irritated skin.
Best for Radiance: Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask
A favorite clay mask courtesy of the K-beauty world, this one is ace at removing blackheads for clearer-looking skin, but not without tickling the skin with a little bubble action first. After applying this mask, watch in awe as it starts to foam and take on a cloud-like appearance. Snap a quick picture (you won't be able to resist) and then rinse it off for the ultimate welcome to glowing skin.
Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Paris Pure-Clay Detox & Brighten Face Mask
If you're looking for a back-to-basics formula without too many bells and whistles, then this one is for you. It's a mix of pure clay and charcoal to draw out impurities, dirt, and oil. Oh, and it's the same price as most lunches, so you can stock up as often as you like.
Best Exfoliating: GlamGlow Supermud Charcoal Instant Treatment Mask
Even if you rarely use clay masks, you've likely heard of this buzzy product. It's popular because it works like an IRL Instagram filter. It targets everything from blemishes to redness to scars, razor bumps, and even ingrown hair. And take it from us—after you wash it off, your skin will feel incredibly smooth, thanks to a blend of six exfoliating acids.
Best for Oily Skin: Acne Free Kaolin Clay Detox Mask With Charcoal
They say two is better than one, and that's part of the reason why we love this multi-purpose formula. It can be used (you guessed it) in two ways—as a detox face mask AND as a purifying facial cleanser. Charcoal and kaolin clay pair together in a big way, with results made even bigger with the inclusion of vitamin E and zinc to help draw out impurities, purify pores, and reduce the appearance of excess oil.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask With Rose Clay
A milder clay, pink clay is a combination of red and white clay and is ideal for fussy skin. The microfine powder is a super gentle polisher without tugging on dragging on delicate skin. Apart from its fun millennial pink shade, the mask itself is infused with exfoliating jojoba beads and Canadian willowherb, a natural skin soother. After use, skin feels more even and pores look smaller. Apply all over the face, avoiding the eye area, and let it work its magic for ten minutes.
Best for Aging Skin: Herbivore Botanicals Pink Clay Exfoliating Mask
And the obsession with rose-colored clay (happily) continues. This time, French pink clay makes an appearance in an intense anti-aging mud powder. It banishes fine lines and improves skin’s elasticity due to its iron oxide and silica. The scent is relaxing—we smell you, rosehip—making this a lovely sensorial experience. As wonderful as it smells, rosehip has anti-aging benefits, preventing further wrinkles with its trans-retinoic acid.
Best Brightening: Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask
Fans of this mask include some serious A-listers (think Gigi Hadid). It's probably because of the megawatt glow and velvety softness that results from a quick rendezvous with this formula. Spanish clay, sweet almond oil, rosehip oil, and peptides work together to detoxify, nourish, and plump the skin. Take it from the queen herself, Charlotte Tilbury: "It has fail-proof results, dramatically purifying the skin, creating a smooth, clear, youthfully dewy surface, revealing new baby skin."
Best Stick: Olay Pore Detox Black Charcoal Clay Face Mask Stick
If there’s one downfall to mud masks, it’s the mess. This handy, convenient stick solves all of that. Charcoal and kaolin clay partner up in this mask stick to zap pore-clogging excess oils and exfoliate dead skin. Don’t worry about over-drying, the formula leaves skin feeling well-hydrated and plump after application. Apply the mask to clean, dry skin and leave it on for at least ten minutes. While rinsing the product off, massage it into the skin for full absorption.
Best Splurge: Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Mask
Dr. Barbara Sturm is an aesthetic medicine specialist: She's applied her knowledge of molecular science to create a line of safe, effective skincare products, and this mask is no exception. Aloe vera, vitamin E, and chamomile rest on a base of white kaolin clay (also known as china clay). The result is a deep-cleansing clay mask that's somehow super hydrating. Totally worth the hefty price tag, if you ask us.
Best Scented: African Botanics Mineral Cleansing Mask
This mask targets "redness, inflammation, and acne." Thanks to its long list of minerals—magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron included—it sucks up extra dirt, oil, and debris from pores. Plus, it smells lovely, like a blend of rose and clementine.
Best for Spot Treating: Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask 2X
This K-beauty buy (and Byrdie Editor Kathryn Vandervalk favorite) uses porous volcanic clusters from the brand’s Jeju Island to clear out the pores and absorb grease. It also contains kaolin and bentonite clay, so it’s heavy duty stuff (but never drying). Try it on areas prone to congestion, or as a spot treatment next time a pimple rears its head.
What Our Testers Say
"The clay brought my whiteheads up and soaked up the excess oil from my t-zone and cheek areas on the first use." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester
Nicest Masking Experience: Circumference Green Clay Detox Face Mask
This rich, softening pick from Circumference is truly something special. For Faith Xue, Byrdie’s Editorial Director, it’s not just the stellar ingredient listing (French green clay, blackcurrant seed, evening primrose, and sacha inchi) but the texture and scent that make it so remarkable. It’s light and airy, almost like a mousse, and smells Earthy but clean. Like a Byredo room mist, but for your face.
Best Nourishing Formula: Femmue Gentle Green Mask
It’s hard to find a clay mask that feels simultaneously nourishing and cleansing, but this buy from Femmue somehow strikes the perfect balance. It’s made on a base of kaolin clay, but also contains glycerin and olive oil to soften and hydrate. It’s also quite fluffy in texture, a characteristic Byrdie’s Editorial Director Faith Xue is particularly fond of.
While team Byrdie loves all of the above options for various reasons, the Fresh Umbrian Clay mask is our overall winner. The Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Mask is a favorite splurge that allows for deep cleansing without drying, and the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay is a great budget-friendly choice. We also love the Circumference Green Clay Detox Face Mask because the texture and smell are out of this world.
What does a clay mask do?
According to facialist and celebrity esthetician Melanie Grant, clay’s main superpower is clarity. “It thoroughly cleanses pores while lifting impurities to the surface and drying any existing blemishes," she says. "If dull, congested, oily skin is normal for you, I recommend including clay within your regime.” Think of clay like a sponge that soaks up dirt, grease, and dead skin cells. It’s basically the equivalent of a Dyson vacuum, but for your pores.
How do you use and remove a clay mask?
Grant suggests “painting your preferred clay mask onto the skin directly after cleansing. Leave on for 10-15 minutes and gently rinse away with warm water in gentle, circular motions.” She also recommends removing the mask before the clay dries out entirely (you know the feeling when it cracks and crumbles) so you don't over-dry your skin.
How often should you use a clay mask?
It really comes down to the specific mask being used and your individual skin type, but once a week is probably a good benchmark. It’s important to remember that clay can be a powerful ingredient, so tread carefully.
Which type of clay 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 whereas pink clay is thought to be more gentle. Your best bet is to check out other ingredients within the product to decide if it’s right for your complexion.