The Right Way to Use a Clay Face Mask

by Sophia Panych


David Stesner David Stesner If you have oily or acne-prone skin, clay masks are a must-have. They not only soak up all traces of dirt and grease, but wearing one makes for funny Instagram pictures (yes, my sister and I are completely guilty of this). They're also simple to use: Apply one all over your face, have a glass of wine while you wait for it to dry to a hardened shell, and rinse. Am I right? No, no I am not. Turns out I've been using clay masks the wrong way for all these years--and doing more harm than good to my skin.

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So what changed? Yesterday I met with Sharon McGlinchey, a facialist and the creator of MV Organic Skincare, a line of organic skin-care products developed for people with high skin sensitivities (Emma Watson and Maggie Gylenhall are both fans). As McGlinchey applied her MV Signature Mineral Mask, made with sun-dried clay, she doled out this little bit of advice: "You should never let a clay mask dry fully." To which I said, "Wha?" I mean, that's the fun part--waiting and watching for the clay to crack and flake.

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"There are three phases of a clay mask," McGlinchey continued. "There's the damp phase where your skin drinks in the beneficial minerals from the outside. Then you have the start of the dry phase, which exercises your capillaries and stimulates blood flow as the mask cools and contracts. But then there's the dry phase, which draws out moisture from the surface of your skin, causing dehydration and irritation." Not only does skin then feel dry, tight, and sometimes itchy, but when you counteract it by slathering on extra face cream, you're just smothering your freshly cleansed skin.

So the next time you use a clay mask, don't wait for it to reach the flaky stage before you start rinsing. Do the touch test: When you start to see it drying (which usually means it gets lighter in color) but it still feels a bit sticky, it's time to wash that sucker off--so it doesn't suck the life out of your skin.

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