Guys, if you haven’t discovered clay masks, you’re choosing to live with inferior skin. Like a lot of skincare trends, the use of natural ingredients such as volcanic ash, bentonite clay and kaolin clay started in the women’s beauty world, but there are now a ton of fantastic clay face masks for men, too.
We’re not trying to say you have inferior skin, but we are saying that the best clay masks are a great addition to your grooming regimen. The best clay masks are known for their deep-cleaning, grime-absorbing, oil-grabbing power. Clay masks are any facial skincare products with clay minerals that naturally remove impurities from your skin, usually over a period of minutes, while the mask dries on your face.
That’s one reason these masks are so popular for men dealing with acne. Blackheads are just accumulated grime in the pores on your face skin and clay masks naturally pull that grime out, no harsh chemicals necessary.
Furthermore, many clay masks will also include other ingredients intended to soften and hydrate your skin, ensuring that the mask takes away the bad stuff while leaving the good stuff.
We wanted a professional’s opinion too, so we asked Dr. Michele Green, a New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist, for the low-down on the best clay masks. “Clay masks are great for acne-prone, oily skin as the clay draws out the impurities from deep in the pores,” Green told SPY. “[They] will speed up the process of healing active breakouts.” At the same time, she did caution not to expect “magic” results, saying, “Don’t expect your pimple to be magically gone or the size of your pores to be non-existent.”
OK, so the best clay masks aren’t a silver bullet, but they’ll still leave you with suppler, smoother and more evenly-toned skin.
Before we dive into the best clay masks, let’s learn a bit about what to expect.
Two ingredients to look for in the best clay masks
You’ll see two clays pop up often so it’s best to get to know them real quick.
- Bentonite clay: Bentonite clay is an absorbent aluminum phyllosilicate clay, a product of volcanic ash, with documented detoxifying capabilities. In short, a lot of toxins have a negative charge and bentonite clay has some positive charge, leading to the absorption of the bad stuff. It also has been shown to diminish some kinds of dermatitis (rashes, common skin irritation), help heal skin lesions and kill some bacteria, when mixed with water (which all skincare formulations will do).
- Kaolin clay: Kaolinite, which constitutes kaolin clay, also known as China clay, is a clay mineral that helps remove oils, grime and toxins from skin in a manner similar to bentonite clay as well as helps to repair blemishes.
Clay masks vs mud masks
Clay vs mud: Though you’ll see “clay” and “mud” used alongside each other, they’re not interchangeable. Clay refers to the finest-grain natural minerals. On the other hand, mud is a mixture of clay, water and other minerals. In other words, clay is a lot closer to the pure mineral substance while mud is more of a mixture. So a mud will have some clay, but a clay mask is not necessarily a mud mask.
How to use a clay mask
Using clay masks couldn’t be simpler. They all work in more or less the same way, but it’s important to read the directions for finer or product-specific application details. But the basics are super straightforward:
- Scoop out enough clay to evenly cover your face, starting from the bottom and working your way up.
- Take a seat, relax and let the mask dry and work its magic for 10-15 minutes.
- Rinse your face with warm water or a damp washcloth to remove the mask.
- Presto, you’re done! Enjoy your firmer, more hydrated skin.
Now that we know about the benefits clay masks can provide and how to use them, we rounded up a few choice skincare products below. Some of the options are unisex, but we also found the best clay masks from our favorite men’s grooming brands, too. Check them all out below and pick one up to try for a couple of weeks. Once you feel the difference, you’ll be sure to keep a clay mask in your bathroom cabinet from now on.
1. Baxter of California Purify Clay Mask AHA for Men
Baxter of California is a SPY favorite for its all-around excellent grooming line, and the Baxter of California Purify Clay Mask AHA for Men is one of the brand’s best products. (SPY’s grooming editors named it the Best Clay Mask in our 2020 Man awards feature.) Bentonite and kaolin clays rejuvenate your skin and complexion, removing impurities, while aloe and calendula extract soothe and hydrate inflamed skin. Just rub it in, let it dry for five to 10 minutes and rinse. This mask goes on thick, which is what you want in a clay mask, but the witch hazel leaves your skin feeling refreshed. Repeat daily for best results, and we think you’ll notice a difference after only a few days and agree the Baxter mask is the best clay mask for men.
2. Disco Rejuvenating Clay Detox Face Mask for Men
Disco is an up-and-coming skincare brand for men and their Rejuvenating Clay Detox Face Mask for Men is one of the best clay masks. Bentonite clay, charcoal and willow bark extract combine to soak up oil, purify skin and reduce inflammation and puffiness, leaving your skin feeling cleaner and looking better.
3. Harry’s Detoxifying Face Mask
Brand-new and already sold out, you’ll want to keep your eyes out for Harry’s Detoxifying Face Mask when it restocks.
Whether you need soothing hydration, oil reduction, less inflammation, exfoliation or blemish repair, this clay mask has the ingredients — kaolin, glycerin, willow bark extract, lactic acid, salicylic acid and essential oils — to take care of business. Plus, each bottle has 15-20 masks worth of product, a great value.
4. Fresh Umbrian Clay Pore Purifying Face Mask
Greene mentioned the Fresh Umbrian Clay Pore Purifying Face Mask as a great clay mask choice to cleanse pores and purify skin. Umbrian clay will even out your complexion and soak up toxins, sandalwood oil takes care of red and inflamed skin and chamomile and lavender make sure everything feels nice and soothed.
5. Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
There’s nothing we love as much as great value and budget-priced products, so if you’re looking for the best clay masks to deliver great value, check out the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. Depending on your tribe, the very un-politically correct name of this famous clay mask is either a positive or a negative. Putting aside the name, this cheap skincare mask has developed a cult following for its low price, the sheer amount of clay and benefits to the skin.
With Aztec Secret, you get 1 pound of straight-up natural calcium bentonite clay, no filler, fragrances or additives. All you have to do is mix the clay with equal parts apple cider vinegar or water to make the clay malleable, rub it into your face, let it dry for no more than 10 minutes and then rinse it off for deep pore cleansing on the cheap. If you have more sensitive skin, Aztec Secret recommends doing a test patch first and not leaving the mask on for as long.
6. The Inkey List Kaolin Clay Mask
To dip your toes into the clay mask game, go for a budget-friendly clay mask like The Inkey List Kaolin Clay Mask. Excess oil and clogged pores don’t stand a chance against the high-grade kaolin clay and this clay mask is cheap enough to pick up with no regrets if you don’t like it.
7. Proactiv Amazonian Clay Mask
Proactiv makes great unisex facial care products, and the brand has earned its reputation for making some of the most effective acne treatments on the market. For men and women who love clay face masks, the Proactiv Amazonian Clay Mask is top-notch. Made with bentonite and kaolin clay, this mask will absorb impurities, clean and shrink your pores and fight acne in the process. Shea butter and natural oils also work to leave your skin feeling softer and more hydrated. Proactiv recommends using the clay mask two to three times a week, letting it dry for five to 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water. Be aware Proactiv also recommends wearing SPF 15 if you’re going outside after using the mask because some of the ingredients can make your skin sensitive to UV light.
8. EvolutionMan Men’s Clay Mask
BEST FOR ANTI-AGING
The EvolutionMan Men’s Clay Mask has a laundry list of ingredients and every single one of them works to restore your skin’s youthfulness. A bevy of acids breakdown discolored or blemished skin, kaolin clay soaks up any impurities and deep-cleans pores while other plant- and fruit-based extracts moisturize and hydrate skin. If you want your old (er, young) skin back, this is one of the best clay masks for sure.
9. M. Skin Care Sensitive Clay Mask
BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
If you’re worried about how a clay mask will work with sensitive skin, why not go for one made for sensitive skin, like the M. Skin Care Sensitive Clay Mask. A combination of kaolin clay, algae extract and shea butter works to cleanse impurities, break down dead skin and restore your skin’s natural hydration, all without irritating your skin further.
10. Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser
BEST CLEANSER / MASK
Jack Black is one of the better luxe men’s skincare brands out there, and we appreciate this facial cleanser that can also be used as a clay mask. Use the Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser just to get cleaned up or leave it on for five minutes and rinse for unclogged pores and fresher skin.
11. Wolf Project Men’s Mud Sheet Mask
BEST CLAY SHEET MASK
Wolf Project is a new men’s grooming brand, and we’re excited about this newcomer. For the simplest and easiest-to-use clay mask, turn to a sheet mask like the Wolf Project Men’s Mud Sheet Mask. It wouldn’t be a clay mask without kaolin and bentonite to remove impurities while vitamins restore and preserve your skin’s natural moisture. Use it once a week and leave it on for 15 minutes for straightforward skin maintenance. The five-pack of masks might be a little pricey, but they are the best clay masks for dudes just sticking their toes into the mask game.
12. Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask
BEST FOR ACNE
Kiehl’s is a go-to skincare brand for millions because its products just seem to consistently do what they say they’ll do. The Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask won’t kill acne on sight, but it lays the foundation for acne-free skin with kaolin and bentonite clays to minimize blackheads and cleanse pores. Give it a few weeks and we promise you’ll experience cleaner, tighter pores, less skin oil and a lot less acne.
13. Anthony Deep Pore Cleansing Clay
BEST FOR OILY SKIN
The Anthony Deep Pore Cleansing Clay is meant for deep pore cleansing and oily clean-up. The kaolin and bentonite clays really tighten the pores and natural ingredients and vitamins soften and rejuvenate the skin. Some reviewers did note that this mask might not be best for those with sensitive skin, but overall, this is one of the best clay masks for that sweet, smooth, tight skin sensation.
14. Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask
BEST KOREAN CLAY FACE MASK
Korean skincare (and Korean face masks) is all the rage nowadays for good reason. The products are generally highly effective and reasonably priced and that’s true of the Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask. With volcanic ash, kaolin clay and bentonite clay, you’ll have less oily skin and deeply cleaned pores in no time.