Guys, if you haven’t discovered clay masks, you’re choosing to live with inferior skin. Like a lot of men’s 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.
We’re not saying you definitely 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 skin care products with clay minerals that naturally remove impurities from your skin, usually after a few minutes as the mask dries on your face.
That’s one reason these maskne products 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 during breakouts, no harsh chemicals necessary.
Furthermore, many clay masks will include 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, 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 tells 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. Note: Though you’ll see “clay” and “mud” used alongside each other, they’re not interchangeable. Clay refers to the finest-grain natural minerals while mud is a mixture of clay, water and other minerals. So mud will have some clay, but a clay mask is not necessarily a mud mask.
Two Key Ingredients in the Best Clay Masks
You’ll see two clays pop up often so it’s best to get to know them.
- 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 has also 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 skin care 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 the skin as well as aid in the repairing of blemishes.
How to Use a Clay Mask
Using the best 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 5-15 minutes. (Be sure to follow the product’s recommendations!)
- Rinse your face with warm water or a damp washcloth to remove the mask.
- Presto, you’re done! Enjoy your firmer, cleansed skin.
Now that we know about the benefits clay masks can provide and how to use them, we rounded up a few choice clay masks below. Some of the options are unisex, but we also found the best clay masks from our favorite men’s grooming brands. And if the best clay masks aren’t your thing, the best facial scrubs can offer a similar degree of cleanliness — especially for acne-prone users — or you can check out a few of the skincare products SPY editors can’t live without.
1. Disco Rejuvenating Clay Detox Face Mask for Men
Disco is one of SPY’s new skincare favorites and their Rejuvenating Clay Detox Face Mask for Men is one of the best clay masks around (not to mention a 2021 SPY Man award winner). 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. We love it as a weekly detox mask, but users with more oily skin could use it a few times a week.
2. Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask
Kiehl’s is a go-to skincare brand for millions because its products just seem to consistently do what they promise. 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.
3. Aesop Primrose Facial Cleansing Masque
Meant to be used twice a week, the Aesop Primrose Facial Cleansing Masque is a comparatively gentle clay mask to soak up and wash away impurities. It delivers the bentonite and kaolin clay you need alongside rejuvenating vegetable oils to leave your skin feeling smooth and deeply cleansed.
4. 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. Putting aside the name, this cheap skin care 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.
5. Fresh Umbrian Clay Pore Purifying Face Mask
Green mentioned the Fresh Umbrian Clay Pore Purifying Face Mask as a great clay mask choice to cleanse pores and purify the skin. Umbrian clay will even out your complexion and soak up toxins, while sandalwood oil takes care of red and inflamed skin and chamomile and lavender make sure everything feels nice and soothed.
6. Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Mask
BEST FOR ANTI-AGING
The Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Mask leans into anti-aging with aloe vera, chamomile and purslane, an antioxidant that supports skin rejuvenation. But it’s still a clay mask, meaning the kaolin clay will help absorb and wash away any oils and grime, leaving skin feeling clean but not dry.
7. M. Skin Care Sensitive Clay Mask
BEST FOR SENSITIVE SKIN
If you’re worried about how a clay mask will work with sensitive skin, try 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 further irritating your skin.
8. SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Mask for Acne
BEST FOR ACNE
The SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Mask for Acne lives up to its name. Fruit extracts filled with natural hydroxy acids help exfoliate dead skin and blemishes, kaolin and bentonite clays help soak up oil, while aloe and chamomile ensure your skin stays hydrated to blunt the irritating effects of the hydroxy acids.
9. 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 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.
10. Jack Black Deep Dive Glycolic Facial Cleanser
BEST 2-IN-1 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. Lab Series Oil Control Clay Cleanser + Mask
ALSO CONSIDER 2-IN-1
The Lab Series Oil Control Clay Cleanser + Mask is another great 2-in-1 option for your bathroom sink. You can whip it into a foaming cleanser to use it like a daily face wash or you can spread a thin layer onto your skin for five minutes to use it like a clay mask. Whether you use it for one or both, it’ll leave you with cleansed, refreshed skin thanks to the bevy of useful ingredients, like kaolin, salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycerin, panthenol and tocopherol.
12. Wolf Project Men’s Mud Sheet Mask
BEST CLAY SHEET MASK
Wolf Project is a new men’s grooming brand we’re excited about. 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.
13. Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask
BEST KOREAN CLAY MASK
Korean skincare (and Korean face masks) is popular 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.
14. 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.
15. Baxter of California Purify Clay Mask AHA for Men
Sometimes our favorite products get discontinued or temporarily run out of stock, but if you can find SPY favorite Baxter of California and its Purify Clay Mask AHA for Men, buy it. It’s one of the brand’s best products and SPY’s grooming editors named it the Best Clay Mask in our 2020 SPY Man awards feature.