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A case could easily be made that kaolin clay is the best clay for the skin. It has all of the deep-cleansing and oil-absorbing effects of other clays, but it is significantly milder and more soothing to the skin.
Kaolin is the kind of ingredient that is also immediately satisfying. It might not be as impressive in the longer term as a serum with powerful actives, but a kaolin clay mask will definitely make you feel great immediately after you use it, because it will make your skin look and feel instantly fresher. It’s a wonderful pick-me-up before special events or after a long day when you need a bit of self-care.
I’ve selected the best kaolin clay masks and skin care products you can try, no matter your skin type or budget. I explain exactly what kaolin clay is and why it is so common in skin care. I go over its benefits, as well as which skin types will benefit from it the most and how.
As always, I also warn about some potential issues and side effects that come with this fabulous ingredient. To make sure you can avoid those pitfalls and make the most out of your kaolin clay products, I’ve added a handy how-to guide, as well as some useful tips & tricks.
Kaolin Clay for Skin: Contents
- 23 Best Kaolin Clay Masks & Skin Products to Try
- What Is Kaolin Clay?
- Kaolin Clay Benefits for Skin
- What Skin Types Is Kaolin Clay Best for?
- Are There Any Side Effects to Using Kaolin Clay for Skin?
- How to Use Kaolin Clay for Skin
- Kaolin Clay Tips & Tricks
Whether you are looking for the best kaolin clay mask or want to add this ingredient to your routine in a different manner, here you have 23 of the best products to give a try!
1. The Inkey List Kaolin Mask
This little kaolin clay mask is as simple as can be. It comes in a hygienic tube and is made out of kaolin clay that is combined with potent skin soothers and moisturizers like sunflower oil, centella asiatica extract, and glycerin. This mask will simultaneously deep cleanse your skin while also nourishing it. It’s appropriate for all skin types, including dry and sensitive. Buy it at Sephora!
2. Proactiv Skin Purifying Mask
This kaolin clay mask exemplifies the way in which Proactiv really stepped up their game in recent years. It is an acne-fighting mask that features kaolin to mattify, along with acne-shrinking sulfur and bacteria-busting tea tree oil. It leaves the skin feeling clean and purified, and can even double as an overnight spot treatment. It’s good for anyone dealing with breakouts. It is available at Ulta.
3. Origins By All Greens Foaming Deep Cleansing Mask
This gorgeous deep cleansing kaolin clay mask qualifies as both skin care and entertainment. This mask is made with foaming agents that start to bubble after it’s applied, which makes for a unique experience. These surfactants also mean that this mask doubles as a facial cleanser, with a lot of people loving it as a second step after doing an oil cleanse. It also includes a whole load of leafy green extracts that give a nice antioxidant boost. It is best for those with combination or oily skin. Find it at Sephora!
4. Ren Clean Skincare ClearCalm 3 Clarifying Clay Cleanser
This gentle, mattifying cleanser relies on kaolin clay to do the bulk of the work, so it is also ideal as a second cleanse. It helps to remove excess oils from the skin, and also has ingredients like willow bark extract and zinc gluconate to target acne and redness. It can work for all skin types but is ideal for those with oilier skin. You can get it at Walmart.
5. This Works Evening Detox Clay Mask
This fragrant green mask will make your skin feel energized. It is made with menthol, which has a cooling and tingling effect that gets the blood flowing, but may not work for those with sensitive skin. Beyond that, it contains a variety of skin-softening plant extracts and has an exfoliating effect. It comes in a unique squeeze dispenser with a built-in brush for an even application. Order it from Net-a-Porter!
6. Cinq Mondes Kaolin and Herbs Mask
Made with a blend of kaolin as well as other clays, this mask will give your skin a deep cleanse and pull all kinds of impurities out of the pores. The clay content is balanced out by quite a few hydrators and rejuvenating plant extracts. Note that it is also rich in essentials oils, so will not work for easily aggravated skin. It is sold online via Dermstore.
7. Glamglow SUPERMUD Activated Charcoal Treatment Mask
Glamglow always deserves a mention when the conversation is about clay masks. This dark black mask simultaneously exfoliates and mattifies, because it contains a mixture of clays, purifying charcoal, and a whole range of resurfacing acids. This mask is fairly hardcore and should only be applied to tolerant skin. Pick it up from Sephora!
8. Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask
This creamy overnight mask would work for all skin types but will be particularly cherished by those feeling dry and dehydrated. Kaolin shows up at the end of the formula, to keep it from too greasy and to absorb some oils throughout the night. However, the real stars are the avocado extract, polyhydroxy acid, and manuka honey, which help to protect, soften and nourish the skin. You can buy it from Sephora.
9. Clinique City Block Purifying Charcoal Clay Mask + Scrub
This two-in-one mask and scrub will make your skin feel oh-so-soft. It combines kaolin clay with charcoal for that deep pore cleansing effect, and it includes a high amount of hydrators to counter the drying effects of those ingredients. It does contain light abrasive pieces that will help dislodge dead skin cells. It’s ideal for weekly use, but should be avoided by those with broken or irritated skin. It is available at Walmart.
10. Milk Makeup Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Hydrating Face Mask
This gentle, soothing mask is a very unique treatment. It comes in the form of a solid stick that can be rolled up and simply rubbed over the skin. Beyond that, it is just very nourishing because it is made of a mixture of kaolin clay, aloe vera, and hemp oil. It should work for all skin types, to help the skin feel cleaner and softer but not dry or tight. Get it from Sephora!
11. Dermalogica Dermal Clay Cleanser
This is another product that utilizes a blend of oil and clay to great benefit. This incredible kaolin clay cleanser is infused with sunflower oil to break down makeup and other impurities, while the clay acts as a counterbalance that absorbs excess oils from the skin and helps to unclog pores. It does contain a touch of menthol, which has a polarizing tingling effect, but it also contains skin soothers like mallow extract. You can find it at Nordstrom.
12. Caudalie Purifying Mask
This is another gentler, albeit fragranced variation on kaolin clay masks. It is almost formulated like a moisturizer and kaolin blend, with hydrators and antioxidant-rich oils working together to purify the skin without drying it out. It is a softening mask that will also help momentarily tighten the skin. Purchase it at Sephora!
13. Eve Lom Rescue Mask
This gorgeous mask exfoliates and mattifies the skin at the same time while also loading it with soothing, humectant honey and glycerin. This kaolin clay mask has almond seed meal to remove dead skin gently, but it is otherwise fragrance-free so should work for all skin types as long as they can tolerate some physical exfoliation. For best results, use it in the shower. This mask is sold at Sephora.
14. TonyMoly Painting Therapy Pack Sebum Control Black Color Clay
This wonderful mask gives a very quick skin transformation that is just perfect for days when your skin can best be described as “blah.” It contains kaolin clay, bentonite clay and charcoal to help tighten and unclog pores, along with glycerin and MCT oil to prevent dryness. It is very gentle, with many fans reporting that it helps to reduce redness and that is suitable for sensitive skin. Grab it from Ulta!
15. Sanitas Skincare Purifying Clay Cleanser
This super gentle clay cleanser soaks up oils, tightens pores, and helps prevent acne. It’s ideal for oily and acne-prone skin and should be gentle enough even for those with some sensitivity. In this cleanser, kaolin and other clays were combined with gentle, non-sulfate surfactants to break down and remove excess oils from the skin. There is also anti-bacterial tea tree oil to fight acne. Order it online from Dermstore!
16. Erno Laszlo Pore Cleansing Clay Mask
This deep cleansing mask offers an invigorating kaolin clay formulation, with energizing ginger and citrus essential oils. Despite the essential oils, it is actually fairly gentle, with a variety of hydrating humectants offsetting the purifying clays. It is best for combination and dry skin. Find it at Nordstrom!
17. First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Acne Clearing Pads with White Clay
These powerful pads make for a phenomenal regular exfoliant and acne treatment for those dealing with both breakouts and oily skin. They have a bit of kaolin clay to absorb oils, as well as 2% salicylic acid to exfoliate within the pore and keep the skin clear. The formula is strong but gentle, with soothing willow bark extract and antibacterial tea tree oil. Pick them up at Walmart!
18. Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding Intensive Wash-Off Treatment
This black and white mask is pretty darn cool to use. It feels very luxurious going on the skin, and it never dries down completely so it won’t leave your skin feeling uncomfortably tight. While the layers of white and black are a little gimmicky, the overall clay and charcoal blend is quite nice, helping to draw impurities deep from within the skin. It should work for most skin types. Order it from Sephora!
19. Murad Clarifying Mask
This is another fabulous anti-acne treatment with kaolin clay that is worth trying! This mask contains sulfur, known for its bacteria-inhibiting properties, along with a touch of salicylic acid to aid with pore decongestion. Zinc helps keep the skin calm while licorice root extract prevents pigmentation and irritation. It is available at Walmart.
20. Teami Blends Green Tea Blend Detox Mask
This is one of the best kaolin clay masks to try if your oily skin tends to be sensitive. It includes some super soothing ingredients like green tea and lemongrass extracts, but still totally mattifies thanks to both bentonite and kaolin clays. It will leave your skin fresh, clean, and soft. Buy it from Ulta!
21. RéVive Purifying Clay Mask
All skin types will benefit from this gorgeous mask. It is loaded with kaolin clay, but there was also room left in there for hydrating glycerin. There is also some zinc oxide to help calm down breakouts, and vitamin E to give antioxidant protection. Get it through Net-a-Porter!
22. Peter Thomas Roth Hungarian Thermal Water Mineral-Rich Atomic Heat Mask
This mineral-enriched mask warms up with a massage, giving an invigorating lift to the face. It is rich and creamy, with shea butter loading the skin up with antioxidants and ensuring thorough moisturization. Zeolite and kaolin clay ensure that there is still some cleansing action. Find it at Walmart!
23. Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Mask
This super gentle kaolin clay face mask will work for all skin types, including dry and sensitive skin. It contains a ton of sweet almond oil, which totally mitigates the drying effects of the clay but without stopping it from deep cleansing the skin. The mask also contains chamomile to target redness, and probiotic extracts to help strengthen the skin microbiome. You can pick it up from Nordstrom.
Kaolin clay is a naturally occurring mineral ingredient. It goes by many other names, including kaolinite, white clay, china clay, or hydrated aluminum silicate (although this name can apply to other minerals as well). This clay is extremely common and is mined all over the world. It has been used in ceramics for centuries and these days is also used by the paper industry to make whiter, smoother looking sheets.
On its own, it comes as a soft, silky white powder, and can occasionally be mixed with other kinds of clays or minerals and then marketed as “green clay” or “pink clay.” Kaolin clay is extremely popular in skin care because it is gentle and easy to formulate. It is extremely absorbent and is able to soak up or be mixed with both oil and water.
There are many reasons you might want to consider adding a kaolin clay mask to your skin routine, and all of them are discussed below!
• Oil Absorbing
Kaolin clay is highly absorbent. It will soak up as much oil as you let it, so the oilier your skin, the more clay you may want in your skin care products. This is fantastic if your skin tends to get very oily and can come in handy to mattify the skin as part of your skin care routine before special events.
• Deep Cleaning
Kaolin clay doesn’t just absorb oil, it also absorbs water and water-based impurities. This means that it can pull all kinds of gunk from the skin, and help to decongest pores.
Clay-based masks, in particular, are great because they can stay on the skin for longer than a typical cleanser, which is why they can give such a thorough cleaning. People who suffer from blackheads or sebaceous filaments will benefit from kaolin clay products the most because of this ability.
As you will know if you’ve read some of my cleanser guides, the skin thrives when its pH remains below 5.5, while at higher pHs it can get easily compromised and irritated. Kaolin clay, once solved in water, has a pH of 5, which is great for the skin. Other clays, like bentonite and illite, have much higher pHs that are likelier to irritate the skin.
• As a Delivery Base for Other Things
The final benefit of kaolin clay is that it’s a wonderful delivery system. A mask with kaolin clay will contain all types of other beneficial ingredients, and the clay is great for delivering them into the skin. These ingredients could be acne fighters like salicylic acid or sulfur, moisturizing oils, or anti-inflammatory extracts. This is why it is important to choose a kaolin clay mask that will suit your skin’s particular needs.
Your kaolin clay mask is not going to replace your favorite acid-based toner, but it will still remove some dead skin and end up leaving your skin feeling softer than it was before you applied it. This is because the clay powder does not fully dissolve in water, and it has an extremely gentle abrasive effect especially when it’s massaged or removed from the skin.
Almost every skin type can benefit from kaolin clay, but how do you use it based on your particular skin type and needs?
Kaolin Clay for Oily Skin
Kaolin clay, like other skin care clays, is very quick to absorb sebum from the skin. Because of this, it is definitely ideal for combination and oily skin types.
While our skin absolutely needs some sebum to function properly, overproduction of sebum gives the skin a greasy cast and contributes to an increase in clogged pores and breakouts. Kaolin clay skin care products help to take away some of that oil, and in doing so they help prevent some of its adverse effects.
Kaolin Clay for Dry and Normal Skin
If you have dry or normal skin but also suffer from clogged pores, you might be able to benefit from a kaolin clay mask as well. The natural drying effects of kaolin clay can be mitigated when it’s formulated with water, oils, and humectants.
These moisturizing ingredients can replenish what kaolin would otherwise take away from the skin, but they don’t stop it from drawing out impurities and unclogging pores. The key, if your skin is a little dry, is to moisturize very well after using a product that contains larger amounts of kaolin clay.
Kaolin Clay for Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin or are experiencing a lot of inflammation due to acne, you will find that a kaolin clay-based mask can be wonderful! As I mentioned earlier, kaolin clay is the mildest of the clays that show up in skin care, so it is also the best for easily inflamed or aggravated skin.
Look for kaolin clay skin care products that are free of excessive fragrance or essential oils. Instead, look for a kaolin mask that also contains skin soothers like calendula or centella asiatica extract, so it can simultaneously soothe and deep clean your skin.
Sometimes, the intended purpose of a product is also its main side effect. With kaolin clay, the goal is to have it remove excess oil from the skin and to leave it cleaner and more matte.
However, if used too frequently, if the kaolin clay mask is too harsh, or if the skin is not moisturized adequately afterwards, you can end up with dry, dehydrated, and irritated skin. Because kaolin clay can absorb both oil and water, improper or extreme use of it can even damage oily skin.
Additionally, it is important to remember that kaolin clay is often combined with potentially irritating fragrances or essential oils. This is especially true when it comes to tingling masks, which usually contain menthol. While most people will tolerate these fragrance ingredients, including menthol, for those with easily irritated skin it can lead to an adverse reaction. This is why patch testing new products is always recommended.
Once we set aside the risks that come with poor formulations and improper use, kaolin clay is actually very safe for the skin. Because it is a mineral ingredient rather than a bioactive one, it is extremely unlikely to cause allergic reactions or contact dermatitis. When people do have negative reactions to a product with kaolin clay, the clay itself is rarely the culprit.
One final note – some people make it a habit to consume kaolin clay, believing it to have certain health properties. We definitely recommend speaking to a doctor before taking on such a practice.
Kaolin clay is best used in skin care as a mask, a few times a week, although it may also show up in cleansers and face scrubs. Unless directed otherwise by the product instructions, this is the best way to use kaolin clay skin care products:
• Begin by cleansing your skin thoroughly, especially if you’re masking at the end of the day. Oil cleansing, in particular, is a great way to prepare the skin for an absorbent kaolin clay mask.
• If you normally do so, exfoliate your skin to remove excess dead skin cells. You can do so by wiping on a chemical exfoliant like salicylic or glycolic acid and wait 10-15 minutes for it to penetrate into the skin. This will be particularly useful if you want to decongest the pores. Alternatively, you can use a gentle facial scrub, or you can skip this step altogether.
• To apply your kaolin clay-based mask you can use your fingers, and simply smooth it on in upward motions. If you’d rather not get your hands dirty, use a clean mask brush instead. Use it to paint the mask on your skin in upward, overlapping strokes. In all instances, work your way from the bottom up in order to brush up your little facial hairs and to get as close to the skin as possible. Keep the mask away from the area around your eyes.
• Allow the mask to sit on your skin for 5-15 minutes. A typical sign that it’s time for a mask to be removed is when parts of it begin to dry up and crack. If the mask becomes dry all over your face, it’s a sign you’ve left it on for too long, and it may dry out your skin.
• To remove the kaolin clay mask, first, splash your face with lukewarm water, and then lightly massage to break it down. Then rinse off as much of it as you can using just water.
• Next, to get rid of what remains of the kaolin clay mask (and some will definitely remain, clay masks are notoriously hard to remove), use a damp face cloth or cotton pad to gently wipe your face. You may have to repeat this a few times until the mask fully breaks down and comes off.
• Now it’s time to load the skin up with some of the moisture it may have lost while you masked! You can apply a moisturizing wash-off mask or a sheet mask if you like.
• A longer, Asian beauty-style routine is the best way to prevent potential dehydration. Start by applying a hydrating essence or toner, and then load your skin up with nourishing, hydrating products like serums, skin ampoules, and lotions. If necessary, apply an anti-acne spot treatment.
• Many kaolin clay masks can also double as an acne spot treatment, especially if they contain acne-fighting ingredients like tea tree oil, sulfur, or salicylic acid, and as long as they are free of potentially irritating foaming agents. Simply dab a little bit of your mask over a pimple, and you can expect that by morning it’ll be reduced in size or at least a little less irritated.
• If your skin is on the sensitive or dry side, you can buffer your kaolin clay mask by applying a very thin layer of a dryer oil like grape seed oil to your skin. It will prevent the kaolin clay mask from drying out your skin too much, but it won’t impede its deep cleansing abilities.
• Those with combination skin can benefit from double masking. This means using a kaolin clay mask over the oily parts of their skin, which are usually within the T-zone and using a more nourishing mask over the cheeks, jawline, and around the eyes where the skin tends to be drier.
• Flash masking can be great if your skin is a little sensitive or if you are in a serious rush but need a quick, deep cleanse. Apply your kaolin clay mask to your skin for just a few minutes, and then rinse it off. You will still get some of the purifying and invigorating benefits, but with less irritation. Alternatively, you can choose a cleanser with kaolin clay, which can be rinsed off easily.
• In-shower masking is a trick that will help your kaolin clay mask do a better job of drawing impurities from the skin, but will also help hydrate your skin. With so much water in the air, your mask will stay moist instead of drying down, and it will help infuse your skin with hydration. At the same time, the slight heat will help dilate your pores and will allow the kaolin clay to pull impurities from much deeper within the skin.
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