The 14 Best Clay Masks of 2023

Excess oil doesn’t stand a chance.

A woman wearing a clay mask smiles at her reflection in the mirror.
(Image credit: Artem Varnitsin / EyeEm / Getty Images)

If blackheads, large pores, and a wildly oily, borderline slippery complexion tops your list of skin concerns, it’s due time to take a *really* close look at your skincare routine. Blackhead removers might be able to de-gunk your T-zone and it’s possible a well-vetted pore vacuum can just suck the pus out of those nasty whiteheads. But when it comes to a do-it-all solve? The best clay masks reign supreme—they’re the MVPs for oily and acne-prone skin. “Clay masks are known for their oil-absorbing qualities, which makes them helpful in both removing excess grease from the skin’s surface and giving the skin a matte texture,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Viktoryia Kazlouskaya. “They also have an anti-inflammatory effect and may be used for acne-prone skin.” 

The power of this kind of face mask lies in its ingredients. Some heavy duty options will be loaded with various clays that quite literally extracts the dead skin cells and grease out of your face. Others will be infused with salicylic acid to fight blackheads, while some will have a touch of glycerin to amp up hydration. The moral of the clay mask story: There’s something for everyone. And to help make picking the best option for you a heck of a lot easier, we’ve rounded up the best clay masks for every skin type and concern, ahead. 

Should I Use a Clay Mask?

Clay masks are going to be best for oily and acne-prone skin. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise given their job is quite literally to remove oil and reduce the look of large pores. That said, other skin types may want to proceed *extra* carefully. “Clay masks may slightly dry the skin out, therefore people with dry and sensitive skin should use them with caution,” says Dr. Kazlouskaya. 

That said, clay masks are by no means off limits to sensitive skin types. "Even sensitive skinned patients can benefit from the benefit of a clay mask formulated for sensitive skin," notes Dr. Lian Mack, board-certified dermatologist and founder of GlamDerm. "However, this is where it becomes important to check ingredients. For example, if you are sensitive and are  prone to redness or rosacea consider looking for a clay mask compounded with gentle ingredients like niacinamide, chamomile and aloe."

What to Look For

Charcoal, kaolin clay, or bentonite are typically going to be the baseline for a clay mask. They’re the foundation and you’ll probably find at least one, if not a combination of ‘em, on the INCI list. But everything that comes after the base is what’s really important. "The ingredients that you look for in a clay mask depend on your skin and its needs," explains Dr. Mack. For example, if you need a little extra moisture, Dr. Kazlouskaya recommends looking for glycerin, petrolatum, or panthenol. Want to reduce inflammation and amp up antioxidant protection? Search out ingredients like green tea or jojoba oil. And if exfoliating dead skin cells is your main concern, then salicylic acid is going to be your BFF. 

How Often to Use a Clay Mask

There’s no cut-and-dry formula on how frequently you should use a clay mask—it honestly is up to you. Just listen to your skin and don’t overdo it. As a rule of thumb, one time a week is going to be plenty. "Clay has a natural exfoliative property. In addition, most clay masks are made with other active ingredients like alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids. Too much exfoliation can lead to a rash or irritant contact dermatitis," explains Dr. Mack. "Moreover, clay helps to minimize oil or sebum production and if you are not naturally oily, the drying effect of clay may over-dry you, creating an eczema-like reaction in the skin." 

The Best Clay Masks

Meet the Dermatologists

Viktoryia Kazlouskaya, MD, PhD

Viktoryia Kazlouskaya, MD, PhD, is certified in dermatopathology and dermatology by the American Board of Dermatology. She practices at University of Pittsburgh Physicians, Department of Dermatology, Division of Dermatopathology and is affiliated with UPMC Presbyterian, UPMC Altoona, UPMC Shadyside, and UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital. She completed her medical degree and residency at Vitebsk State Medical University, followed by a residency at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and a fellowship at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Dr. Lian Mack, MD

Lian Mack, MD is a board certified dermatologist committed to excellence in comprehensive dermatological care. She holds a special interest in skin conditions as it applies to skin of color, as well as all aspects of aesthetic enhancements including neurotoxins, injectable fillers, and laser treatments. She has achieved a Master Injector Certification from Allergan, the largest makers of dermal fillers and Botox. Dr. Mack graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University, Columbia College in the City of New York. She continued her postgraduate studies at Weill Cornell Medical College, during which she did a one-year research fellowship in melanoma research at the NYU School of Medicine. After a one-year internship at New York Hospital, she went on to complete her residency in Dermatology at St. Luke’s – Roosevelt Hospital Center where she served as Chief resident during her final year. Prior to GlamDerm, Dr. Mack worked in Chelsea alongside her mentor Dr. Michael Eidelman. Currently, she volunteers as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Mack has authored numerous peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and a member of several professional societies including the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, and has actively served as a member and on the board of the Women’s Dermatologic Society.