What are the best clay masks for spotty skin?

Masks won’t cure acne but they can help when your skin is congested and breaking out

 

Masking can seem like an indulgent step in the already indulgent context of a skincare routine, but those with a history of breakouts and problematic congestion might tell you otherwise. The idea of a relaxing face mask – something that is done as an act of self-care and supplementary skincare – is lovely. Some masks, like a quick sheet mask if you can be bothered before applying makeup for a special occasion, do fit this description. Lately, however, I have rejoined the ranks of the breakout-prone and masking has taken on a more practical function.

 As someone who suffered with acne through my early to mid-20s, the recent change in my skin feels more than cosmetic. It revisits the sense of insecurity and lack of control that can come with acne. When you have acne, the legitimate impact it can have on your self-esteem and wellbeing is trivialised, yet the marks on your skin are what people look at when they talk to you. Acne was painful, caused scarring, and left me feeling like my skin wore me rather than the other way around.

 I don’t think my acne is back, but I am in the midst of a bad few weeks with my skin and we all have those. While masks will not cure acne, they can help with breakouts and a weekly mask can make a difference. Clay is a classic oil-absorbing ingredient. Salicylic acid is an essential in any skincare for breakouts. Oil soluble, it can decongest sebum-clogged pores. The absolute best salicylic mask I have encountered in a while is The Ordinary Salicylic 2% Masque (€12, theordinary.com), which is affordable and contains the maximum concentration of salicylic acid permitted in over the counter products. Leave it on for no more than 10 minutes, then gently remove with a warm flannel.

 La Roche Posay Effaclar Clay Mask (€11.24, Boots) is similarly excellent for blemish-prone skin which tends also to be sensitive or to become irritated by clay masks. This one works nicely in tandem with the brand’s Effaclar Duo Plus treatment, which is a light but very effective breakout treatment that anyone with congested skin should try. If you want to amp things up further in the masking department, try Goldfaden MD Facial Detox Clarify + Clear Mask (€68, Space NK). As masks go, it’s quite intense, featuring zinc to calm inflammation, colloidal sulphur, and salicylic acid to decongest. This is a good supplementary product to add to your weekly skincare routine if your breakouts are frequent. For the odd bad-skin day, you don’t need to invest quite so much.

 For something a bit lovelier to use, and gentler, there is the classic Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask (€24, Arnotts). I use it when my skin feels a bit clogged and dull, or when it is oilier than usual and mildly broken out. This charcoal mask is comforting and oil absorbing, but isn’t harsh. Wash it off with a warm flannel for really clean, comforted skin.

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