This is why you shouldn’t let a clay mask dry properly

A viral TikTok video is making us rethink everything we thought we knew about clay face masks. 

We all love a face mask: whether it’s an ingrained part of your weekly skincare routine or something you treat yourself to whenever you need a bit of R&R, nothing is more relaxing or works as such an effective signal to slow down and take some time out – even if it is only for 15 minutes.

It’s likely we’ve all learnt from the same clay mask rule book, though, and your technique probably goes something like this: apply a thick layer, leave it to dry and don’t move, don’t smile, don’t laugh, don’t even try to raise your eyebrows. Instead, stay perfectly still, try to resist the temptation to make it crack and wait until it’s beyond bone dry. 

But what if we told you that everything you’d ever been taught about clay masks is wrong and that, actually, they shouldn’t be left to dry completely?

Well, that’s exactly what’s about to happen, because according to a viral TikTok video, letting your mask dry properly is a big no no. And to be honest, it’s a theory that does actually make some sense. According to the video, you shouldn’t let clay masks dry the whole way through because it can end up drying skin out – which, apparently, is the reason that steamers are used in some professional facials. That way, the mask is being used for its intended purpose – to draw out impurities from the skin, but not the water. 

This isn’t an ill-thought-out theory, either – skincare experts agree. “Clay masks are popular because clay is very effective at extracting excess oil or sebum from the skin, as well as any surface toxins or impurities bound up in the water of the skin barrier,” Dr Toni Phillips, group clinical director at DestinationSkin, tells Stylist.

“However, if they’re left on for too long, the clay may absorb water from the skin barrier, which, crucially, affects hydration levels in the skin. In the short term, this directly affects the skin’s plumpness and glow. In the long term it can lead to premature skin ageing,” she says.

Dr Zainab Laftah, dermatology consultant at HCA The Shard agrees, adding that if a mask is left for too long it can result in skin irritation. “The drying action is in fact drawing excess moisture from the skin, stripping it of its natural protective oils and compromising the barrier function. Furthermore, certain ingredients, once dry, can cause skin inflammation, which can present as itchy, red blotchy skin.” 

It’s also important to note that while the TikTok video suggests steaming or spritizing your face if you want to keep your mask on longer, that’s not advised.

“The rule is not to leave the mask longer than recommended,” explains Laftah. “If you see or feel the mask starting to dry then it is time to rinse it off. Spritzing with a mist can help ease its removal, but this should not be used to increase the duration of the mask. At this point the mask has had its maximum beneficial effects.”

Well, that’s us told – every day really is a school day, isn’t it? 

Main image: Getty

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