W SELECTS

The Best Clay Mask That Won’t Dry Out Your Skin

Lesse’s Bioactive Masque contains aloe, calendula, and other hydrating ingredients that balance out the pore-clearing effects of charcoal and kaolin clay.


a jar of clay face mask from the brand Lesse, against a grey background

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I used to think that the effectiveness of a clay mask could be measured in how intense it felt as it dried into a powdery spackle. Once hardened, the gloopy, green masks I loved in my teens and 20s made my face feel as taut as a sheet of plastic wrap stretched over a bowl of leftovers. That’s how you know it’s working, I’d tell myself, only to contend with a splotchy complexion for the rest of the day.

These days, I prefer a gentler approach. My skin is more sensitive and less oily than it was back then, and I’ve been informed by various articles and Reddit threads that letting a clay mask dry out fully can do more harm than good, causing irritation and pulling precious moisture out of the top layer of skin cells. Thankfully, there’s a whole new generation of clay masks that incorporate hydrating ingredients along with the good, old-fashioned pore-clearing stuff—and that spare you from ever getting to that dried-plaster phase.

I’ve probably tried a dozen of them, but the true standout for me has been the Bioactive Face Masque from Lesse, an organic skincare line. Thanks to a high concentration of soothing Aloe Barbadensis leaf juice, the mask maintains a pleasant, jelly-like texture even after it’s been on my face for 15 minutes. Also in the mix: kaolin clay, glycerin, charcoal powder, rice flour, calendula, maca root, tea tree extract, chamomile flower, beeswax, and a handful of other potent, naturally sourced ingredients that amount to a cleansing, soothing, vitamin-rich potion.

I keep my jar by the bathtub and use it once or twice a week, leaving it on while I soak and rinsing it with a damp washcloth. My pores look and feel decongested, and instead of a side of redness and irritation, I get a healthy, happy glow.

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