Middle-Class Mud: These Drugstore Clay Masks Are Surprisingly Fancy and Effective

FINE — these can sit with my expensive face masks.
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Publish date:
August 1, 2016
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masks, exfoliation, clay, vichy, clay mask, AHAs, L'oreal

I'll admit, I rarely shop the drugstore beauty aisle for skincare, which is why sometimes I need to be force-fed skincare products from la pharmacie to be reminded that there's some good stuff that lives in those fluorescent-lit aisles.

Case in point: Marci throwing these new L'Oreal clay face masks at me (not literally throwing, just like... enthusiastic pushing upon); also these new masks from Vichy (who are owned by L'Oreal, so same diff, sort of, but not really).

The trusty thing about clay masks is that they generally contain the same main actives of whatever clay they're working with (i.e. bentonite, fuller's earth, kaolin, you know — fancy earth mud) and then a bunch of other cushy ingredients to customize texture, wear, scent, and other things the mask wants to do to your face. So luxury or otherwise — it's all mud. Mud is the great equalizer.

So anyway, these Pure-Clay Masks from L'Oreal Paris — there are three of them: Detox & Brighten with charcoal, Exfoliate & Refine with red algae, and Purify & Mattify with eucalyptus. All of them have kaolinite, montmorillonite (green clay), and ghassoul (volcanic red clay) on top of their respective active.

They all say what their specialties are in their names, so you can triple-up with multi-masking or pick whichever. My favorite is the exfoliating one with red algae because the tiny bits in it give you that instant gratification of a freshly scrubbed mug (also all that rubbing boosts circulation!). Plus, maybe I'm just imagining it, but it also makes my skin feel hydrated and plump — two things my face aspires to on the regular.

The charcoal one is a classic pore vaccum. It's not overly drying, which is a plus, and my pores feel properly plucked post-rinse. No complaints here. The eucalyptus one feels super-refreshing, not unlike a Peppermint Patty commercial. I don't have exceedingly oily skin (I'm combo) so I can't completely speak to its mattifying properties, but it makes my skin feel the way my teeth do after a good brush: minty fresh.

Vichy, L'Oreal's fancy thermal mineral water line, also just released two new face masks: Mineral Pore Purifying Facial Clay Mask and the Double Glow Facial Peel Mask.

Vichy's secret sauce is mineral thermal volcano water, which is in all their products. I'm pretty sure it's the stuff fancy French ladies swear by, misting themselves with this modern age-repellant vampire water from the underground eternal springs of the French mountains.

The clay mask feels chock full of minerals (if you can imagine such a thing) and may very well be a pore-purifying version of said thermal mineral vampire water. It's quite gentle and non-drying, which makes for a nice pampering experience. I hate having to choose between pore-purifying and hydrated, nourished-feeling skin.

More exciting (for me) is the Double Glow Facial Peel mask — "peel" meaning exfoliating. The combination of AHAs and crushed-up volcanic rock (for fine grit-powered manual exfoliation) is what they mean by "double." It's not crazy-strong as far as AHAs goes, but if you're a total n00b to AHAs, I'd start slow with this once since that whole double aspect can easily have you unwittingly sand-papering your face. My skin felt so fresh and so clean post-masking with this pink goo.

I found myself using all five of these in rotation for a week, which is a lot of masking for one person, but on the other side of it, my face was feeling pretty plush. OK, so fine, these can sit with my plethora of fancy face masks.

Something also to keep in mind about masking: it's entirely possible that their lower price point made me less precious about them, so big duh moment — actually using the masks is what makes them work. Frequency, people! I shouldn't be parsing out my more expensive, fancier face masks to once every two weeks because I want to savor them. Even great formulas can't work if they can't touch your skin.

But not to veer into face-mask conspiracies — I'm mostly pumped to see that drugstores have more to offer in the mask department other than those mint mud or cucumber peel-off masks in a tube that always pinched my skin or made my skin super-dry.

  • What skincare stuff do you guys mess with from the drugstore?
  • Which of these sounds right for your face?