How Long Should I Leave a Mask On?

Clay Masks

Purifying clay masks are usually the easiest masks to time. Due to the powerful absorption of impurities, you don’t want to leave a clay mask on for very long. Active clay can start to suck out all the goodness from your skin as well as the bad.

The general rule of thumb for a clay mask is to let it dry at least 3 minutes, but no longer than 20. While you may feel that leaving clay on for hours will deeply decongest the skin, in reality, it will wind up upsetting your pH balance, causing more problems than you started with. Below are some great examples of clay masks that fall within the range of 3 to 20 minutes.

The Sand&Sky Australian Pink Clay Porefining Face Mask will not only draw the ‘bad stuff’ out of your skin, including impurities, toxins, pollutants and pigmentation clusters, this phenomenal mask will work to unleash your natural glow, helping to regenerate skin cells, stimulate collagen, create a defence shield and prevent free radical damage. Glowing, healthy skin is just one mask away!

Say goodbye to blackheads with the philosophy purity made simple - exfoliating clay mask. Infused with powerful ingredients including purifying white clay, salicylic acid and natural exfoliants, this pore extracting mask help to draw out congestion and impurities, while scrubbing away dead skin cells and blackheads. This creamy-rich clay facial mask renews the complexion, encouraging a refreshed, glowing complexion free from those pesky blackheads.

Minimise pores, draw out impurities and promote a healthy complexion with the Kiehl's Rare Earth Cleansing Masque. Ideal for normal to combination skin types, this mask features Amazonian White Clay and Bentonite to purify and detox skin, removing bacteria, toxins, excess oils and dead skin cells in the skin that can often be the cause of breakouts. Added Aloe Vera and Oatmeal work to soothe and comfort skin, this purifying masque will leave your complexion clear, soft and smooth.

Deep cleansing clay masque for most skin types. This clarifying masque should be used weekly, or more often on oily skins, and is an excellent refresher for clogged or abused skin. The superb base of French Clay and concentrated Vitamin E is enhanced with softening and anti- oxidant plant actives of Rose Geranium, Primrose Seed and Sage, and is wonderfully balancing on patchy skin. Leaves your skin feeling glassy-smooth, never dry or tight.

Cream/gel masks with no chemical exfoliants (acids or enzymes)

The drying time for this category of facial mask is pretty much up to you. Due to the lack of seriously potent ingredients, hydrating masks can be left on as long as you’d like without harming your skin.

Some cream and gel masks can even be left on overnight to achieve a serious benefit to the skin. With no intense resurfacing ingredients or high concentrations of brightening agents, the longer the better is generally the case. Some beautiful soothing masks in this category include Dr Hauschka Soothing Mask and Aspect Gold Probiotic Sleep Mask.


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Masks that contain any level of exfoliating acids, enzymes, or retinoids

Face masks containing actives other than clay are all absolutely different, and the instructions need to be followed down to the letter. If you’re unsure, 10 minutes is the limit, and with some products, even that may be too long.

For example, Cosmedix Define Resurfacing Treatment is an overnight mask that contains retinol and fruit acids and is obviously meant for extended wear. However, the same brand’s Cosmedix Pure Enzymes Exfoliating Mask is meant to be left on for just 3 to 15 minutes, and only 1 minute for sensitive skin. Same brand, similar names, similar ingredients—but totally different treatment times due to the potency of ingredients.

As you can see, each type of mask has a different effect on the skin and requires a different amount of time to work correctly. Ideally, you should attempt to find the application time somewhere online for your particular product. But if you absolutely can’t, these are great rules of thumb to follow!

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