A Simple Homemade Mask for Acne (That Actually Works)
A Ridiculously Simple Homemade Acne Mask
I discovered Aztec Healing Clay during my own quest for better skin. When used about once a week, it can improve skin tone and reduce facial oil, blackheads, and pimples. Best of all, it is all natural, ridiculously simple to make, and incredibly inexpensive. In this article, I'm digging into the many benefits of bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar, and, of course, I'll be offering a how-to guide to lead you to sweet clay-mask glory.
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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I am not a dermatologist. I am not a holistic practitioner of any kind. I am simply sharing a product and recipe that work for my skin problems. It is a known formula (I'm not making this stuff up) with basic, natural ingredients.
About the Author
Female With Oily, Acne-Prone Olive Skin
I am almost 30 years old, and I have been dealing with acne in some form for over a decade. I get breakouts mostly in my T-zone, with regular hormonal breakouts on my chin and along my hairline. Recently, I've started devoloping more skin discoloration, some acne scars, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation. Over the years, I have tried the following in attempts to keep my skin under control:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Salicylic acid
- Clindamycin (a topical antibiotic)
- Birth control
- Spironolactone (an oral testosterone/androgen blocker)
- Doxycycline (an oral antibiotic)
Most of these medications have not worked for me. Some have actually made my skin worse. It got to the point where I was sick of dealing with these issues and sick of throwing my money away (and poisoning my body) with products and pills that didn't work.
Recently, for the first time in my life, I went to a real, honest-to-goodness dermatologist. I was pleasantly surprised because he was not the kind of doctor that pushed expensive products or procedures. He advocated simple, natural skincare, which I love. One skincare treatment he recommended was so simple, I was surprised I hadn't heard of it before.
The first thing my dermatologist recommended was use of an acidic clay mask. He sold his own variety at his office for a comparatively low fee (for a dermatologist's product), but I knew that, given my financial situation and distance from his office, I would want to find an alternative. I looked at the ingredients on the back of the jar I purchased from his office and saw clay, water, and vinegar were the first three ingredients. Seems simple enough, right?
After a quick Google search, I learned that the clay in question was likely bentonite clay. Bentonite clay is a subset of green clay. Green clay is also the big mama to French green clay, aka montmorillonite, and non-swelling green clay, aka illite. These clays are known for their healing and restorative properties.
So What About the Bentonite Clay? Do I Have to Dig This up out of the Earth?
Aztec Clay is available at the Vitamin Shoppe for about $8. If you don't have one nearby, you can find it online.
Allow me to introduce you to your new best friend: Aztec Healing Clay. This stuff is 100% natural calcium bentonite clay. No additives, no fragrances, no animal testing. It's dirt cheap. Pun intended.
Apple Cider Vinegar
From the jar of clay, I also saw that vinegar was a main component in the mask. Apple cider vinegar is widely used for skin care because of its concentration of malic and lactic acids.
Malic acid, which comes from apples, is a subset of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). It is good for:
- Anti aging
- Evening out skin tone
- Reducing the appearance of pores
- Treating melasma and rosacea
Lactic acid is also a member of the AHA family. It is commonly found in sour or fermented milk but is also found in apple cider vinegar. Lactic acid is good for:
- Hydrating the skin
- Stimulating collagen
- Preventing sun damage
- Treating acne-prone, oily, and problem skin through its antibacterial and astringent properties
I use an organic raw (unfiltered) apple cider vinegar from Trader Joe's. If you don't have a Trader Joe's nearby, check out Whole Foods or a similar organic market. You can also find it online.
Bragg is a high-quality, well-known brand.
Wrinkles and Acne. Both. Ugh.
These two very simple ingredients, bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar, are very effective for skin care. They are great for cleaning out pores, exfoliating skin, restoring the pH balance of your face, calming inflammation, reducing oil, and neutralizing bacteria—all factors that can contribute to blemishes. While fighting acne in this manner, green clay and apple cider vinegar can also work to prevent or reduce fine lines and wrinkles. This is good news for those that are in what I call "The Super Awesome Crossover Age Group," i.e., those who are young enough to have pimples, but old enough to be concerned about aging skin.
Clay Mask Recipe
Step 1: Mix Your Mask
You will need a small glass, wooden or ceramic bowl, non-metal mixing utensil (I used a plastic disposable knife), and plastic tablespoon. Why non-metal? Your mask mixture can react to it.
Note: Be careful using vinegar around marble, granite, or any other natural stone surface. The acid in the vinegar can permanently etch the finish.
- 1 tablespoon Aztec Healing Clay
- 1 tablespoon organic raw apple cider vinegar. (If you particularly hate the smell or your skin is sensitive or not super oily, you can substitute some of the vinegar for water. Try a 50/50 ratio of water to vinegar instead.)
- Wash your face with a mild cleanser and pat dry. If you aren't wearing makeup and your face isn't particularly dirty, you can also just splash your face with water.
- Measure one tablespoon of the Aztec clay powder and add it to your bowl.
- Measure one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and add it to your bowl.
- Mix. (It will fizz a bit.)
If it is too thin, add more clay; if it's too thick, add more vinegar.
Step 2: Apply! Apply!
Once you have your mask "paste," apply it in about an 1/8- to a 1/4-inch-thick slab on your face. Don't put it on too thinly or it won't work as well. If you have true combination skin, and your face is oily in the T-Zone but dry on your cheeks, you can try putting it on your chin, nose, and forehead only.
Let the mask dry for 15 minutes and draw out impurities for another 15 minutes or so, for a total of 30 minutes. My dermatologist told me to put his mask on for 45 minutes to an hour, which I have also done with this recipe, but I usually find it too drying to do it that long. If your skin is sensitive or not excessively oily, leave it on for a shorter period of time. The jar of clay states that you can even leave it on for five minutes, so it's entirely up to you and what you think is best for your skin.
Note: Even if the mask has dried for an hour, the mask may not turn the same, uniform light green color throughout (see my super hot photos below).
Step 3: Let It Dry!
Moving your face can be uncomfortable, so do your best not to talk or smile. You will feel your face tingle a bit and you might experience a mild burning sensation. Your face will also pulsate. Really. It says so on the jar.
Once you've dutifully waited for the acne mask to magically purge your face gunk, wash it off with warm water. It'll take a little work to get it off, but trust me, it will wash away. If your skin is sensitive, restrain your urge to pick the dried hunks of mask off. It's hard to do, I know.
You might make a little mess on your countertop. Wipe everything up and clean everything off before it hardens.
When you remove the mask, you may notice that your face is a bit red (the photo here is of my face immediately after removing the mask). The jar of Aztec Healing Clay states that the redness will fade in 30 minutes, but I've never risked it during the daytime. Reduce your risk of redface mess and only use the mask at night before bedtime. Your face should be fine by the morning.
As with any skincare product, if you start having an adverse reaction or your skin gets super irritated, stop using the product immediately and see a doctor if necessary. If you're concerned about serious allergic reactions, ask your doctor first and foremost. If you aren't allergic to any of the ingredients, you can test your sensitivity to the ingredients mixing up some of the mask and applying a small bit on your arm.
Attention Retin-A Users
I've used Retin-A while using this mask. It didn't irritate my skin, but I never applied Retin-A directly after using it. In fact, I don't apply anything. Not lotion, not anything. If your skin is drier, you can apply whatever mild moisturizer you feel comfortable with.
If you are concerned about the topical acne medications you are using in conjuncture with this mask, don't apply them the day of (or even the day before) mask application. This step will help minimize skin irritation.
Do You Have Problem Skin?
I have been dealing with adult acne for the better part of a decade. I have tried all kinds of products and medications, seen multiple doctors and dermatologists, and done a lot of research over the years. I wrote down some words of advice and tips in this article: Acne Truths and Myths. I also have a series, called The Acne Experiment, going on my main blog in which I methodically test out different products and regimens. I'm an acne scientist now.
© 2012 Shay Marie
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