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Is it normal for a Face Mask to Burn?

by | Last updated Apr 21, 2020 | Published on Mar 10, 2020 | FAQ | 2 comments

If you are reading this and your skin is feeling a “burning sensation”, take it off, right now.  Then come back.

An unfortunate situation where your skin is damaged by a medicinal or cosmetic product is called a chemical skin burn. It’s painful, disfiguring and can have long term effects.

Most at-home beauty products are not supposed to be strong enough to cause such a damage themselves. But it’s our body’s own hyper-response against these substances which leaves us with a lot of regrets.

It’s like your skin calling the fire department on something and those people end up making more of a mess then there was in the first place.

Here’s what you need to know, FAQ:

Is it normal for stinging after a face mask?

Nope! Clay masks or any face mask is not supposed to hurt in any way. If you feel a product is stinging your skin, listen to your body this is not a good sign. Although this is different from the tightening and pulsating feel of a clay mask which is normal.

What’s the difference from a skin burn or irritation after a skincare product?

An allergic or hypersensitivity reaction causing damage to your skin surface cells, which can be temporary or permanent is termed as a skin burn. Skin irritation, although is not the same as a burn but it can be considered as a warning sign.

Should a clay mask burn?

Short answer, no. Some clays are more suitable for sensitive skin than others, but most of the time it’s one of the ingredients which is upsetting the skin. It can be the use of highly concentrated essential oils or caustic harsh mediums like ACV which aggravates this reaction. Burning is different than the normal redness after a clay mask.

If you have ANY product on your skin that is creating a burning sensation, the first step is to take it off immediately.

I have seen a couple youtube videos where people are experiencing burning, keep it on thinking it’s working and the results are very alarming.

And then keep reading and let’s dive into why you might have experienced this sensation and what to do now.

Is it normal for a face mask to burn

What is a burn?

A chemical burn is an inflammatory or hypersensitivity response of your skin to “potentially” harmful substances coming in contact with your body.

Inflammation is supposed to be protective, it’s your body fighting against these compounds which might cause tissue damage.

Whenever the skin detects such an inciting substance, inflammation or a “burn” presents with the following signs:

  1. Calor (heat)
  2. Dolor (pain)
  3. Rubor (redness)
  4. Tumor (swelling)

Studying the process of inflammation is extremely important in analyzing injuries of any kind.

Excessive inflammation can cause temporary or even permanent tissue damage which we call a burn.

So how is a clay mask supposed to feel?

As I mentioned before, the process of inflammation under certain limits is basically protective against harmful foreign agents.

We as humans love to manipulate things for our own personal reasons, it is our most favorite thing to do. Sometimes we induce inflammatory response in our bodies for other benefits.

Just like massaging your scalp and increasing its blood supply is a well-known technique of improving hair thickness, being used for centuries when we didn’t even know how it was helping. In the same way, we use the slight tingling sensation of a clay mask to dilate the blood vessels in our skin.

The rush of extra blood brings in more nutrients to the surface layer of the skin while also flushing out damaged cells and promote healing.

So a tingle, some redness, is our way of using our body’s natural mechanism for a little extra benefit.

But we should keep in mind that a clay mask is not supposed to feel uncomfortable or painful. The redness should not stay for more than 30 minutes after the mask has been removed.  Some redness after a mask is perfectly normal.  It’s normally a result of leaving the clay mask on till it was more than dry.

A clay mask or any other form of skincare should be relaxing and comfortable and safe enough to be used by even an absolute beginner.

Why do some clay masks sting?

Are they supposed to? NO.

A sting is a painful burning sensation which should typically turn on the alarms in your brain. If your clay is stinging, there might be something up with the technique you’re using or the type of clay is just not suitable for your skin type.

For some of us, our skin is more sensitive than others which means it will react more aggressively to a stimulus.

Certain type of clays are more stimulating to the skin.

Bentonite clay, famously known as the Aztec healing clay is considered to be extremely powerful in absorbing and tightening the skin.  A lot of people report a “pulsating” sensation. But because of this, bentonite might not be the best option for very sensitive skin types.

While white kaolin is supposed to be the most gentle of all clays used on the face and will probably suit all skin types including the most sensitive ones.

Other reasons your clay mask might be causing damage to your skin is your technique of mixing and applying the mask.

All our bodies work differently and there is no one size fits all situation here. I use my bentonite clay with apple cider vinegar with hardly any stinging or redness but that doesn’t mean it can’t cause havoc in your skin if you’re more sensitive than me.

Bentonoite clay is best mixed with ACV to balance the PH of the mask.  But if you skin reacts to the ACV, try a milder, but still fairly acidic ingredient, like rosewater. It may tone down the effect considerably.

You can try adding and subtracting ingredients from your clay mask to determine what exactly is causing you to react that way or check out this list of amazing kaolin clay mask recipes for sensitive skin.

What to avoid:

As we established, a dry clay mask is a natural product free from harmful additives and preservatives. It will only cause a burn if you are particularly allergic to that specific type of clay or it can be due to what you’re adding to your mask.

**Always test patch any type of product, even clay, before applying to your skin to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction.

One of the most wonderful part of using a dry clay is that you can tailor the entire recipe according to your needs. This is something you cannot do with store bought pre-made masks and many times we don’t even know what the additives of those products are.

Using a highly acidic medium like apple cider vinegar to mix the clay is helpful for my very stubborn acne prone skin but for many people it can be very irritating. I normally even suggest diluting ACV with water will tone down the irritation, like in our bentonite + apple cider vinegar recipe.

Another very popular method is to add essential oils to your clay mask. Essential oils have proven benefits as anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and moisturizing agents.

But the aromatherapy industry collectively believes that using these concentrated plant oils directly on skin can cause irritation or chemical sensitivities if applied direct.

Therefore an essential oil should always be used diluted with a carrier oil so we don’t end up causing unintended harm to our delicate facial skin.

In summary,

When it comes to skincare, simplicity is key.

The huge list of unpronounceable ingredients we see at the back of commercial products only increases the risk of any of them causing an unwanted reaction on our skin.

A natural dry clay mask with fresh ingredients from the safe and hygienic environment of our own homes is the most effective way of avoiding some very undesirable consequences.

Disclaimer: Our content does not constitute a dermatologist or medical advice.

Related: get more answers to other facial clay mask FAQ’s.


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