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How Long to leave a Clay Mask on?

by | Last updated Apr 21, 2020 | Published on Apr 14, 2020 | FAQ | 0 comments

One of my favorite thing about facial clay masks, apart from being natural and free from harmful chemicals, is that they are the most versatile product we use in our skincare. 

The purpose of using clay in skincare is that it is highly absorbent. Clay consist of negatively charged particles which are applied in form of a paste. It works by attracting opposite charged particles which includes the dirt and debris from our skin.

So basically I like to think of a clay mask as a vaccuum for my pores.

And the clay also provides minerals and nutrients like magnesium and silica to improve the texture of the skin.

To get the most benefit out of our clay masks it’s important to understand the correct way of using them.

So that brings us to, “how long do you leave a clay mask on for?”

At a glance,

Is there a time limit for a clay mask?

Face masks are very relaxing, but don’t relax too much and forget that you even put it on. A face mask left on for more than the required time will cause unnecessary damage to your skin.

Should I remove a Clay Mask before it dries?

I know it is satisfying to watch a clay mask harden up and change its color, makes for a good selfie and the tightening feels so good. But this is a big No No. You should remove your mask just as it gets sticky and do not let it crack.

How Long to Leave Clay Mask on for?

The easiest answer, remove the clay mask before it dries. Leave the clay mask on for approx 3 to 10 minutes.  The time to dry depends on the layer thickness you applied. When it’s still tacky, and you start to see some spots lightening in color, it’s time to take it off.  If the mask has only been on for 3 minutes, that’s ok too.

There are several types of clays which are mined from different parts of the world. Their specific chemistry give them unique properties and the face mask experience varies for each.

My 4 favorite types of clay (included in our assortment pack on amazon) are: 

Different Types of Dry Clay Face Masks

You can read our how to guide about applying a clay mask to get an in depth step by step guide.

Today I’m going to focus on one important question which is exactly “how long you should leave the mask on your face?”.

Normally, you take 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite mask dissolve it in a medium of your choice or choose from one of our recipes. Make sure the mask has a paste like consistency, not too thin and not too thick.

You then apply the mask onto your face with a brush or your fingers.  

*Related: In our FAQ series, we went into detail about the best way to apply a face mask.


As the water evaporates from the paste it will feel tighter on your face.

Depending on the weather conditions where you live, the face mask will feel like:

  • after some more time you will feel a stretch on your face like your skin is contracting under the drying clay.
  • It will start to get dry from the edges first where the application is lighter.
  • As it fully dries, then your whole face will feel rock hard as all the water leaves the concoction.

I always get distracted at this point, I even dozed off once with the mask on and it stayed there for more than an hour and I’m not proud of it. When I woke up my face felt like a rock. It was so hard and so dry that the entire mask cracked in separate pieces like a draught ridden barren land.

At that point, it was such a pain to get the mask off, I had to dampen it at first so it’ll soften up. Even then some parts needed to be scrubbed because it just wasn’t coming off. I had to pick at the separate pieces to remove them.

The prolong stay of the mask on my face along with the extra effort it took to remove it left my face like a tomato, bright red and inflamed. It did scare me for a bit and I started slathering moisturizers on trying to sooth it.

I know I let the mask suck the life out of my skin.

A mask is meant to absorb, I was the idiot who left it unsupervised.

So what should I have done instead?

According to Sharon McGlinchy, a skincare expert on MV skincare a clay mask dries in three stages:

Stage 1: The wet stage, where the mask sits nice and moist on the face, it allows for the chemical reaction to work and provides abundant amounts of minerals such as silica, calcium, zinc, magnesium and a lot more.

Stage 2: Now we have the initial drying phase where you feel the paste get stickier but there is only a slight tightness. The edges of the mask where the layer is thinnest will began to dry. In this phase the clay absorbs excessive oil and dirt from your skin.

Stage 3: Last is the final drying stage where you should get alert. The layer of clay paste will start to harden and the tight stretchy feeling will increase. Now the clay is absorbing not just the extra oil but also useful moisture from the top layer of your skin which will make it look dry and dehydrated.

Trust me on this, you need to try your best to avoid the final stage or you’ll end up in the same mess as me. A dried out cracked mask is not only very difficult to remove but will also leave your skin lifeless and inflamed.

It’s a scary situation.

Side Note: a clay mask on it’s own will not cause a chemical burn, but some ingredients in your face mask just might. Here’s what to do if you face mask is burning. 

How do you know when it’s time to remove the mask?

You must be thinking how exactly to determine when your face mask has reached the second phase of drying.

A clay expands in water, when it’s applied onto the face that water starts to evaporate. As more and more liquid leaves, clay being an astringent material not only starts to contract itself but also the skin beneath it. This is where you feel the tightness on your face. You can enjoy this feeling as well for a few more minutes but then it’s time to remove the mask before things get uncomfortable.

Rule of Thumb: always remove the mask before it dries.

When the mask is still “tacky” to the touch is the best time.

How Long to leave a Clay Mask on? 1

Another way is to look at the color of your mask. Usually the thin edges dry first and the color of the mask becomes lighter. When you have the first dry patch then this is also another indication that you should wash your face now. 

In this example, see how her forehead, nose ridge, and around her mouth is cracking? This mask has been let dry for too long and should be removed immediately: 


How Long to leave a Clay Mask on? 2

And another example of how not to do a clay mask.  This mask is completely dry all over and cracking absorbing all her natural oils.  

How Long to leave a Clay Mask on? 3

If you have left your mask on until this point, you probably will experience quite a bit of redness after your face mask.

Don’t worry, your skin is an amazing organ and it will replace your natural oils in about 30 minutes.  After half an hour your color tone will return to normal. 

Pro tip: Here’s 3 ways to remove your face mask

To recap, after application, wait approx 3 to 10 minutes (depending on thickness of your mask).  Always remove the mask BEFORE it dries.  Otherwise you will likely experience some redness if you leave it till it’s completely dry and cracking. 

How Long to leave a Clay Mask on? 4

This question was part of my FAQ series for everything about clay.  You might also want the answers to these common questions: 

Or leave a comment below with any questions you still have!

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


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