Despite its cumbersome name and the overzealous, kinda naturalistic description on the package, the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay Mask has quite the cult following, and for good reason. It’s made of 100% bentonite clay, which is fantastic for sucking the oil and gunk out of your pores, relieving skin congestion, and helping to clear up acne spots. Bentonite and kaolin clays are the star ingredients in many, many clay products such as the Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask, but used on its own will give you a much more powerful mask. Also, if you find any ingredients in ready-made masks irritating — for example, the minty tingle in the Queen Helene mask is not my particular jam — simplifying the process down to two ingredients can give you a much more manageable mask.
REMEMBER: Always patch test new products, including this beloved mask, before using it on your whole face. And don’t forget the golden rule of skincare, which is that your mileage may vary!
First, gather your supplies and take a picture in your spotless bathroom that you totally didn’t just clean for the sole purpose of taking pictures in it:
You will need:
- the star of the show, a tub of Aztec clay
- vinegar to mix with the clay powder
- some kind of small container in which you will mix up this clay goodness
- measuring spoon
- mixing spoon
- something to get the clay from the bowl to your face: I use a cheap foundation brush, but you can use your fingers.
Some notes on said supplies: as previously discussed, you don’t actually need to use the organic raw apple cider vinegar (which also comes with its own very excited, naturalistic descriptions on the label), but I bought this when I thought it was necessary and I’m not using it for anything else so it’s going on my face.
I bought this incredibly inexpensive bowl set thingie on Amazon specifically for face mask concoctions. In true Erin fashion, I have since lost the brush and the mixing stick that came with it — which is a shame because that mixing stick worked really well for some reason — so I’ve had to improvise with an actual spoon and a foundation brush I picked up at CVS.
Alright. Get your face clean and let’s get started.
Read the directions on Aztec clay tub and then promptly forget them. You don’t need a whole tablespoon (or maybe my face is just small, but I sure don’t) and I think it’s physically impossible to build this stuff up to a ½ inch thick on your face. It’s okay if you use a metal spoon or bowl for this. Also, you’re going to get a LOT more than 10 uses out of your one pound tub of clay. Don’t listen to the instructions. Listen to me.
Dump about a heaping tsp of the clay powder into your mixing vessel. Looks innocuous enough, but it’ll start to fizz (science!) when you add the vinegar.
Add roughly an equal amount of vinegar to the clay and start stirring. A 1:1 ratio of clay to vinegar is a good starting point, but I find that a little experimentation is necessary and it varies every time I use it. Once and only once was I able to whip up a perfect batch with one scoop of clay and one spoon of vinegar, but I have never been able to replicate that success.
You’re aiming for a smooth, mousse-like texture. Here’s what it’ll look like:
See that bowl of luxurious moussey deliciousness at the far right? That’s where you want to be.
Slap it on. Brush a thin layer all over your face. I would give wide berth to the area around your eyes because this mask has some major shrinkage and will pull at the delicate skin. Personally, I also avoid applying it on my upper lip and on my temples, because I’ve found the skin there to be more sensitive and prone to irritation after this mask.
Smile! It’s the last time you’re going to be able to move your face for a while.
FEEL YOUR FACE PULSATE! Now the waiting game begins. And your face will pulsate, which is kind of cool and kind of weird. The mask will shrink as it dries which will also feel weird. So go otherwise occupy yourself. Have a glass of wine. Fire up Netflix. Pet your cat. Run out to your car and grab the crap you bought at Target and hope your neighbors don’t see you. Not that I do that.
Be on the lookout for any signs of bad things happening on your face. The mask might feel weird or tingly (or PULSATING), but it shouldn’t burn, sting excessively, or otherwise hurt. If it does, rinse off. If not, give it about 10 or 15 minutes of drying time the first time you do it before removing. Resist the temptation to think that the longer it’s on your face, the more oil it will suck out and the better off you’ll be–if you leave it on for too long you run the risk of dryness, irritation, or general skin unhappiness. Remember how I said I avoid my temples when applying this stuff? That’s why. That part of my skin just doesn’t get along with this mask.
After doing this mask a couple of times, you will find your sweet spot. I usually leave it on for 20-30 minutes, but any longer than that and I’m just asking for an angry face afterwards.
You can see that the mask starts to shrink and crack a lot as it dries, and it becomes more annoying as it does this. The far right picture is immediately before I decided I’d had enough.
Rinse! Your options here are the sink or the shower. Shower is a more gentle removal: just let the water run over your face until the clay begins to soften up, then massage gently with your fingers until it’s all rinsed off.
If you go the sink route, press a sopping wet washcloth to your face to start softening up the clay before you try wiping it off. It will be a little physically exfoliating, but again, it shouldn’t hurt–if it does, this mask may not be the right one for you.
Personally I just go for the shower because when I rinse it off in the sink I always end up with bits of clay stuck in my hair. Not cute.
Dry off and admire your beautiful mug. Everywhere you applied the mask will be a nice pinky red shade, but don’t freak out because this is normal and will go away within an hour or so. Your skin should feel nice and smooth. You might notice a reduction in the appearance of sebaceous filaments and blemishes.
Let’s have a closer look at that redness, shall we?
PLEASE NOTE that these red areas are NOT irritation and are not painful, tender, dry, flaky, sore, or any bad adjective. The mask’s sucking action (technical term) increases the circulation in the surface of your skin (that’s what you felt PULSATING before), and it makes it red. This is normal.
If the redness is accompanied by any irritation or pain, that is not normal and you should take appropriate recovery steps such as applying soothing aloe gel, moisturizing heavily, applying petroleum jelly to any irritated areas, and avoiding anything else that could potentially be irritating (including chemical or physical exfoliation) until you’re all healed up. This mask may not be for you, and that’s okay!
Continue your skin routine. I usually do this at night, so I just skip my chemical exfoliating for that night and get straight to the moisturizing. I like to extra moisturize too, because of the tendency of this mask to dry you out, so if you’ve got heavier creams now is the time to bust them out.
Step Nine (optional)
Pet your face. Soooo soft and smooth. Okay now stop it, your hands have a lot of germs and you don’t want that on your face.
And there you have it! You too can join the cult of Aztec Clay worshipers. Just remember to be gentle to your skin, patch test first, and don’t let it sit on your face for too long. I hope that you get fantastic results from this mask, but if it’s not for you then please don’t fret! There will be a post soon discussing the ready-made options that can be gentler on your skin, such as the Queen Helene mask mentioned above.
Questions or concerns? Hit up that comment button!