I’ve had a few bad reactions to products in my time as a K-beauty and skincare enthusiast, but never have I ever had a reaction as immediate and as bad as I did to the clay mask I used tonight. Within minutes after putting the thing on, I was in full ABORT! ABORT!! ABORT!!! mode. Let’s talk about the Skin & Lab Dr. Pore Tightening Glacial Clay Facial Mask, the better alternatives for cleaning out and minimizing the look of pores, and what masks I can count on to save my face tonight.
Some products featured in this post were provided for my consideration by Fifty Shades of Snail sponsor Memebox through the Memebox Ambassadors program and are marked with double asterisks(**). Affiliate links in this post are marked with an asterisk(*).
Review: Skin & Lab Dr. Pore Tightening Glacial Clay Facial Mask**
I’ve actually had this mask in my stash for months and months. It was sent to me in a box of Memebox Ambassador stuff sometime last fall, but because I was at the time deep in the throes of tretface troubles and had a different pore-cleaning mask open anyway, I put it away and forgot about it. I recently ran out of my Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask*(also an Ambassador item, but one that actually worked well for me), dug up the Skin & Lab mask, and figured, oh, why the hell not.
Purpose: Skin & Lab Dr. Pore Tightening Glacial Clay Facial Mask claims to clean and minimize pores, control excess sebum, exfoliate, and moisturize skin.
Best suited for: People who hate their faces; masochists with face-burning fetishes.
Do not use if: You don’t like it when your face burns.
When and how to use: After cleansing and drying face, spread a thin layer of product over skin. Let dry for 10-15 minutes, then rinse off and follow with your normal skincare routine. That’s what it says on the box. Personally, I say just don’t. Don’t.
Skin & Lab Dr. Pore Tightening Glacial Clay Facial Mask ingredients: Water, avena sativa (oat) kernel flour, kaolin, bentonite, glycerin, Canadian colloidal clay, stearic acid, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf oil, portulaca oleracea extract, pentylene glycol, triethanolamine, glyceryl stearate SE, cetyl ethylhexanoate, magnesium aluminum silicate, butylene glycol, saccharide isomerate, allantoin, cetearyl alcohol, xanthan gum, disodium EDTA, methylparaben, phenoxyethanol, propylparaben, titanium dioxide (CI 77891), chromium oxide greens (CI 77288)
Notable ingredients: I count three different types of clay in this mask, including Canadian colloidal clay. I’m not super sure what the Canadian origin of the clay is meant to convey here. Natural, clean, and pure are my top guesses, followed immediately by gentle and polite. Well, it may well be natural, clean, and pure, but this mask is friggin rude and not at all gentle. The tea tree leaf oil is likely in here to target breakouts, while the oat flour should provide some gentle exfoliation and ingredients like glycerin, saccharide isomerate, allantoin, and cetearyl alochol aim to moisturize, which is important to offset the naturally drying qualities of clay masks.
Things didn’t start off badly with this product. Softer than many clay masks and a little chunky thanks to the oat flour, Skin & Lab’s Glacial Clay Facial Mask spread easily over my face and felt, at first, creamy and refreshing. It has a pleasant minty fragrance and gave me, at first, a pleasant mild cooling sensation.
And then the burning started. Oh God the burning.
My skin began to tingle immediately on contact with the mask, and the tingling intensified rapidly. Within a couple of minutes after I finished covering my face with this stuff, the tingling went from from “hm, fun sensation” to “I don’t know about this” to “shitshitshitshitshit get this off of me,” at which point I leapt out of my chair and dashed for the shower.
The most I can say for the rest of the experience is that the mask rinsed off much more easily than most other clay masks, and that it did leave my face slightly brighter and my nose pores a little clearer. These benefits are nowhere near worth the literally painful experience of wearing it for 4 minutes, tops.
After rinsing the mask off and embarking on the rescue routine I’ll talk about below, I consulted with the Snail Unit, including Chel of Holy Snails handmade skincare fame, to see if we could figure out, based on the ingredients, what had gone wrong.
Our first suspicion was that the mask was extremely alkaline, since it contains plenty of clay as well as stearic acid. I thinned the mask with a bit of water to make it runny enough to test with pH strips and found, surprisingly, that it isn’t. It tested at about a 7, fairly neutral.
(Mixing product with a tiny bit of water won’t change the pH enough to invalidate testing results, by the way. Snow explained it by likening an acid to a room full of horny ladies, and a base as a room full of horny bros. Water, which is more or less pH-neutral, enters the room as a heterosexual couple. The addition of that couple to either a room full of ladies or a room full of bros won’t contribute much to balancing out either scenario. For more raunchy pH analogies, check out Snow’s pH primer over on Snow White and the Asian Pear.)
Anyway, the point is that the pH of the mask turns out to not be the issue here.
More likely is that it’s the overall formulation of the mask that’s the issue, with the soothing and moisturizing ingredients being inadequate to even out the inherent harshness of the clays and the tea tree oil. The fact that I’m using prescription tretinoin does make my skin more sensitive than it would be otherwise, but on the other hand, I always use gentle, non-stripping low pH cleansers that don’t leave my skin thin or dry. I also haven’t used my acids for over a month and don’t use physical exfoliants more than once a week. My barrier isn’t that compromised. And even when it was much more compromised than it is now, I never had such an instant and painful response to a product, even one loaded with ingredients considered irritating. For me, Skin & Lab Dr. Pore Tightening Glacial Clay Facial Mask is something very, very special, in a very, very bad way.
Conclusion: I can’t recommend this. Personally, I think that even if this mask doesn’t make your face feel like it’s on fire, any strong tingling indicates that it’s suboptimally harsh. There are better ways to deal with pore issues. If you want to “shrink” your pores by clearing them of accumulated sebum and dead skin cell gunk, and/or if you’re looking for a clay mask alternative that can fit into my three-step pore killer routine, look elsewhere. I’ll give you some better alternatives below.
Clay masks to clear pores without destroying dry skin (or any skin)
My time in the tretface trenches has forced me to look beyond traditional clay masks like the classic Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask*, which is excellent for normal, combo, or oily non-sensitive skin but just a tad bit drying for my skin type and condition. Here, to make up for the disappointment of a pore-clearing clay mask gone terribly wrong, are my three favorites.
For times when my skin feels particularly dry and/or sensitive but does need a bit of deep cleansing, I love My Beauty Diary Moisturizing & Repairing Cleansing Pack. This is a two-step mask set. Each pack comes with a single-use Algae Moisturizing Mud Mask and a Glacier Water Soothing Repair Mask. The mud mask has the silky, soft consistency of a smooth pudding and delivers gentle gunk removal while simultaneously actually moisturizing my skin the way the Skin & Lab glacier clay mask promised to but didn’t. The sheet mask has some fit issues on my face but deeply hydrates and calms my skin afterwards. ($9 for pack of 4, Amazon Prime*)
Algae Moisturizing Mud Mask ingredients: Water, kaolin, glycerin, neopentyl glycol dicaprate, propylene glycol, bentonite, hydroxyethylcellulose, fragrance, allantoin, chlorphenesin, phenoxyethanol, xanthan gum, hydrolyzed conchiolin protein, punica granatum extract, algae extract, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (CosDNA)
Glacier Water Soothing Repair Mask ingredients: Water, glycerin, butylene glycol, propylene glycol, arnica montana flower extract, phenoxyethanol, chlorphenesin, polysorbate 20, triethanolamine, polyquaternium-51, sodium hyaluronate, sodium lactate, citric acid, hydroxyethyl urea, macadamia seed oil glycereth-8 esters, hydrolyzed jojoba esters, acer saccharum (sugar maple) extract, algae extract, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) fruit extract, citrus grandis (grapefruit) fruit extract, citrus medica limonum (lemon) peel extract, codium tomentosum extract, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, fucus vesiculosus extract, laminaria digitata extract, lecithin, malva sylvestris (mallow) flower extract, polysorbate 80, hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel) leaf extract, saccharum officinarum (sugar cane) extract, PEG-15 hydroxystearate, alanine, arginine, betaine, carbomer, glutamic acid, glycine, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, lysine, proline, serine, sorbitol, threonine, xanthan gum, sodium hydroxide, glycosphingolipids, tocopheryl acetate (CosDNA)
When my skin’s feeling dry-to-normal or just normal, I love whipping out the Elizavecca Kangsi 24K Pack**, which was also provided to me through the Memebox Ambassador program. A very strange smooth golden goo, this mask is actually marketed as a hydrating and brightening mask. It consistently gives me clearer and smaller-looking pores as a bonus on top of the radiance-boosting results, though. It’s also really fun, in that Wacky K-Beauty Gimmick way. It goes on gold but turns white and crumbly when ready to rinse off. ($16, Memebox*)
Elizavecca Kangsi 24K Pack ingredients: Water, silica, alcohol, maltose, glycerin, polyvinyl alcohol, cyclopentasiloxane, polysorbate 60, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) extract, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) extract, origanum vulgare flower/leaf/stem extract, thymus vulgaris (thyme) extract, phyllanthus embilica fruit extract, aristotelia chilensis fruit extract, euterpe oleracea (acai) fruit extract, rubus idaeus (raspberry) fruit extract, vaccinium angustifolium (blueberry) fruit extract, vaccinium myrtillus fruit extract, vaccinium macrocarpon (cranberry) fruit extract, propolis extract, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, portulaca oleracea extract, hydrolyzed collagen, adenosine, ceramide 3, gold, synthetic fluorphlogopite, tin oxide, titanium dioxide, iron oxides, carbomer, tromethamine, fragrance (CosDNA)
Finally, when my skin’s either pretty robustly normal or I’ve got makeup on and want to combine clay masking with first cleansing, I reach for the famous Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask**, yet another Memebox Ambassador item. This one gives both skincaretainment and excellent deep pore cleaning (and makeup and sunscreen removal if used without cleansing first!). ($11, Memebox*)
Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask ingredients: Purified Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, White Clay, Acrylate Copolymer, Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate, Methyl Perfluorobutyl Ether, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Lauramide DEA, TEA-Cocoyl Glutamate, Green Tea Extracts, Glycerine, Dipropylene Glycol, Bentonite, Collagen, Charcoal Powder, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Flavouring Agents, Carbonated Water, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA, Allantoin, Butylene Glycol, Lavender Extracts, Monarda Didyma Leaf Extracts, Peppermint Leaf Extracts, Freesia Leaf Extracts, Chamomile Flower Extracts, Rosemary Leaf Extracts (CosDNA)
The masks that will be saving my skin tonight
I already had my recovery routine plotted out by the time I finished cleansing the last of the horrifically harsh Skin & Lab Dr. Pore Tightening Glacial Clay Facial Mask from my face.
I’m not going to discuss every step of tonight’s rescue routine (check out my skincare wardrobe if you want links and details about the products in here, or ask me in the comments) but I do want to highlight the masks I’m using.
Immediately after cleansing off the Skin & Lab glacial clay mistake and patting my face dry, I slathered on a layer of I’m From Honey Mask, which I personally think is just about the best honey mask ever made. It contains a substantial amount of uncut honey, as well as snail and a ton of other good things. I left the mask on for over an hour, and my skin felt so good once I rinsed it off that I almost decided to go ahead with my Curology as if it were a normal night. (I didn’t. One risk a night is enough.) (Full review)
Then, much later in my routine, after my final ampoule step, I put on a Dear, Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Sheet Mask. These soft cotton sheet masks come soaked with 23ml of a hydrating essence that is exactly what the product’s name suggests. I keep a few of these masks refrigerated at all times in case of irritation or other emergency, and they never fail to calm my skin down and get it feeling normal again. (Amazon*| Wishtrend*)
Dear, Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Sheet Mask ingredients: Water, sodium hyaluronate, butylene glycol, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, dimethyl sulfone, betaine, natto gum, disodium EDTA, centella asiatica extract, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, carbomer, arginine, chlorphenesin, tocopheryl acetate, panthenol, luffa cylindrica fruit/leaf/stem extract, althaea roea flower extract, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, fragrance, portulaca oleracea extract, lysine HCI, proline, sodium ascorbyl phosephate, acetyl methionine, theanine, apium graveolens (celery) extract, rassica oleracea capitata (cabbage) leaf extract, brassica oleracea italica (broccoli) extract, brassica rapa (turnip) leaf extract, daucus carota sativa (carrot) root extract, oryza sativa (rice) bran extract, solanum lycopersicum (tomato) fruit/leaf/stem extract (CosDNA)
All right, fess up. What’s the worst or fastest reaction you’ve ever had to a product, and what did you do to save yourself afterwards?