In our Home of the Mask Bar blog, we shared with you the evolution of the Scratch Goods mask bar into what it is today - an instructor-led, interactive skincare experience in our sunny West Loop space. If you’ve been able to join us, you’ve experienced the steam towels, soothing oils, a jade roller massage, and a very thorough mask mixing tutorial. You’ve customized your own mask in a small handmade bowl using a bamboo spoon (that comes free with any mask purchase!) and then learned how to apply and remove it like an expert. It can be a calming, meditative ritual that’s great to repeat weekly.
For those of you who haven’t experienced the mask bar, we’re here to share the most important step that inspired the whole class: that perfect mask mixing tutorial! While the brief instructions on our back labels are helpful, today we’re diving deep into the hows and whys, plus tips and tricks from our instructors that will help you mix up that perfect clay.
But first: why are we masking?
Clay masking is an ancient practice associated with ‘detoxification,’ ‘pulling out impurities,’ and other loose, almost mystical claims. But we love clay masks for a few simple, concrete reasons:
- When wet, clays create a slight electric charge that stimulates circulation. Increased blood flow can speed up cell turnover and lots of other normal skin functions. It leaves us energized, and with a natural glow!
- Clays are mineral-rich, and masking gives plenty of contact time for some absorption of natural skin soothers like sulfur and magnesium.
- The removal of a partially dry clay takes some dead surface cells with it for a lovely, gentle exfoliation.
We offer three clay masks, each made with a base of DRY clay powders. We sell our masks dry, instead of ready-to-apply, for a few practical reasons: longer shelf life; the option to customize with your own liquid, and the extra effectiveness of a freshly mixed mask! Now let’s choose the mask that’s right for you.
Step 1: Pick your clay mask
- Sea mask: This mask’s most notable difference is its smoother texture and distinctive oceanic aroma upon mixing. The texture comes from sea clay, which absorbs less water than the other clays, keeping it from clumping and also from creating that strong electric charge. So while it’s not as stimulating as our other masks, we love sea clay for its rich mineral content: it contains magnesium and skin-soothing sulfur. We also add vitamin-packed sea kelp for its brightening, revitalizing effect on dull, tired skin. That’s where the fresh, oceanic aroma comes from - but we think it’s totally worth it. Close your eyes and imagine you’re on a beach.
- Matcha mask: Our most popular mask for a reason! Matcha is ground up green tea leaf that’s packed with antioxidants, to fight off free radicals; and caffeine, another circulation stimulator that can decrease puffiness. The base of this mask is bentonite clay, providing a good under-the-surface detox, with a little French green clay for mineral content and oil-absorbing properties. An overall refreshing, de-puffing option.
- Charcoal mask: Our deep pore-cleansing option thanks to activated charcoal. Our charcoal is made from burnt bamboo that’s been pulverized into a super-fine powder that attracts all kinds of impurities. This quality makes it useful as a medical detox drink that absorbs bad stuff from your stomach. We use it on the surface of your skin to grab any gunk trapped in the pores, which can be a great cleanse for those prone to breakouts. The charcoal gives this mask its dark gray color, but the main ingredients are bentonite and rhassoul clays, bringing a boost of circulation to skin that needs a good refresh.
*You don’t have to choose just one mask! Pick one favorite to max out its benefits, or combine a couple to get the best of both worlds. OR try multi-masking: make a couple separate masks and apply to different areas of your face depending on differing needs. We love to customize!
Step 2: Add your liquid
You can always use water to mix your mask, but we love to incorporate liquids with added benefits! At the mask bar, we rotate through different liquid mixers.
- Caffeinated drinks: Caffeine is a stimulant to the skin as well, increasing circulation to help flush out excess fluids and decrease puffiness. The caffeic acid in coffee can also be beneficial for brightening dark spots. Or choose green tea for even more of those protective antioxidants.
- Fresh juices: We love watermelon juice for nourishing vitamin E, carrot juice for brightening vitamin C, and pineapple juice for its smoothing enzymes. You can’t really go wrong with a fresh fruit or veg juices - they’re packed with vitamins - we just stay away from anything too acidic (like citrus) as it may sting open breakouts.
- Creamy options: Oat, nut, and dairy milks are all great for calming skin. The fats make an extra creamy texture that soothes the skin, calms the stimulating clays, and makes for a more gentle removal. For those with sensitive or redness-prone skin, this is a good choice to keep things chill. *If you’re REALLY sensitive and want to pre-emptively aid in the exfoliating removal, add a few drops of oil to any mask. Fats are your friend when it comes to calming down a clay mask.
Add one tablespoon of liquid to a small bowl. Blend a couple if you can’t decide, or stick with water if your fridge is bare! One tablespoon doesn’t look like a lot, but it should be the right amount to make a mask that fully coats your face and neck. (Start with more liquid if you’re making extra! Two tablespoons of liquid should make enough for your face and chest.)
Step 3: Gradually add in the clay and stir until thickened
To start, shake tiny bit of mask powder onto your liquid, stirring with your bamboo spoon before adding more. Like you’re sprinkling nutmeg on a latte - a little at a time. The first few shakes may clump and stick to your spoon - which is fine - but as long as your liquid is still liquid, keep adding mask a little at a time, stirring as you go. Shake and stir! Shake and stir! Continue this process until the clay absorbs all of your liquid, leaving you with a thick mixture that would not drip if held upside-down. Small clumps are ok and normal.
If you add too much mask, you may end up with a clay ball, or a mixture that’s stiff and chalky, definitely not spreadable. Your mask is too thick once it’s stiff and not spreadable. Don’t fret! Just dribble in some more liquid and press it in with the back of your spoon, to soften it back up. We’re going for the texture of your favorite dip: hummus or chunky guacamole. It should spread easily but not drip off your face.
Step 4: Grab your brush and apply!
Now for the best part! Load plenty of mask onto your mask brush and apply to your whole face and neck. There should be enough for a thin, yet opaque layer all over. Apply in upward and outward motions, to fight against gravity and aid in lymphatic drainage. Avoid the delicate skin on your eyelids and the inch or two below the eyes. These masks aren’t harmful to eyes - we just don’t want to pull or tug this thin skin during removal (or ever!).
Be sure to mask your jawline - it’s a very active area for hormonal breakouts. Swipe any excess mask onto your neck, which is similar skin to your face. We avoid masking very thick beards in the store, but if you’re prepared to shower afterwards, clay is great for that often-ignored under-beard skin! For face-shavers: try to mask everywhere the razor swipes. Clay exfoliation is great prevention for ingrown hairs.
Try to use everything you’ve made while it’s fresh! But if there’s a lot left over, it can be covered and refrigerated for a couple days, like leftovers.
Step 5: Removal
Allow the mask to work for 10-15 minutes - a good time to hydrate or read a book. Contrary to what you may think, you do NOT need to let this mask dry completely. The mask does its best work in the first few minutes - while it’s wet, the water is aiding in absorption - once dry, its work is done.
Our favorite way to remove involves a steam towel: saturate a washcloth or face towel completely with hot water, wring out the excess, then wrap your face to completely cover all the clay. Press this hot towel into your face with your hands and leave it to steam for 30 seconds or so, working moisture into dry edges to rehydrate the clay and make for an easy removal. Once your towel has cooled, gently wipe outwards from the center of your face, and upwards along your cheeks, using a clean spot on your towel for each wipe. Try not to scrub too hard at leftover clay - give stubborn areas another steam to loosen. This removal is the exfoliation step we love, but keep it as gentle as possible.
Your freshly masked skin will be thirsty! Follow up immediately with moisturization - skin drink followed by face butter is our favorite. You may have a noticeable flush afterwards - from the exfoliation, the increased circulation, and even the heat of the removal - similar to a flush from a workout or a steam room. It fades in 10 minutes or so for most, depending on your skin.
Take it easy on this skin for the rest of the day! Skip any other exfoliation, chemical or physical, as well as any other harsh treatments. If you’re masking at night, you won’t need anything else but moisture before bed.
Now grab your favorite clay mask, mixer, and brush, and start mixing! Check out our Instagram for even more unique combinations. And visit us at the mask bar to try in person!