Clay masks have come a long way since your teenage sleepover days, but should you shell out for one? We pit two masks face to face...

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In the ring: Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask vs. L’Oréal Pure Clay Detox Mask.

The vital stats:

Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask , £23

Press release promise: “Mattifying mask absorbs oil, impurities and environmental pollutants to help detoxify skin.”

L’Oréal Pure Clay Detox Mask , £5.55

Press release promise: “A combination of three pure clays and charcoal, which acts like a magnet to draw out impurities. Detoxifies the skin's surface by cleansing deep into the pores, leaving the skin looking clarified and beautified without drying it out.”

The battle: Sales of face masks grew by almost a quarter last year according to the NPD Group, in part due to the Instagram fuelled  multi-masking trend . The average price of a face mask came in at a hefty £31.90, but we reckon if you’re leaving it on for ten minutes or less, a cleansing, rejuvenating mask needn’t rinse away your rainy day funds too. Here’s how a relatively pricy and pocket money friendly clay mask compared...

First round: As the evenings get darker, heading home to smother yourself in clay under a hot shower becomes all the more appealing in a primal kind of a way, and if said clay clears up blemishes, blackheads and sebum while you’re at it, it’s worth getting your bathroom messy for. The thing is, while a clay mask can certainly improve the quality and condition of your skin, ‘detoxification’ ain’t gonna happen. While there’s scientific proof that charcoal does indeed bind to toxins and help the body to expel them, the kind of toxins we’re talking about are more of the genuinely poisonous variety, i.e, snakebites and overdoses. These kind of very unwelcome substances don’t seep through your skin either- it’s your liver’s job to do the clean up. So in the case of these two masks, ‘detox’ is really just a bit of marketing spin; ‘bloody good mopping up’ would be more apt.

Onto the actual contenders, Clinique’s offering is more efficient packaging wise, as you get a lot of mask for your money, housed in a handy tube that delivers a squirt of product that’ll do your whole mug. L’Oréal’s jar is less hygienic and convenient, but it looks pretty classy in your shower and is a bit more fun from a finger painting point of view. Clinique’s charcoal mask is creamier and has more of a ‘cool’ feel, while L’Oréal’s detox mask feels more like a traditional clay face pack, without the tacky texture. Both spread onto the face easily with your hands and fingers, although I needed a little more product in L’Oréal’s case.

Second round: The ten minute turnaround. Neither mask cracked, flaked or went very dry during wear, which is refreshing given the often crumbly behaviour of many a clay mask on the market. Clinique’s charcoal mask tingled a little while it got to work, which was not unpleasant, while L’Oréal’s did its business without any discernible sensation. Both washed off easily, although a flannel wouldn’t go amiss to make sure you don’t emerge from the shower with sooty residue around the ears/ nose/ stuck in your hairline.

Third round: The post-wash analysis. In the case of the Clinique mask, skin felt deeply cleansed, smooth and incredibly soft (smoother than I’ve experienced with so-called hydrating masks, but it could just have been very appropriate for my combination skin). Think well moisturised but noticeably devoid of a shiny t-zone, with a refined looking skin surface that’s perfectly prepped for further skincare and makeup. L’Oréal’s detox mask had less pronounced effects, but I swear that the pores of my nose weren’t quite as pronounced, and while not as soft as after a session with Clinique, my complexion still looked fresher than it had beforehand, which is the idea really.

The winner: Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask for its gentle yet very effective cleansing and softening power, although L’Oréal Pure Clay Detox Mask does have an impressive return for the price point. I’d say that if you have obvious blackheads, oily or blemished skin, go for Clinique every time, but if you simply need a more thorough clean once in awhile, L’Oréal’s trio of clays and charcoal has everything you need.

Wondering what the deal is with charcoal?  Here’s what it can do for your skin, hair, health and teeth…

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