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Pore-Cleansing Exfoliating Mask


My skin vacillates between dehydrated and dry, and breakout and blemish-prone. I can always tell when it's getting ready for a breakout, because I'll start feeling those bumps and roughness just under the skin.

That bumpiness is congestion--basically clogged pores.

How about some nice, regular exfoliation to help keep those pores clear? Yeah, that would be helpful.

Regular exfoliation is an absolute must when it comes to keeping breakouts at bay. But here's where it gets tricky.

Most of us equate exfoliation with a scrub. An aggressive scrub is one of the WORST things you can do for your skin when your skin is breaking out. They can increase irritation, open up scabs, and actually lead to more breakouts.

Instead, exfoliation should be done without much scrubbing. This is where alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids come into play. They help remove dead skin cells and other junk from the skin without the need of a gritty scrub.

This is one of my favorite exfoliating masks for blemishes. The yogurt base adds lactic acid, an effective alpha hydroxy acid. The clays are very drawing and cleansing, and good for reducing oil.  They also add exfoliating properties to the mask. The baking soda helps soften blackheads and oil plugs so that they can more easily be expelled from the skin.

But the real special ingredient here is the white willow bark extract. Like the stinging nettles, it's great for calming inflammation. It contains salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that is helpful in fighting breakouts by reducing the number of pore blockages.

I like to mix up a large portion of the dry ingredients to keep in a jar for when I need it. Mix up a single-use portion by hydrating with water, fresh-brewed herbal tea (like green tea, peppermint, or chamomile) or a hydrosol. A bit of honey mixed in can be a special treat.


The key is to use this mask regularly; three times a week is a good number. If you're consistent, you should notice an improvement in your skin after a few weeks.

BUT... here's where some caveats come in. This mask is for people who deal with occasional, mild breakouts. It is not going to clear up any form of severe or inflammatory acne.

Sorry, love, but the reality is there is NO good natural treatment for severe acne, despite what many, many online sites/blogs/self-proclaimed acne experts tell you.

(I've written more about this subject for Verywell Health. If you're interested in learning more visit these articles: Are There Any Home Remedies for Cystic Acne that Work? and The Best (and Worst) Natural Acne Treatments.)

In the salon, I've worked on many, many people with acne. If there were an awesome natural acne remedy, I'd tell you about it. But there's not, my friend. So see a doctor, pretty please and don't waste precious time trying to find a natural alternative.

And if you're currently using a prescription acne treatment, I wouldn't recommend using this mask at all. It will be much too drying and possibly irritate your skin.

Okie dokie, after all of that, are you ready to get mixing?

Anti-Acne Exfoliating Mask
This recipe takes quite a few ingredients. If you don't have all the clays, feel free to substitute what you have on hand. This mask is also a bit drying, so if you don't have oily skin add a small amount of light grapeseed oil to the water when you hydrate the base. This will keep it from drawing too much oil from your skin. 

What you'll need:
4 tablespoons yogurt powder
8 teaspoons kaolin clay (white, yellow, pink, whatever you have on-hand)
4 teaspoons Moroccan rhassoul clay
2 teaspoons sea clay
2 teaspoons white willow bark extract
1 teaspoon stinging nettles powder
1 teaspoon fine grained rice bran
1 teaspoon baking soda


Add all ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix well until well blended.

You can store this in a small jar with a lid, or even in a little bag, on your bathroom counter or cupboard.

To use: In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon mask with 1/2 teaspoon water, herbal tea, hydrosol, etc. Massage gently over the face. Let set about 10 minutes. Dampen the mask, then work off with a washcloth and rinse well. Use 1 to 3 times a week for the best results.

Yield: about 30 uses

Shelf life: 1 year for the dry base; use hydrated mask immediately.

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