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5 Women Test a Cult-Favorite Clay Mask

Photo: Courtesy of Fresh

A beauty product that can be used in multiple ways? Sounds like fake news. But Fresh’s Umbrian Clay mask, a longtime favorite at Sephora, has the reputation of being multi-use: It’s allegedly a mask to calm down redness and irritation, a deep-cleaning cleanser, and a spot treatment for blemishes. Does it live up to its five-star reviews? To find out, several members of the Cut tried out the mask in it many forms.

Kelly Conaboy, writer-at-large

At first I didn’t believe Fresh’s Umbrian Clay would work for me as a spot treatment. (Masks don’t tend to work as spot treatments for me, no matter how long I leave them on, I think because I’m cursed.) It did not work in one go. But I tried using it three nights in a row and I am happy to announce it did shorten the lifespan of a breakout I was enduring. And I only forgot I was wearing it and walked my dog with it on my face two out of the three times. I’m sorry to have doubted you, Umbrian Clay.

I tried it as a cleanser and as a regular mask, too, and I was happy with the results of both. It left me feeling clean but not overly dried out. The smell is very mild, compared to other clay masks (which disappointed me — I love an intense clay mask smell, though I think I am in the minority) and the not-too-thick and not-too-runny consistency made it easy to apply. I hear it also works on mosquito bites, so I am eager to try it in that way next.

Ella Ceron, blogger

I’m a die-hard face mask stan, but that doesn’t mean I love them all. Some dry in strange ways, others feel barely effective. (If I spent the past 20 minutes looking like Jason Voorhees, there ought to be a good reason for it!) I was wary of the way the Fresh Umbrian Clay mask first looked when I applied it; the Vine of the baby covered in peanut butter came to mind. It has a wet consistency, and I was worried about it drying uniformly. The tube (I tried the travel-size version) helps avoid a lot of mess, however, and the thin texture meant product didn’t build up in weird places on my cheeks or forehead.

The best part of the mask was how easily it washes off, which is really important to me; I give it a 9/10 on how well it released itself from my skin. (Use your hands and plenty of water before reaching for a towel, unless you want stains.) As for clearing my complexion, it dislodged some of the more difficult whiteheads my skin was holding onto and seemed to soothe a particularly nasty period zit right above my lip. I didn’t have much success using it as a cleanser, as it kept dripping into my eyebrows, but I’m adding it to my regular mask rotation.

Izzy Grinspan, senior editor

Fresh’s Umbrian Clay mask came to me just when I needed it most: On a week when my older son and my husband had a fever, and the only people in our household who didn’t were me and my 2-year-old, who I can now report is absolutely useless when it comes to taking care of a bunch of sick people. After several days of cleaning up vomit and doling out Tylenol, largely between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m., my skin was a mess.

The mask is a brownish-green gunk with an appealingly natural smell, like something that comes from an Italian hillside (which it actually does). I smeared it all over my face and waited the prescribed 3–5 minutes. When I washed it off, my skin looked brighter and less blotchy, and a pimple that had been threatening to emerge on my cheek had apparently changed its mind and slunk off to wherever they go when they’re thwarted. In a scant number of minutes, the whole situation had noticeably improved. I don’t know what kind of magic they have up there in the Umbrian hills, but whatever it is, it definitely works.

Opheli Garcia-Lawler, blogger

I tried the mask in all of its multi-use ways: As a cleanser, spot treatment, and and as a mask. As a cleanser, it felt okay — my skin felt clean but a little chalky afterward. I also used it that night as a spot treatment. I woke up the next morning and while the zits weren’t completely gone, they were extremely reduced. The redness went away and continued the following day.

The second night, I used the clay treatment as a face mask. It immediately felt tingly — it wasn’t severe, but I could definitely feel something was happening. As it dried, the mask tightened, but not to the point where it felt uncomfortable. After rinsing it off, my skin was really soft and looked a lot brighter. I would definitely consider this as an alternative to the clay mask I already use.

Kathleen Hou, beauty director

I’m Umbrian Clay’s No. 1 fan. I’ve talked about it a lot. I am basically its stage mom — I just believe in it so much! Despite a consistent application of retinoid, my chin still likes to surprise me with the occasional pimple when I’m about to get my period.

Like the boring old adage says, prevention is the best cure. If I use the mask a few times a week prior to my period, I don’t get surprised. And if I do, this is my spot treatment of choice because it shrinks zits completely without mutating them into those crusty, weird, hardened bumps that sit under your skin but never fully go away. My only complaint is that I wish it came in a better container, but in the tub form, it dries out rather quickly. But apart from that, you’re doing great, sweetie. Keep up the good work.

5 Women Test a Cult-Favorite Clay Mask