Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay makes a great mask, but it’s alkaline so you need to mix it with apple cider vinegar to bring the clay to a skin-friendly pH. But then you slap it on your face and try to relax, but you can’t because all you can smell is vinegar. What can you do?
I was stuck with that conundrum, when I realised that there’s a safe, non-stinky acid you can buy at the supermarket: citric acid! Citric acid is used for baking, jams and making bath bombs. It comes as sugar-like crystals, and only costs a few dollars. It smells extremely mild, so you can do your mask and feel pampered and not like you’ve stuck your head into sauerkraut. It’s a win all round!
(Technically, citric acid is also an alpha and beta hydroxy acid and has nice effects on skin, but it doesn’t seem to be as effective as glycolic or lactic acids, and there’s only a tiny chance that it’ll do anything with the concentration, pH and application time we’re using.)
I picked myself up a shaker of citric acid, did some calculations (skip to the bottom of the post for those) and played around with proportions. A ratio of 1:8 acid to clay worked well – that is, 1/8 tsp acid for 1 tsp of clay. I added enough water to get the consistency I wanted (about 1 tsp), and the final pH ended up as ~5. This recipe gives a pretty thin mask – double it if you prefer a thick layer.
I also tried 1:4 acid to clay (1/4 tsp acid mixed with 1 tsp clay), which gave a pH of 4-5. While it was OK going on, the mask stung a little by the time it was dry, though it didn’t leave the redness I usually get with 1:1 clay/ACV. My skin also looked particularly nice afterwards. If your skin is pretty resilient to acids (e.g. you’ve used chemical exfoliants a lot), you could perhaps cautiously try this stronger version out.
If you decide to try these recipes, please be cautious the first time you do it – either test the pH with strips, or patch test it behind your ear, or at least be ready to jump into the shower and wash it off your face immediately if you feel an unusual amount of irritation. It’s quite likely that our measuring methods and our ingredients are a bit different (different degrees of packed down, levelling scoops etc).