Is a Cat Litter Mask Good for Acne?

Updated May 02, 2014.

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com’s Medical Review Board.

Although it sounds like one of those crazy weird remedies, many beauty experts extol the virtues of kitty litter masks.  Buy all-natural cat litter, add some water, and you have a spa-quality (so they say) facial mask for just pennies.   

But what exactly would cat litter do for your skin?  And would a kitty litter mask be good for acne?

Natural clay cat litter is made from bentonite clay, the same type of clay that is used by the beauty industry.  Because bentonite clay soaks up oil like a sponge, it’s great for super oily complexions.  So, bentonite clay cat litter masks can help reduce oiliness and leave your face feeling fresh.

While they may be helpful if you get the occasional pimple or odd blackhead, cat litter masks won’t clear up acneAcne is caused by a host of factors, with oil just being one of them.  Just reducing oiliness alone isn’t enough to make acne go away.   

Instead of a kitty litter mask, you’re going to get much better results with a proven acne treatment.  There are plenty of over-the-counter options for you to try, if you’re looking for an at-home acne treatment.  And, if those don’t work, there are lots of really effective prescription acne medications as well.

So, while a kitty litter mask won’t clear up acne, lots of people just like the way cat litter masks make their skin feel.  Still interested in making your own cat litter mask, for fun rather than an acne treatment?  OK, here’s what you need to know. 

First, you can’t just grab any ol’ cat litter off the shelf and apply it to the face.  Only cat litter that is labeled 100% sodium bentonite is safe to use on your skin. 

You definitely do not want to use any clumping litters, and don’t use litters that contain any colorants or fragrances.  These are not skin safe.  So, do some really good checking of the ingredient list before you use any kitty litter on your face.

And if you’re at all unsure about getting the right litter, you can always skip the cat litter entirely and buy plain bentonite clay.  It’s an extremely common skin care clay, so you can often find it at your local health food store in the skin care aisle.  (If you can’t find it locally, try online herbal suppliers.)

Plain bentonite clay is light grey powder.  To use it as a mask, you simply mix in enough water to create a smooth, spreadable consistency and then apply it to your face.  It’s just as simple as the kitty litter mask, and if you buy the clay packaged for human use you’ll know it’s skin-safe.

Sure, kitty litter probably gives you the best price per pound for bentonite clay, but are you really going to use 25 pounds of “kitty litter mask?”  No?  Me neither.

(And, although I know it’s completely psychological, I just can’t get past the yuck factor of putting cat litter on my face.)  

Before you use any bentonite clay mask, kitty litter sourced or otherwise, make sure your skin is up to it.  Remember, bentonite clay pulls oil from the skin.  If you’re using treatments like benzoyl peroxide, Retin-A, Differin, or any other acne medication, your skin may be leaning toward the dry side anyway.  A clay mask would dry your skin out to the extreme.

If your dermatologist already has you on an acne treatment plan, you should always get his or her approval before trying anything else on your skin.  Even for something as seemingly benign as a simple clay mask. 

If you’re still interested in trying a cat litter mask (just for fun!) try this tried-and-true recipe from the About.com Guide to Skin Care: Homemade Cat Litter Mask