If you struggle with acne, your nightly routine might include a spot treatment or anti-acne serum. While these are great for targeting pesky individual pimples, face masks for acne can treat your whole face at once and help prevent future breakouts at the same time.
“Acne medications can be irritating, and masks provide that sweet spot wherein the active ingredients can stay on the skin for a bit longer without as much risk for causing a flare up,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a dermatologist and professor at Yale University. “It also takes the guess work out of how much to apply, as the mask comes pre-infused with essential ingredients, so you just have to put it on.”
As much as Dr. Gohara praises masking, she does warn against DIY face masks and sheet masks aimed at hydrating the skin if you suffer from acne. “DIY ingredients can prove to be really irritating, toothpaste being the biggest offender,” she says. “Hydrating masks can also clog pores and leave the skin in a pro-comedogenic state.”
Instead, she recommends looking for masks with beta hydroxy acids like salicylic acid that will help remove excess oil by exfoliating dead skin cells and unclogging pores. Alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic and lactic acid, are also great at clearing pores. Plus, they can be slightly less irritating than salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide and colloidal sulfur have antibacterial properties that can also minimize acne.
“All of these ingredients are effective at reducing all types of acne, whether it be hormonal, comedonal or inflammatory,” says Marnie Nussbaum, MD, a board certified dermatologist in NYC.
Below, find 10 of the best dermatologist-recommended acne-fighting masks on the market.
Best Mud Mask
Ahava Mineral Mud Clearing Facial Treatment
Give your breakouts the boot with this mineral mud mask. Your skin is sure to feel clean without any dryness, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Most importantly, this mud mask targets excess oil to prevent future breakouts while taming present ones.
Best For Oil Control
Clinique Acne Solutions Oil-Control Cleansing Mask
Clay is a popular anti-acne ingredient because it absorbs excess oil while also healing blemishes and preventing future breakouts. Dr. Gohara advises using this mask, as it has salicylic acid that cuts through oil that can contribute to clogged pores. At the same time, clay sucks up extra sebum.
Best Charcoal Mask
Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Honey Mask to Purify and Nourish
Charcoal is an OG when it comes to acne-fighting solutions. It soaks up excess oil and draws out impurities and buildup from your pores. With added ingredients like fermented honey and golden wildflower, which also help to moisturize, your skin will be clear, nourished, and zit-free.
Best For Redness
SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Masque
With acne comes redness, which can make spots look more apparent and irritated. This mask has active botanicals and hyaluronic acid that will treat redness, which Dr. Nussbaum says is great for sensitive skin.
Laneige Clear-C Peeling Mask
This mask targets dead skin cells so you can say bye to your uneven skin texture. Dr. Gohara recommends this mask because it has alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), which help to loosen up blocked pores and trapped dirt and oil and exfoliate the skin, while also preventing acne scarring. Strawberry seeds add physical exfoliation—and feel extra satisfying when you wash it away.
Best Overnight Mask
COSRX Low pH BHA Overnight Mask
For whiteheads or blackheads, treat your breakouts overnight with this gentle formula. It has beta hydroxy acids (BHA) that penetrate deep into pores to pull out impurities and control excess sebum. Plus, this star ingredient helps to balance the oils in your skin and prevents future breakouts.
Best For Sensitive Skin
First Aid Beauty Ultra-Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask
Acne and sensitive skin are a combo that’s all too common, but with a little love from this mask, you can sort out both issues in no time. Dr. Gohara says that oatmeal is a soothing ingredient, which is perfect for sensitive and dry skin. This mask helps to rejuvenate distressed, dry, acne-prone skin, and with a little help from added shea butter, it will moisturize and protect the skin barrier.
Best For Uneven Skintone
Caudalie Glycolic Peel
An acne flare or breakout can sometimes leave your skin dull and scarred, and this mask helps to target just that. This AHA peel helps brighten skin and dissolve dead skin cells. Dr. Nussbaum recommends this mask, as it contains glycolic acid, which helps to reduce excess oil and the appearance of enlarged pores. It also includes Viniferine, an ingredient that helps to lighten dark spots.
Best Sulfur Mask
Dr. Dennis Gross Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask
Colloidal sulfur is a miracle ingredient acne, as it has anti-bacterial properties. It soaks up oil deep within your pores and works even better when worn overnight. Plus, it has prickly pear, which calms redness and irritation.
Best Leave-On Mask
Neutrogena Rapid Clear Benzoyl Peroxide Leave-on Acne Face Mask
Sometimes your skin needs a little extra time with a mask, especially when fighting the acne battle. Enter this leave-on mask. With tried and true benzoyl peroxide included to kill acne-causing bacteria, it will do all the fighting for you–and you won’t have to worry about leaving it on too long. The beauty of this mask is that you don’t have to take it off, so it can penetrate deeper into pores to treat acne spots.