Acne sucks. It can make you feel ashamed, nervous to go out without makeup, and just downright bleh. I get it – I struggle with both hormonal and sweat-induced acne, and I can’t remember the last time my skin has been truly clear. But one of my favorite ways to address this (seemingly never-ending) problem is to use face masks for acne.
There are a wide variety of face masks that claim to treat blemishes. Some are clay, some are cream; Some are pricey, some can be found at the drugstore. There are options for every skin type, but with all these choices how do you know which one to pick? In this blog post, I’ll discuss 18 face masks for acne, with recommendations on which skin type or issue might benefit the most from them. Let’s get into it!
The Best of All the Face Masks for Acne: Sand & Sky Pink Clay
I’ve reviewed this mask before here, but long story short, this mask is incredible. It’s a detoxifying and brightening clay mask that contains fantastic, skin-loving ingredients such as Australian pink clay, kelp and witch hazel, mangosteen and pomegranate, and Kakadu plum. There are no sulfates, no silicones, no parabens, or any of the other bad things. Their website, as well as Instagram, is full of rave reviews so I’ll just add a brief one to the list: This is my FAVORITE clay mask by far.
No other clay mask (and I’ve tried a lot!) compares to Sand & Sky. It makes my skin looker clearer and brighter in just 10-15 minutes – it’s a visible difference that lasts. My favorite way to use this is to first apply a liquid exfoliant, such as Paula’s Choice 2% BHA liquid. I then put the clay mask on top to draw out impurities. When I do this, all the gunk just oozes out of my pores with little effort. I can’t live without this mask in my stash and will ALWAYS have a restock.
The Best for Frequent Use: Eminence Clear Skin Probiotic Masque
This mask is not your typical face mask for acne. It’s a cream rather than clay-based mask, which means it doesn’t have a dry down feeling. With fantastic ingredients like willow bark extract (which salicyclic acid is derived from), it helps to combat acne and excess oil production without drying out your skin. It also has yoghurt to moisturize and cool, shea butter to replenish the skin’s moisture barrier, tea tree oil to fight spots, and stone crop to hydrate and nourish uneven skin tones.
The best part of this mask is that while it helps fight pimples, it also soothes and cools the skin down. It doesn’t irritate, so I tend to use it for 15-20 minutes at a time about 2-3x a week. I have repurchased this over and over, and it’s been a staple in my acne treatments for three years. It’s definitely a little pricey at $56 for 2oz, but a little goes a long way and it lasts for a while.
One of the Best Face Masks for Acne When You Have Dry Skin: Rosen Earth Mask
Rosen is an absolutely incredible brand for acneic skin, and their two masks in particular have been standout products for me. The first one I’ll talk about is their Earth Mask.
This hydrating creamy mask is amazing for helping with bumpy skin and texture. It uses fuller’s earth clay, zinc oxide and eucalyptus oil to treat acneic skin without drying it out. I find it to be especially effective when used with their earth cleanser. I would recommend this if you struggle with acne but you have dry skin and don’t like to use traditional clay masks.
The Best Face Mask for Acne When You Have Sensitive Skin: Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Mask
This “award winning acne treatment” helps to rid bacteria and oil from deep within pores, preventing and clearing blemishes while also claming redness and irritation. Unlike many detox masques, this isn’t clay; it’s a lightweight gel that feels cool on the skin. Standout ingredients like tea tree oil, salicyclic acid and allantonin are all amazing for acneic skin.
I use this for 15 minutes once a week, and I LOVE the cooling effect it has on my skin. It helps immensely with surface redness and irritation, and visibly calms the appearance of my cystic acne. Renee Rouleau as a whole is a brand that really impresses me.
The Best for Tightening and Clearing Out Pores: Rosen Tingling Mud Mask
Another great mask from Rosen for acneic skin, this one is more intense and drying than the earth mask. After 10-15 minutes on the skin, it actually crumbles off. I tend to apply this to my problem spots like my jawline and edges of my cheeks, as it works really well to pull cystic acne to the surface.
The Best for Blackheads: Caudalie Instant Detox Mask
The Caudalie Instant Detox does exactly what it promises – it instantly (well, within 10 minutes) pulls all the gunk out of your pores. It’s particularly great for congested areas, like your T-zone and nose, that get a lot of blackheads. After use, my face feels so much cleaner and less congested. It works best as a once a week treatment.
The Best for When You Have a Lot of Redness and Irritation: Bioassance Squalane and Tea Tree Detox Mask
This mask has a very creamy texture that makes it enjoyable to use. The tea tree oil in it makes it a great treatment for irritated, acneic skin, but the squalane keeps it from being drying. It left my skin feeling soothed and less red.
The Best for When Your Face Needs to Cool Down: Olehenriksen Cold Pore Plunge Mask
Being an athlete can contribute to acne problems by getting your skin hot, flushed and sweaty. This mask is the perfect fix when your skin feels hot and red. It’s very cooling without being drying, doesn’t leave my skin too tight, and my face feels super clean and cool after. In the times of covid, it’s also a great solution for maskne.
The Most Unique Face Mask for Acne: Dermalogica Blackhead Clearing Mask
This may be an odd category to have in this post, but this face mask deserves a unique label. It starts out as a yellow cream texture, but quickly starts to fizz and bubble. It only takes 3-5 minutes to work, and as it does your skin can feel a bit ticklish (but it doesn’t hurt at all!) After five minutes I could see that it definitely brought some of the blackheads and sebum on my face up to the surface. It is a bit drying, but overall it’s a great, fun option for treatment blackheads and oily skin.
The Best When You Need a Quick Fix: Fresh Beauty Umbrian Clay Mask
Fresh beauty is one of my favorite brands, and I include this mask in my top picks from them! It’s a deeply cleansing mud mask that works quite quickly – in 3-5 minutes. I like it for when I need my skin to be a little tight and clean before an event (and it pairs particularly well with their black tea mask too).
The Best One to Use as a Spot Treatment: Dr. Dennis Gross Clarifying Mask
This mask came with rave reviews and it definitely did not disappoint! This sulfur-based mask is a bit of a creamy paste (but not as creamy as the Inkey List Kaolin Clay mask that I talk about later). It’s gentle enough to use as all over, but I prefer to target it to problem spots like my t-zone, chin and jaw. I noticed this helped quite a bit with active spots.
The Best Clean Face Mask for Acne: Love Kinship Mint Mud Deep Pore Detox Mask
If you’re looking for face masks for acne, but want. tostick to clean options, look no further than this detox mask from Love Kinship. I love this brand; they are super affordable, visibly committed to racial justice and sustainable to booth. You can read more about their other products here.
The mask itself has a nice cooling, “stingling” feeling. It’s great for blackheads and an overall detox feeling. Compared to the Caudalie Detox mask, this is less intense and a little kinder to the skin
The Best Drugstore Option: Clinique Blemish Control
The drugstore shelves may be filled with some products you should NEVER put on your face (think St. Ives), but some can work quite well if you’re looking for more wallet-friendly options. This blemish control mask from clinique is a solid option if you’re just looking for something to help with excess oil production and sebum. It won’t cure angry red zits but overall oiliness and spots will meet their match with this mask.
The Best Budget Option: Inkey List Kaolin Clay
You don’t need loads of money to fight acne. This Inkey List mask is only $7, but it can work just as well as some of the others on this list to combat zits. It kinda tingles a bit at first, but it isn’t uncomfortable. It has a creamy white texture and doesn’t dry down. My face felt smooth and clean after.
The Most Luxurious Face Mask: Ozmorovicza Silver Salicyclic Mask
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are luxurious, expensive options to fight acne. This mask from Ozmorovicza uses both salicyclic acid and colloidal silver to combat blemishes. I sleep on pillowcases with silver in them since antimicrobial silver is fantastic for combatting bacteria, so I was excited to try using it in skincare. The texture is creamy, with a bit of a grainy gel. Left on for 10-15 minutes, it helps soothe blemishes and fight acne from deep within the skin. It’s pricey, but if you want a luxurious experience this would be a good choice.
The Best Face Mask for Heavy Duty Treatment: Peter Thomas Roth Sulfur Mask
When you need the big guns, you should call on this mask. It is an intense spot treatment with a heavy concentration of sulfur – perfect for combatting cystic spots. It’s too strong to use all over, and it should only be applied to problem areas. In my experience, it definitely helped with bringing down the size of big spots. And because you only use a small amount with each application, the jar will last forever.
The Best Mud Mask: Tata Harper Purifying Mask
Tata Harper’s purifying mask is a natural clay mask that purges pores and fights free radicals for a complete pollution detox. Designed for normal, combination and oily skin types, it addresses pores and oiliness. This mask is unlike anything I have ever tried before! It isn’t drying at all, despite it being a clay/mud mask. When I wash it off my skin feels calmed and cool. The only downside is the small size – 1 oz – and the high price – $72.00. I discuss it, as well as the brand as a whole, in more detail here.
The One Just Not Worth the Money: Dr. Barbara Sturm Clarifying Mask
This mask is absurdly expensive. And quite honestly, it doesn’t do anything special that other, more reasonably priced masks. It feels nice – and that’s it. I don’t notice any particularly impressive clarifying effects, nor did it help with my acne. I wasted my money on this so you don’t have to!
What do you think of this list? Did I miss any of your favorite face masks for acne?