11 Dermatologist-Approved Facial Masks for Acne
Say buh-bye to breakouts and blackheads with these fierce acne-fighting ingredients.
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Charcoal acts like a magnet, attracting, binding, and drawing out impurities, dirt and oil, thus purifying, decongesting, and shrinking the appearance of pores—making it great weapon against comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads). “Weekly charcoal facial masks for acne are helpful for adults with blemish-prone skin, as it’s usually less harsh and drying than classic acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide,” explains Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Beverly Hills. Try: boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding Intensive Wash-Off Treatment or Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask. And don’t miss these drugstore acne treatments that really work, according to top dermatologists.
Do you have oily skin? Bentonite clay is your new BFF. When mixed with liquid, this ultra-absorbent swelling clay opens up like a porous sponge, drawing out oil, excess sebum, and bacteria, leaving skin looking more matte. For this reason, bentonite-based face masks are great for use on oily skin types—they can also be concentrated on shiny areas, such as the T-zone, medial cheeks, nose, chin, and forehead. Try: SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Masque, Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask, or mix equal parts Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay and raw apple cider vinegar. Love to do it yourself? Try these home remedies for acne.
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Known for its pungent, almost rotten egg-like odor, this stinky keratolytic is also a stellar spot treatment. When applied topically, sulfur causes the skin to shed more quickly, helping to unclog and open pores. It’s also bactericidal, meaning it kills acne-causing bacteria and has a drying effect, so putting it in facial masks for acne helps shrink pimples—after bringing them to a head—and speeds up healing. Try: Dr. Dennis Gross Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask or DERMAdoctor Ain’t Misbehavin’ Intensive 10% Sulfur Acne Mask & Emergency Spot Treatment. Get the scoop on all the amazing skincare benefits of sulfur.
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Salicylic acid is the most common beta hydroxy acid (BHA)—not to mention a must for those with congested and oily complexions. This keratolytic and lipophilic dissolves the surface layer of the skin, penetrates deeply into sebaceous glands to remove excess oil, clear pores, and dry up more superficial acne lesions, like papules and pustules. And because salicylic acid encourages ongoing exfoliation, these facial masks for acne keep pores clear and prevent future breakouts. Try: Indie Lee Clearing Mask or Tata Harper Clarifying Mask, which contain willow bark extract, a natural botanical source of salicylic acid.
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You’ve likely seen benzoyl peroxide listed among the ingredients in various breakout-busting formulas, but how much do you really know about it? “An oldy but a goody, benzoyl peroxide works to destroy P. acnes bacteria,” explains Deanne Robinson, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut. While benzoyl peroxide is an extremely effective acne-fighter, it can be quite drying and may be too harsh for sensitive types. And Karyn Grossman, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in Los Angeles, warns that it can have a bleaching effect on clothes, towels, and sheets. Try: Neutrogena Clear Pore Facial Cleanser/Mask. Read up on the acne treatments dermatologists use on themselves.
Tea tree oil
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This natural ingredient has antibacterial properties that kill acne-causing bacteria. A comparative study of tea tree oil versus benzoyl peroxide found both ingredients to be equally effective, though tea tree caused fewer side effects (it also worked more slowly). That said, it can still cause redness and stinging in sensitive skin, so Dr. Shainhouse recommends using it as on-the-spot face masks for cysts, papules, and pustules. Try: The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Clay Mask. Read up on all the reasons why tea tree oil deserves a permanent spot in your medicine cabinet.
Blue tansy oil
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Blue tansy oil is rich in azulene, a powerful anti-inflammatory—and the compound responsible for the oil’s brilliant blue hue—that reduces redness and soothes irritation associated with acne. According to Patricia Wexler, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, this is particularly useful for inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne and rosacea. Try: Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask.
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Aloe vera is one of the most versatile healing plants on the planet. Its anti-inflammatory abilities make it a dream for sensitive skin. It hydrates, reduces redness, and soothes inflammation—and cool aloe vera facial masks for acne can help “shrink” pimples. Try: Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask Extreme Detoxifying Hydrator or Tosowoong Pure Aloe Mask Pack. These are the seven uses of aloe vera you might not know.
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Honey is a natural miracle worker—particularly when it comes to acne and rosacea-prone complexions. Beyond its moisturizing, soothing, and antiseptic abilities, “it reacts with secretions from the healing breakout to produce hydrogen peroxide, which improves the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or scarring,” explains Dr. Wexler. Try: Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask or Guerlain Abeille Royale Repairing Honey Gel Mask. Don’t miss the myths about adult acne you need to stop believing.
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Whether caused by pimple picking, cystic acne, or other bad habits, acne scars are a pesky reminder skin problems of the past. Niacinamide, known as B3, does double—err triple duty, reducing pigmentation, fading acne scars, and preventing future breakouts. Try: Bionova Acne + Acne Scar Treatment With UV Chromophores or Dr. Jart+ Dermask Micro Jet Clearing Solution. Read up on all the face masks for all your skincare woes.
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Licorice extract—a natural melanin inhibitor—is a staple in formulas targeting discoloration caused by acne or sun exposure. Powered by glabridin, which also lends its soothing abilities, licorice extract effectively diminishes the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and scars. It’s also safer—and more suitable for sensitive and easily irritated skin—than facial masks for acne using chemicals like hydroquinone. Try: Karuna Anti-Oxidant+ Face Mask or Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Mask. Find out five more ways to age spots at home.