These Are the Face Masks That Work on Acne

From oil-absorbing clays to balancing probiotics, your breakout treatment awaits...
Published: February 1, 2024

One of life’s meanest misconceptions is that acne only comes for teenagers. I stopped having to present my ID at the door over a decade ago, and can attest that breakouts and blackheads don't obediently retreat once you start paying income tax.

But it’s not all doom and gloom—in fact, all you need to do is reframe the situation. That glowing red blemish isn't a weekend ruiner, but merely an opportunity for an at-home pamper session—and a targeted acne face mask is your ally.

While there are, of course, some face masks that us acne-prone people should skip—and no clay or cream will rectify the issue on its own—there's no need to cast the category aside altogether. In fact, a specialist treatment could be the add-in your skincare routine needs, helping you to find clarity while you're slumped in front of Netflix.

Dr Anjali Mahto, author of The Skincare Bible, believes introducing a mask into your weekly skincare routine may just be the ticket for banishing weekly breakouts. ‘Living in busy, built-up areas and cities means our skin is exposed to pollutants that we need to protect ourselves from. These dirt particles can clog pores and increase oil production, making us prone to breakouts and leaving our skin looking dull. Introducing a weekly clay mask to your routine works to draw impurities out, stopping oil build-up and promoting even skin tone.'

Of course, a clay mask is the obvious choice for oily, acneic skin types – but don’t stop there. Now, there’s a whole host of thoughtfully formulated options for the breakout-prone: consider charcoal for soaking up sebum, probiotics for rebalancing a retinol-ravaged skin barrier, and centella asiatica to calm redness and inflammation.

So whether you're currently dealing with a smattering of blackheads or a throbbing red blemish that just won't calm down, call on one of the best acne face masks to swiftly restore order. Below, you'll find the ones I happily recommend.

1. Tula Skincare Claydate Face Mask Stick

Probiotics-based skincare brand Tula has seamlessly slipped into my regular rotation – the whole line is ideal for reactive, tantrum-prone complexions.

This swipe-on stick is the perfect lazy-girl's treatment: simply scribble it over blackheads and oily, congested areas, then sit back and let the blend of witch hazel and apple cider vinegar deeply cleanse those pores.

2. Meder Net-Apax Prebiotic Cleansing Mask

This gentle cream formula works as both your cleanser and a treatment mask, depending on how long you leave it on for. I like to remove my make-up before applying, then letting it soak in to quell inflammation and angry redness. A brilliant SOS treatment for days in the midst of hormonal terror.

3. Caudalie Vinergetic C+ Instant Detox Mask

I'm allergic to Tiktok hacks, but this is the one that actually won me over. Finally back in stock, Caudalie's clarifying mask might have found fame thanks to its 'grammable pink hue, but it's the blackhead-vanquishing powers that keep me slathering it on.

Formulated with papaya enzymes (a gentler alternative to glycolic acid) alongside clay, it'll make a remarkable difference to overly enlarged pores and sweep away those pesky black dots in one fell swoop.

4. Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask

This multipurpose clay mask can be used as an all-over deep treatment or an on-the-spot solution for tackling whiteheads efficiently. The Italian clay is combined with sandalwood, which has an astringent (oil-absorbing) effect on skin, while chamomile works to reduce redness.

5. The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

I don't personally love the fact that this one is black (do not let it near your fancy white flannels), but if you're after an efficacious salicylic-acid mask that doesn't cost a fortune, it fits the bill.

The inci list stands up to scrutiny—there's charcoal alongside the oil-dissolving acid—and it'll help clear major congestion better than most.

6. Dr. Barbara Sturm Clarifying Mask

If you tend to find clay masks too drying, head to this indulgent, creamy cocktail from every A-lister's favourite skincare brand.

Dr. Sturm's clarifying treatment combines clay with non-comedogenic jojoba seed oil and zinc to balance breakouts while leaving the skin barrier balanced. It's light, creamy, and smells slightly medicinal: a real Friday-night treat.

7. Sisley Exfoliating Enzyme Mask

A recent launch from Sisley, this is the perfect choice for anyone who needs an end-of-week skin reset. It's more of a deep-cleaner than an instant-calmer, sweeping away all traces of the smoggy city (and that full-coverage foundation too).

Blend the powder with water in the palm of your hand to transform it into a light, frothy mask. Packed with enzymes and oil-regulating niacinamide, it'll leave a weary complexion looking bright and refreshed.

8. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clay Mask

La Roche-Posay's whole Effaclar range is the holy grail for those prone to breakouts and sensitivity – and this mask is fantastic when you've got an event looming.

Argilla mops up excess oil from the skin's surface, while kaolin extracts it from the deeper layers to keep spots at bay. Skin feels squeaky clean but not tight and uncomfortable: no wonder dermatologists everywhere recommend it.

9. Chantecaille Detox Clay Mask

You don't need to spend a huge amount to get a decent clay mask, but Chantecaille's offering delivers more than most.

Rich, dense and loaded with kaolin, it's perfect for those days when your skin needs a seriously deep clean. The addition of antibacterial honey means its great for healing those spots I know you picked, while rosemary doubles down on the inflammation-fighting powers. Again, use a white flannel at your peril.

10. Tatcha The Clarifying Clay Mask

One of beauty's buzziest recent arrivals, Tatcha is a brand that deserves to be on your radar (and in your bathroom). A treat for the breakout-prone, this green-tinged mask contains mineral-rich clay sourced from the shores of Okinawa, Japan.

Massage it in to see the colour shift to a deep red hue, while the gentle warming action allows the blend of oil-absorbers to do its best work. It won't dry or crack on your face, nor will it leave skin feeling dehydrated. An all-round winner.

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