Sometimes fighting back against acne and breakouts takes more than just a spot treatment. Unlike spot treatments, which are great for targeting pesky individual pimples, there are face masks for acne out there that are gentle enough to be applied to your whole face at once while also being able to get rid of zits and blemishes and prevent them from popping up in the future.

“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."

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When sourcing the best face masks to help treat your acne, you should instead look for products with known acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that removes 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, you'll find some of our favorite acne-fighting masks on the market, a handful of which are dermatologist-approved.


Best Mud Mask

Ahava Mineral Mud Clearing Facial Treatment

Ahava Mineral Mud Clearing Facial Mask
Ahava Mineral Mud Clearing Facial Mask
$34 at Ulta Beauty

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

Acne Solutions™ Oil-Control Cleansing Mask
CLINIQUE Acne Solutions™ Oil-Control Cleansing Mask
Credit: sephora.com

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

Clear Improvement™ Charcoal Honey Mask to Purify and Nourish
Origins Clear Improvement™ Charcoal Honey Mask to Purify and Nourish
Credit: sephora.com

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

Phyto Corrective Mask (2 fl. oz.)
SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Mask (2 fl. oz.)
Credit: skinceuticals.com

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.

Best Peel

Laneige Clear-C Peeling Mask

Clear-C  Peeling Mask
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 Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask

COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask (2.02 fl. oz.)
COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask (2.02 fl. oz.)
Credit: dermstore.com

For whiteheads or blackheads, treat your breakouts overnight with this gentle formula. It features niacinamide to help calm the irritation caused by acne and blemishes. Plus, this star ingredient helps to balance the oils in your skin and prevent future breakouts.

Best For Sensitive Skin

First Aid Beauty Ultra-Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask at Nordstrom
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask at Nordstrom
Credit: nordstrom.com

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 Vinoperfect Brightening Glycolic Peel Mask

CAUDALIE Vinoperfect Glycolic Peel Face Mask, Size 2.5 Oz at Nordstrom
CAUDALIE Vinoperfect Glycolic Peel Face Mask, Size 2.5 Oz at Nordstrom
Credit: nordstrom.com

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

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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 2-in-1 Mask

Neutrogena Clear Pore Facial Cleanser/Mask

Neutrogena Clear Pore Facial Cleanser/Mask - 4.2 fl oz
Neutrogena Clear Pore Facial Cleanser/Mask - 4.2 fl oz
Credit: target.com

This hybrid formula can be used in two ways: as a cleanser or an intensive 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 can use it daily as a cleanser while also leaving it on your skin for slightly longer as a mask every once in a while, so it can penetrate deeper into pores to treat acne spots.

Best Budget Mask

The Inkey List Kaolin Mask

The INKEY List Kaolin Mask
The INKEY List Kaolin Mask
Credit: sephora.com

This under $10 budget product uses kaolin and smectite clay to target pesky breakouts that flare up on the skin. Both clays are known for their oil absorption properties, though they can also exfoliate the skin and improve its appearance.

Best Exfoliating Mask

REN Clean Skincare Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask

REN Clean Skincare Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask, Size 1.7 Oz at Nordstrom
REN Clean Skincare Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask, Size 1.7 Oz at Nordstrom
Credit: nordstrom.com

Glycolic acid is the star ingredient of this mask, which removes dead skin cells from the surface to reveal a brighter, smoother complexion. It also features papaya extract to help firm the skin and improve its texture.

Best For Blackheads

Tata Harper Purifying Pore & Blackhead Detox Mask

Purifying Pore & Blackhead Detox Mask
Tata Harper Purifying Pore & Blackhead Detox Mask
Credit: sephora.com

If your biggest problem is skin congestion, this mask is a good one to have on hand. It has a clay texture meant for absorbing oil and fully clearing the pores of dirt and bacteria.


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This article is part of Women's Health 2020 Acne Week. Clickhere for more.