10 Dermatologist-Approved Face Masks for Acne
Say buh-bye to breakouts, blackheads, and acne scars with the blemish-busting ingredients in these dermatologist-approved face masks.
Acne-prone skin could benefit from these masks and ingredients
Self-care and skincare go hand-in-hand. So although dealing with acne is frustrating (and it can even affect your mental health), you should be kind to yourself and your skin. We suggest relaxing with one of these face masks; they are dermatologist-approved and contain ingredients that are great for acne-prone skin. And stay away from the ingredients that cause breakouts.
Charcoal acts like a magnet, attracting, binding, and drawing out impurities, dirt and oil, thus purifying, decongesting, and shrinking the appearance of pores. That makes it a great weapon against comedonal acne (blackheads and whiteheads). “Weekly charcoal facial masks for acne are helpful for adults with blemish-prone skin, as they are usually less harsh and drying than classic acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide,” explains Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Santa Monica.
Try: Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding Intensive Wash-Off Treatment, $40, sephora.com
Do you have oily skin? Bentonite clay is your new BFF. When mixed with liquid, this ultra-absorbent 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: Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask, $22 USD, paulaschoice.com
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Known for its pungent, almost rotten egg-like odor, sulfur 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. Using it in a facial mask helps shrink pimples and speeds up healing.
Try: Dr. Dennis Gross Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask, $55, sephora.com
Salicylic acid is the most common beta hydroxy acid (BHA)—not to mention a must for those with congested and oily complexions. It dissolves the surface layer of the skin, penetrates deeply into sebaceous glands to remove excess oil, clears pores, and dries 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, $74, thedetoxmarket.ca
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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 Westport, 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 Santa Monica, warns that it can have a bleaching effect on clothes, towels, and sheets, so be careful when using it.
Try: Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask, $13, amazon.ca
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Tea tree oil
You may want to try tea tree oil, which has antibacterial properties that kill acne-causing bacteria. It can be as effective as benzoyl peroxide, but more gentle on the skin. 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, $13, thebodyshop.com
You can also make your own tea tree oil spot treatment, and other essential oil acne treatments.
Blue tansy oil
Blue tansy oil is rich in azulene, a powerful anti-inflammatory—and the compound responsible for the oil’s brilliant blue hue. It helps reduce 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, $60, well.ca
A natural miracle worker, honey is particularly good 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: Guerlain Abeille Royale Repairing Honey Gel Mask, $206, nordstrom.com
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Licorice extract—a natural melanin inhibitor—is a staple in formulas targeting discoloration caused by acne or sun exposure. Licorice extract effectively diminishes the appearance of hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and scars. It’s also gentler—and more suitable for sensitive and easily irritated skin—than facial masks for acne using chemicals like hydroquinone.
Try: Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Mask, $66 USD, reneerouleau.com
Next, learn how to get rid of cystic acne.