Do face masks help acne?

Whether it’s hormones, stress, or a change in the weather, there are many reasons for your skin to break out. So to be an overachiever on your skincare, you may be wondering, "What are some good face masks for acne?" and "Do face masks actually work?".

Read on to find out about the types of face masks on the market these days, which type of face masks are good for various types of acne, ingredients to look for in a face mask, and how to use them for your best results.

Types of face masks and how they help

With so many masks on the market, finding the right one for your skin can get a bit confusing, especially when you’re looking for a good face mask for acne. So let’s break it down so you know exactly what to look for when it comes to your skin’s needs.

First, why would you need to use a mask if you’re already using a proven acne-fighting skincare system?

Masks are generally meant to be left on your skin for a period of time before you wash them off, so they have a chance to work. They often contain ingredients that can help draw impurities out, reduce the appearance of large pores, and even hydrate. They can give your skin the extra boost it may need to get healthy, especially on those weeks you might have missed a couple washes after makeup or sweating. Plus, instead of spot treating pimples or guessing where you think pimples will form, masks can treat the whole face.

Face masks for acne come in all kinds of forms and textures from leave-on creams to peel off clay masks to sheet masks, and more.

Types of face masks and their benefits:

Clay: Usually kaolin or bentonite, these are known for their ability to draw out dirt, oil and sebum to help prevent clogged pores which can lead to acne.

Exfoliating granules and/or fruit extracts: Granules help with physical exfoliation of dead skin cells (which can clog pores) and fruit extracts can help brighten skin’s appearance, which helps with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, too. Natural fruit enzymes are ideal for exfoliating skin without creating extra irritation.

Gel or cream: Is your skin overly dry and overcompensating with extra oil production? A gel or cream mask can boost your skin’s moisture levels. (You can find many overnight masks in this form, too.)

Peel-off: These are hyped up online because there’s a satisfaction that comes from peeling something off your skin and seeing gunk come out of your pores, if that’s your thing. But beware, many of these contain glues that can take out much more than the gunk, stripping your skin of its moisture barrier.

Natural: Got some oats, honey and sugar at home? You can make your own mask. You’ll find a ton of recipes online.

Type of mask to use based on your skin type

So you’ve got acne — which means your hair follicles (AKA pores) are clogged with excess oil (AKA sebum) and dead skin, forming whiteheads (closed comedones) or blackheads (open comedones). When bacteria gets involved on its own or from picking at it, inflammatory acne can form. Plus, dry skin can lead to acne, too. So, it’s important to know your skin needs and your skin type before you choose your face mask.

Dry, dehydrated skin: Your skin needs a mask that delivers moisture. (Choose cream, gel, or overnight leave-on masks.)

Oily, greasy skin: Choose a face mask that draws out impurities and excess oil to help prevent clogged pores, which can lead to blackheads and whiteheads. (Choose face masks with clay or charcoal.)

Sensitive or red, irritated skin: Choose soothing face masks to not upset sensitive skin, with ingredients like rose hips, tea tree oil or aloe vera.

Ingredients to look for in a face mask

Regardless of the form of the mask, what’s most important are the ingredients. If your oily T-zone is throwing off your foundation look, a quick clay mask can work wonders when it comes to nixing excess oil. Or if you’re seeing red bumps and want to slow their roll before an event, you can paint on a soothing mask to reduce irritated skin — so the attention is on you, not your acne.

Here are some key ingredients to look for in a face mask:

Clay: You’ll usually find clay masks with bentonite or kaolin clay, which can help detoxify your skin.

Charcoal: Though it may sound weird to put charcoal on your face, it’s truly talented at soaking up the extra oil your skin doesn’t need.

Benzoyl peroxide or sulfur: These antibacterial ingredients are ideal for fighting papules and pustules.

Salicylic Acid: This acne-fighting ingredient works by helping chemically exfoliate dead skin cells to help keep your pores clean.

Glycolic Acid: This superstar ingredient has exfoliating properties, moisturizing effects, and even helps break the bonds between dead and outer layers of skin cells to help keep your pores clear of buildup.

Tips on how to use a face mask correctly

Want to get the most out of your mask? Here are tips to help you get your best results.

Use the mask at least once per week: That way, you’ll keep your skincare routine in check. Consistency is key.

Prep your skin: Wash and exfoliate your skin before you apply the mask. That way, you won’t trap dirt and oils in your skin underneath the mask and the mask has a chance to work better.

Apply with clean hands or brush: This also helps keep dirt, oil and bacteria from getting into your pores.

Watch your timing: Set a timer and pay attention to the directions for how long the mask should stay on before you wash it off. Longer is not always better. For example, clay masks left on too long can dehydrate your skin, starting the excess oil production cycle all over again. Moisture masks can clog pores if left on longer than directed.

Remove gently: Some masks can be hard to remove. Feel free to use cleanser to help remove it and don’t irritate your skin by scrubbing it off with a towel. For masks that are especially tough to remove, an oil-based cleanser or makeup remover will do the trick.

Multi-mask carefully: You can use more than one mask on your face as long as they aren’t on top of each other. So if your T-zone is oily and you need a clay mask there and the rest of your face is dry and needs a hydrating mask, apply each where they’re needed.

The bottom line

Think of a face mask as extra credit on your skin health. Whether you want to draw out impurities, exfoliate dead skin cells or add extra moisture, masks can help you achieve these goals. Plus, you don’t have to sit and stare at the wall for 15-20 minutes while it’s on, you can make it a pampering, relaxing experience by taking a bath or watching your favorite TV show while the mask works on your skin.