The Best Face Mask for Your Skin Type

Updated: Apr. 06, 2021

Masks are everywhere and purport to do everything—hydrate, tighten, brighten, soothe, soften, fade spots, reduce lines, and de-gunk pores, so which is best for your skin type?

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A mask for every face

Masks are back in a big, bold way. Some promise to brighten and lighten skin, while others claim to hydrate dry skin, returning it to its dewy splendor, fill in wrinkles and folds or unclog pores for a blemish-free complexion. Some even work their magic while you sleep. They come at just about every price point and even go beyond the face. “Both sheet masks and regular masks are a vehicle to deliver active cosmeceutical ingredients for anti-aging and skin brightening purposes,” explains New York City dermatologist Melissa K. Levin, MD. The mask theoretically increases penetration of the actives, but she adds: “Not all masks are created equal.” The only way to find the best face mask for you is by looking at ingredients and matching it to your skin conditions.

Radial brand tube of moisturizer

If you need to hydrate dry, flaky skin

“Masks are faster than facials, you can do it yourself, there’s no downtime, and you can instantly hydrate skin,” says Samantha Murrell, a make-up artist at Barneys New York, who regularly recommends masks to her clients. Hydrating ingredients include hyaluronic acid, aloe, glycerin, and urea, to name a few. Some top-sellers include Rodial’s Dragon’s Blood Hyaluronic Mask and Karuna Hydrating Mask, which is clinically proven to increase hydration by 40 percent. A relative newcomer is the rubber mask, which temporarily seals in the active ingredients so they can work harder on your skin. We like Dr.Jart+ Rubber Mask Hydration Lover, which comes with a hydrating ampoule to apply first. “The effects can be dramatic,” Murrell says. “These are great to use before a big night out.” This is the best skincare routine for dry skin.

Peter Thomas Roth bottle

If you need to tighten and tone

Other skincare mask ingredients such as vitamin C help replenish collagen, the main structural protein found in skin, and can tighten and tone laxity, Murrell explains. These include BioMiracle Collagen Masks. Ingredients like algae, found in Erno Laszlo Firm & Lift Firmarine Hydrogel Mask, can also help skin’s resilience. “If you are looking to really tighten and tone, go for the gold,” she says. Legend tells us that Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile herself, slept in a gold face mask—and she may have been on to something. Many of today’s masks contain gold, which is said to stimulate collagen, reduce fine lines, wrinkles, sun damage, and age spots, and increase radiance and luster. Some popular gold masks include Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Mask Pure Luxury Lift & Firm Mask and Golden Door Golden Peel-A-Way Masque.

Tata Harper brand jar

If you need to lighten and brighten

“Dehydrated, dull skin types should use a mask with exfoliating agents,” says Taylor Pollei, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Mission Viejo, California. “Look for fruit enzyme ingredients to help with cell turnover and promote a brighter complexion.” Dr. Pollei likes PCA SKIN Revitalizing Mask. “This specific mask features a combination of papaya puree and extracts from lemon, orange, sugar cane, and apple to leave skin smooth and glowing.” Other brightening agents include lactic acid, glycolic acid, and retinols, according to Dr. Levin. Try Florapy Even Skin Tone Sheet Mask in Sunflower Lemon and Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask. Check out these 6 DIY beauty products you can make for under $1.

PCA Skin brand tube

If you need to unclog pores

Clogged pores can use a good clean. “Ingredients such as clay or charcoal are best to detoxify skin and eliminate impurities in pores,” Dr. Pollei says. He likes PCA SKIN Purifying Mask because it’s clay-based but also has added botanical ingredients for hydration and pumice to gently exfoliate. There are plenty of charcoal-based masks at every price point, from Vbeauté Deep Sheet Purifying Charcoal Mask on the higher end to Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask on the budget end. Oddly, magnetic face masks are also great for cleaning out pores, according to Murrell. These are iron-based powder masks that literally pull gunk out of pores, she says. Some bestsellers include Dr. Brandt Magnetight Skin Recharging Magnet Mask and The Younger Revealing Mask Intense from Dr. Harold Lancer.

Yes to Tomatoes brand packet

If you need to banish blemishes

To help clear breakouts, look for masks powered by a beta hydroxy acid such as salicylic acid, which is oil-soluble, so it’s well suited to treat acne in oily skin. “If you have acne-prone or oily skin, look for salicylic acid which concentrates in oil glands to remove excess oils as well as exfoliate dead skin cells,” Dr. Levin says. Try Yes to Tomatoes Acne Fighting Paper Mask. “Alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic and lactic acid can also be beneficial for acne-prone skin without as much potential irritation as salicylic acid.” Here are more dermatologist-approved face masks for acne.

Ultra Repair brand tube

If you need to calm and soothe

To calm and soothe irritated skin, seek out masks with ingredients such as oat, aloe, or chamomile. “For especially dry and sensitive skin, I recommend looking for moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, aloe, and coconut oil,” Dr. Levin says. “I also like vitamin B3 (niacinamide) for my sensitive skin or rosacea-prone patients who are also looking for anti-aging properties, since vitamin B3 reduces the enzymes that occurs with aging as well as improving redness.” Some of the best drugstore face masks do just this, including Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask from First Aid BeautyAloe Soothing Renewal Mask, and Mario Badescu Healing & Soothing Mask. Next, don’t miss these 13 recipes for perfect homemade face masks.