11 Dermatologist-Approved Facial Masks for Acne
Say buh-bye to breakouts and blackheads with these fierce acne-fighting ingredients.
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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 or Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask. And don’t miss these other drugstore acne treatments that really work, according to top dermatologists.
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: SkinCeuticals Clarifying Clay Masque, Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask, or mix equal parts Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay and raw apple cider vinegar. Love to do it yourself? Try these other home remedies for acne.
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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 or DERMAdoctor Ain’t Misbehavin’ Intensive 10% Sulfur Acne Mask & Emergency Spot Treatment. Get the scoop on all the amazing skincare benefits of sulfur.
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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 or Tata Harper Clarifying Mask, which contain willow bark extract, a natural botanical source of salicylic acid.
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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 Facial Cleanser/Mask. Read up on the acne treatments dermatologists use on themselves.
Tea tree oil
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Tea tree oil 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. You can also make your own tea tree oil spot treatment, and other essential oil acne treatments.
Blue tansy oil
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Blue tansy oil is rich in azulene, a powerful anti-inflammatory—and the compound responsible for the oil’s brilliant blue hue. It help 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.
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Aloe vera is one of the most versatile healing plants on the planet. Its anti-inflammatory abilities make it a dream for sensitive skin. It hydrates, reduces redness, and soothes inflammation—and cool aloe vera facial masks for acne can help “shrink” pimples. Try: Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask Extreme Detoxifying Hydrator or Tosowoong Pure Aloe Mask Pack. These are the uses for aloe vera you might not know.
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Honey is a natural miracle worker—particularly 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: Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask or Guerlain Abeille Royale Repairing Honey Gel Mask. Find out how to make a DIY honey mask and other at-home acne remedies.
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Whether caused by pimple picking, cystic acne, or other bad habits, acne scars are a pesky reminder of skin problems from the past. Niacinamide, known as B3, does triple duty–reducing pigmentation, fading acne scars, and preventing future breakouts. Try: Bionova Acne + Acne Scar Treatment With UV Chromophores or Skin Nation Magic Masque.
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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: Karuna Anti-Oxidant+ Face Mask or Renee Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Mask. Find out five more ways to remove age spots at home.