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While blackheads aren't necessarily a cause for concern, they can be hard to ignore when staring at yourself in the mirror. Even if you're well past your teen years and have otherwise clear skin, there's always a chance they'll rear their ugly heads.
"Blackheads form when a pore becomes clogged with dead skin cells and oil," explains NYC-based dermatologist Hadley King, MD, FAAD. "When this material becomes oxidized by exposure to air, it appears black—hence the name blackhead." Luckily, there's an entire skincare category focused on tackling the issue, one of the most effective solutions being masks.
According to Claire Wolinsky, MD, the goal of a mask should be to lightly exfoliate. The derms we spoke to recommend AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids), and enzymes, as well as absorbent ingredients, such as clay. If this sounds a little too scientific, don't worry, because we took notes from these experts and rounded up standout options for every budget.
Meet the Expert
Here, the best blackhead masks to clear your pores.
Best Overall: GlamGlow Supermud Charcoal Instant Treatment Mask
Suitable for all skin types
Our number one pick is none other than GlamGlow Supermud. This iconic all-in-one facial pulls out all the stops to clear your pores. We're talking BHA all-star salicylic acid, AHA superhero lactic acid, plus activated charcoal and kaolin.
"Masks containing kaolin clay are good choices for oily skin," notes Dr. Wolinsky. She explains that these absorbent ingredients decrease excess oil, which can lead to clearer skin and reduce the appearance of pores. But this blackhead-clearing treatment isn't just for the oily-skinned set.
It's gentle on sensitive skin and can be used to target only the T-zone if you have otherwise dry (combination) skin. Thanks to GlamGlow's Pore-Matrix technology, you'll be able to see little dots where it's extracting gunk from your pores. We also like that you can use Supermud as a spot treatment for pimples.
Key Ingredients: Kaolin, charcoal, lactic acid, salicylic acid | Amount: 0.5 ounces, 3.5 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Budget: Bioré Instant Warming Clay Charcoal Face Mask
Works in one minute
OG blackhead-clearing brand Bioré is an excellent choice for babes on a budget. This clay and charcoal mask comes in single-serving packets, warms on contact with your skin, and gets the job done in a minute flat.
Key Ingredients: Kaolin, charcoal | Amount: 0.25 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
"It was like I’d placed a warm, steamy towel on my face." —Bianca Lambert, Product Tester
Best Drugstore: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
Contains only one ingredient
Can be messy
Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay has a well-deserved following. This single-ingredient drugstore icon contains 100 percent bentonite clay—nothing more, nothing less—to soak up the oil that's causing blackheads.
Key Ingredients: Bentonite clay | Amount: 16 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Splurge: Kypris Deep Forest Clay Detoxifying Mask + Exfoliant
If you're super-serious about battling blackheads, it might be worth splurging on an Elsa-esque tub of Kypris Deep Forest Clay. Strongly recommended by licensed esthetician Dana Murray of Babe + Beauty, this brilliant mask calls on clay, oceanic salt, and botanical exfoliants to dissolve sebum, plus algae to soothe inflammation.
Key Ingredients: Clay, oceanic salt, algae, botanical exfoliants | Amount: 1.55 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best BHA: Herbivore Blue Tansy BHA and Enzyme Pore Refining Mask
"Hands down, salicylic acid (aka BHA) is the most effective," says Murray. That's why she loves Herbivore's Blue Tansy Mask. This blackhead treatment gets its BHAs from white willow bark and goes above and beyond with fruit enzymes for gentle exfoliation and soothing aloe for good measure.
Key Ingredients: White willow bark (BHA), fruit enzymes, blue tansy oil, aloe | Amount: 2 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best AHA: Then I Met You Rosé Resurfacing Facial Mask
Improves skin texture
From Soko Glam founder Charlotte Cho, Then I Met You Rosé Resurfacing Mask is a game-changer for those with blackheads. Containing 6 percent AHAs, including glycolic and lactic acid, this exfoliating tincture does an excellent job of clearing congested pores.
Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, resveratrol, rose petals | Amount: 1.76 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Clay: Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask 2X
Leaves slight residue
Murray is also a fan of clay masks for blackheads, like Innisfree's Pore Clearing formula. This affordable treatment contains exfoliating lactic acid and actual volcanic lava clusters to absorb oil and minimize the appearance of pores. It's no wonder former Byrdie editorial director Faith Xue says she can't get over how much gunk this mask removes from her pores.
Key Ingredients: Volcanic lava, lactic acid | Amount: 3.38 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
What Our Testers Say
"The clay brought my whiteheads up and soaked up the excess oil from my t-zone and cheek areas on the first use." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester
Best Peel-Off: No B.S. Charcoal Detox Peel-Off Mask
Not as effective on oily skin
Prominent blackheads can give you a real hankering for a peel-off mask. If that's your cup of tea, we recommend this charcoal-infused option from No B.S. In addition to absorbing oil, it moisturizes with squalane for an all-around balanced complexion. We also like that removing it is pain-free.
Key Ingredients: Charcoal, glycerin, squalane | Amount: 3 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Oily Skin: Beneath Your Mask Illuminate Clarifying Face Mask
Oily skin? Beneath Your Mask has you covered. The brand's Illuminate Clarifying Face Mask contains absorbent clay, antimicrobial honey, vitamin-rich coconut milk, and soothing aloe vera. In other words, this award-winning treatment goes above and beyond to balance oily complexions. King explains, "Areas with larger pores and more oil production are more likely to have blackheads. Those who are genetically determined to have oily and acne-prone skin will be more likely to have blackheads."
Key Ingredients: Clay, honey, coconut milk, aloe | Amount: 3.4 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin: Golde Papaya Bright Face Mask
Dr. King is a fan of fruit enzymes for blackheads. With this in mind, we suggest Golde Papaya Bright for sensitive skin. The ultra-gentle yet effective exfoliants work hard to clear clogged pores, while marshmallow root extract calms inflammation.
Key Ingredients: Fruit enzymes, sea buckthorn, marshmallow root extract | Amount: 1 ounce | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask
To keep both blackheads and breakouts at bay, your best bet is the Peter Thomas Roth Sulfur Mask. In addition to sulfur, it uses kaolin clay to absorb oil and aloe to hydrate and calm the skin.
Key Ingredients: Sulfur, kaolin, aloe | Amount: 5 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for All Skin Types: Caudalie Vinergetic C Instant Detox Mask
Suitable for all skin types
Celebrity cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, CMO and founder of PFRANKMD and the author of "The Pro-Aging Playbook," stands behind Caudalie Vinergetic C. "This will extract and dry up what is clogged in the skin," he tells Byrdie. "Make sure you don't put this on dry or dehydrated skin and moisturize after."
Key Ingredients: Bentonite, fruit enzymes, glycerin, lactic acid | Amount: 2.5 ounces | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Preventative: Dr. Dennis Gross DRx Blemish Solutions Clarifying Mask
Not overly drying
The best defense against blackheads is preventing your pores from clogging in the first place. With this in mind, the Dr. Dennis Gross Clarifying Mask blends colloidal sulfur, kaolin, and bentonite clay to absorb excess oil without overdrying the skin.
Key Ingredients: Colloidal sulfur, kaolin, bentonite clay | Amount: 1 ounce | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best K-Beauty: Skinfood Egg White Pore Foam
Our favorite K-beauty blackhead treatment is Skinfood's Egg White Pore Mask. In addition to egg whites, it's formulated with lactic acid and niacinamide to keep sebum in check and minimize the appearance of pores.
Key Ingredients: Egg whites, lactic acid, niacinamide | Amount: 3.52 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Multi-Use: Estée Lauder Perfectly Clean Multi-Action Foam Cleanser/Purifying Mask
Believe it or not, even Estée Lauder's target market deals with blackheads now and then. The brand's Perfectly Clean mask-cleanser hybrid can be used as a three-minute mask or a daily clarifying face wash. Either way, you can count on unclogged pores and a healthy-looking complexion.
Key Ingredients: Myristic acid, glycerin, caffeine, algae | Amount: 5 ounces | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
The best blackhead mask overall is GlamGlow Supermud (view at Sephora). Containing AHAs, BHAs, charcoal, and kaolin, this effective treatment covers all the bases to clear pores. For something a little easier on your bank account, go with Bioré Charcoal Instant Warming Clay Mask, an oil-absorbing solution that gets the job done in 60 seconds.
Hayag suggests testing a blackhead mask on a small patch of skin before using one for the first time. And “if you have sensitive skin, avoid masks with fragrances, dyes, parabens, and other chemicals that may cause a reaction,” she says.
What to Look for When Choosing a Mask to Treat Blackheads
The dermatologists we interviewed all said exfoliating ingredients are the best defense against blackheads. Beta-hydroxy superstar salicylic acid came up the most, as it breaks down excess oil and dissolves dead skin cells. "Glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that's derived from sugarcane, also helps release and dissolve dead skin cells and debris on the surface, clearing up blocked pores and blackheads," adds Dr. Frank.
You'll also find formulas that call on plant-derived enzymes to clear pores. "Fruit enzymes offer a gentle option for exfoliation. [They're] particularly great for those with sensitive skin who cannot tolerate salicylic acid," notes Dr. King.
Another key component of blackhead masks is ingredients that absorb oil and sebum, like sulfur, charcoal, and different types of clay. For instance, as Dr. Wolinsky explains, kaolin clay helps decrease excess oil to prevent blackheads and minimize the appearance of pores.
You'll also want to consider the application. Since blackhead masks absorb oil, most are supposed to be rinsed off after a short period (usually anywhere from one minute to 20 minutes) to avoid drying out the skin. There are also sheet masks and peel-off options, as well as versatile mask-cleanser hybrids.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Theresa Holland is a skincare aficionado and commerce beauty writer. For this article, she interviewed five dermatologists and a licensed esthetician for product recommendations and insight into ingredients and formulations. She read through reviews, pored over specs, and considered dozens of products from a wide range of brands before making her final selections. From this list, Theresa is personally fond of GlamGlow, Then I Met You, Dr. Dennis Gross, and Peter Thomas Roth.
Meet the Expert
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough blackhead masks from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.