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For most people, face masks aren't a daily skincare step but more so a once-in-a-while indulgence or an at-home spa treatment. Whether you reach for a mask weekly, every couple of days, or sporadically, there's no denying the benefits of this add-on.
"There are so many different kinds of masks—clay, cream, gel, exfoliating, sheet—and each one accomplishes something different," says Taylor Worden, a New York-based celebrity esthetician and the founder of Taylor Worden Skin. Containing high concentrations of skin-loving ingredients, she explains that they can deliver big payoffs, like hydration, a plumper complexion, breakout prevention, minimized fine lines, and less visible pores.
Plus, while all skincare counts as self-care, face masks really have that TLC appeal. So, which formulas stand out from the rest? We compiled the choicest options here.
Scroll down to check out the best face masks for every skin type and concern.
Best Overall: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
Addresses multiple concerns
According to NYC dermatologist Claire Wolinsky, MD, who specializes in facial rejuvenation, some of the best masks "provide AHAs and BHAs to the skin." Short for alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids, these scary-sounding but actually amazing chemical exfoliants are the secret to Drunk Elephant's beloved Babyfacial.
If you're dealing with discoloration, uneven texture, clogged pores, loss of elasticity, or a dull complexion, 20 minutes with this bad boy will make you feel like a whole new person—extra points for the airtight container.
Active Ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, chickpea flour | Benefits: Exfoliating, resurfacing | Size: 1.69 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Budget: Cetaphil Pro DermaControl Purifying Clay Mask
Not ideal for dry skin
For babes on a budget, we recommend this clarifying mask from Cetaphil. Containing kaolin clay and cucumber extract, it unclogs pores, soaks up oil, and calms stressed complexions.
Active Ingredients: Kaolin, cucumber seed extract, petrolatum | Benefits: Clarifying, exfoliating, boosting radiance | Size: 3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Drugstore: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating 100% Hydrogel Mask
Plumps the skin
Neutrogena's Hydro Boost Mask is a tall glass of water for your skin. It leans on hyaluronic acid, the world's favorite humectant, to plump, hydrate, and smooth.
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Hydrating, plumping | Size: 1 to 12 masks | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Splurge: Hanacure The All-In-One Facial Starter Kit
Fun to use
"The Hanacure All-In-One Mask also deserves mention for its proprietary Octolift technology," says Dr. Wolinsky. "[It] is a fun peel to use and will leave the skin feeling tighter, thanks to effective peptides and antioxidants."
Active Ingredients: Beta-glucan, peptides, botanicals, antioxidants | Benefits: Smoothing, boosting radiance, protective | Size: 4 uses | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best K-Beauty: Then I Met You Rosé Resurfacing Facial Mask
Softens fine lines
You've seen it on Instagram, and yep, it's really that good. From Soko Glam co-founder Charlotte Cho, the Rosé Resurfacing Mask combines AHAs glycolic and lactic acid to dissolve dead cells, plus resveratrol-rich grape juice extract to hydrate the skin and soften fine lines.
Active Ingredients: Glycolic acid, salicylic acid, willow bark, grape juice extract | Benefits: Resurfacing | Size: 1.76 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Powder: Beneath Your Mask Illuminate Clarifying Face Mask
Evens skin tone
The Illuminate Face Mask is formulated to clear dead skin and sebum and leave a more radiant complexion in its wake. This top-shelf treatment comes in powder form—just mix a spoonful with an equal amount of water and brush it on.
Active Ingredients: Clay, botanicals, vitamins C, E, B3, and B5 | Benefits: Clarifying, smoothing, boosting radiance | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Overnight: Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask
Worden says Laneige's Cica Sleeping Mask is "amazing for redness and helps calm the skin." The overnight treatment contains centella asiatica (aka cica), which is great for inflammation and acne, plus nourishing squalane and shea butter to replenish the skin barrier.
Active Ingredients: Fermented yeast, shea butter, squalane, centella asiatica | Benefits: Soothing, strengthening, hydrating | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Sensitive Skin: Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask
Soothing and cooling
You'll be glad to have this gel mask at the ready when your irritated complexion craves a cooling sensation. With redness-reducing aloe, calming chamomile, and soothing cucumber, it pulls out all the stops for sensitive skin.
Active Ingredients: Cucumber extract, chamomile, aloe juice | Benefits: Cooling, soothing, healing, softening | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dry Skin: Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask
Doubles as a moisturizer
Parched skin? You can't go wrong with Summer Fridays' widely celebrated Jet Lag Mask. The fragrance-free formula calls on ceramides, shea butter, and hyaluronic acid to provide much-needed moisture, while vitamin C and niacinamide boost your complexion.
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, shea butter, niacinamide, ceramides | Benefits: Hydrating, nourishing | Size: 2.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
Helps prevent breakouts
Only one ingredient
Dr. Wolinsky suggests clay masks for those struggling with breakouts or oily skin. We're big fans of the beloved Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, a single-ingredient mask that unclogs pores and helps keep pimples under control.
Active Ingredients: Bentonite clay | Benefits: Oil control, breakout prevention, clarifying | Size: 32 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Oily Skin: Versed Find Clarity Purifying Mask
Helps prevent breakouts
Can be used as a spot treatment
"Versed Find Clarity Purifying Mask is another lightly exfoliating, sebum-reducing option with both kaolin and bentonite clay, the two most commonly used clay ingredients," says Dr. Wolinsky.
Active Ingredients: Bentonite clay, kaolin, charcoal | Benefits: Clarifying, oil-reducing, exfoliating | Size: 1 mask | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Mature Skin: Lancôme Advanced Génifique Hydrogel Melting Sheet Mask
Minimizes fine lines
Strengthens moisture barrier
If it's smooth skin you're after, you can count on Lancôme Génifique to get the job done. This fancy sheet mask is formulated to firm sagging skin, soften fine lines, refine uneven texture, and strengthen the moisture barrier.
Active Ingredients: Bifidus, glycerin, probiotics, yeast extract | Benefits: Smoothing, plumping, firming | Size: 1 to 4 masks | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for All Skin Types: Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask
Good for all skin types
Glossier's supremely dreamy Moon Mask flaunts a plant-based blend of almond oil, squalane, shea butter, and aloe juice to nourish, moisturize, and soothe all skin types.
Active Ingredients: Sweet almond oil, squalane, shea butter, honey, aloe juice, hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Hydrating, soothing, nourishing | Size: 3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Moisturizing: Alchimie Forever Kantic Brightening Moisture Mask
Good for dry skin
Can be left on overnight
"Alchimie Forever Kantic Brightening Moisture Mask is a clean, natural moisturizing mask that can be applied and left on overnight to calm and soothe dry skin with oat extract, jojoba oil, and glycerin, as well as a slew of antioxidants," offers Dr. Wolinsky.
Active Ingredients: Oat extract, mica, glycerin, vitamin C | Benefits: Moisturizing, soothing, nourishing | Size: 3.3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Restorative: Klur Supreme Seed Delicate Purification Mask
Balances moisture barrier
Good for sensitive skin
Made with organic ingredients
You'll always be glad to have a tub of Klur Supreme Seed in your arsenal when your skin needs pampering. Formulated for fragile complexions, this plant-based mask nourishes, soothes, and restores balance to the moisture barrier.
Active Ingredients: Aloe juice, green tea, centella asiatica, kelp, evening primrose oil | Benefits: Nourishing, soothing, balancing | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Natural: Golde Clean Greens Face Mask
Made with organic ingredients
Good for all skin types
Golde Clean Greens is an au naturale face mask chock full of skin-loving superfoods that moisturize, clarify, and soothe. We're talking mango powder, spirulina, and marshmallow root—all of which are organic and even edible.
Active Ingredients: Mango powder, marshmallow root extract, spirulina powder | Benefits: Clarifying, moisturizing, soothing | Size: 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Our number one pick is Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, an intensive mask packed with AHAs and BHAs to gently slough off dead skin and leave a more radiant complexion in its wake. However, if you want something more affordable (or less intense), we suggest Cetaphil Pro DermaControl Purifying Clay Mask, a wallet-friendly treatment that calls on clay and cucumber to absorb sebum and calm stressed complexions.
What to Look for in a Face Mask
When shopping around for face masks, you'll want to consider your skin type, as well as any specific concerns you'd like to address. For instance, if your skin is sensitive or dehydrated, you might look for a soothing, hydrating formula. If you're battling breakouts, an absorbent, pore-clearing mask may be the best choice.
You should also pay attention to the ingredients list, as this will give you clues as to what a mask can accomplish. "Popular ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and botanicals can help soothe and restore the skin barrier in hydrating masks," says Dr. Wolinsky.
Other actives to look out for include glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin C, clay, charcoal, aloe, plant oils, niacinamide, and ceramides—to name a few.
Face masks come in various forms. There are single-use sheet masks, which are typically individually wrapped and designed to be placed directly on the face. You'll also find lots of options that come in tubes, tubs, and airtight containers. These work more like face lotions, except they're often meant to be rinsed off after a short period.
What are the benefits of face masks?
"Using a mask hydrates the skin, smooths out uneven texture, brightens, minimizes the look of fine lines and wrinkles, refines big pores, absorbs excess oil, [and] helps with breakouts," Worden tells Byrdie. In other words, they can provide a range of benefits and address various skin concerns, not unlike other topicals.
How do you apply face masks?
The proper way to apply a face mask depends on the type and formula. If you're using a sheet mask, take it out of the packaging and unfold it. Using the eye holes and mouth opening as a guide, carefully place it on your face.
With cream or brush-on formulas, you'll apply the mask all around your face in a thin layer. Focus on your T-zone or any problem areas and avoid your eyes. Most face masks are meant to be rinsed off after 15 to 20 minutes, though some can be rubbed in or left on overnight.
How often should you use face masks?
Again, it depends on the formula, as well as your skin type and what you're trying to achieve. However, weekly use is a good place to start. If your skin responds well to the treatment without irritation, consider bumping it up to twice a week and then potentially three times. Generally speaking, face masks aren't designed for daily use.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland is a skincare aficionado and copywriter specializing in wellness and lifestyle. She interviewed a dermatologist and an esthetician for this article, compiling their professional insight, product recommendations, and usage tips. From the above, Theresa has personally tried Drunk Elephant, Glossier, Aztec Secret, Hanacure, and Summer Fridays. You can read more of her stories on MyDomaine and Verywell.
Meet the Expert
- Claire Wolinsky, MD, is a New York-based dermatologist who specializes in facial rejuvenation.
- Taylor Worden is a New York-based celebrity esthetician and the founder of Taylor Worden Skin.
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