Sensitive, dry, combination, oily, normal… so go the five different skin types most of us have become accustomed to when adventuring into the realm of skincare. Of course, there's so much more to the needs of our complexions than stiffly falling into one of five adjectives. After all, our skin changes depending on what time of day it is, where we are in our cycle, where we've landed on vacation, what season it is, and so on and so forth. That being said, with how saturated the skincare industry is, blindly navigating the millions of products promising to transform our skin can be equally complex, and having a basic sense of our skin's temperament (even if it's confined to five options) can be convenient, especially if you're on the hunt for a great face mask.
"In general, we categorize skin types as being normal, dry, oily, combination, and sensitive to make it easier to find products that suit the needs of our skin," confirmes Lena Metcalfe, PA-C, of Facile Dermatology + Boutique. "That being said, like all of life, it's not always that simple. When shopping for face masks and skincare products, it's important to learn to really listen to your skin and experiment to see which products and ingredients work best and which do not agree with your skin."
Of course, estheticians and dermatologists work with countless complexions and skincare products on a daily basis, which gives them an accurate idea of what kinds of things will work for what kinds of skin. It's their job, after all! So to lend us a helping hand in determining the best face masks for each and every skin type, I reached out to three different experts to offer their esteemed know-how. In other words, we're basically gifting you and your face mask–craving complexion with skin-wise personal shoppers. Ahead, the 23 best face masks for every skin type, according to some of the best skin experts in the industry. Keep scrolling. Your haphazard mask collection doesn't want you to miss this!
As Metcalfe explains to me, those with normal skin can benefit from pretty much any kind of face mask, so it will come down to trial and error to determine what your skin likes. That said, Lauren Fine, MD, at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology adds that balance is key to for healthy skin maintenance, and it's a good strategy to choose products that will gift skin with protection by way of antioxidants and plenty of hydration. She loves face masks boasting natural fruit enzymes (like papaya!) for gentle exfoliation and green tea for a top-notch supply of antioxidants. As far as what to avoid, she warns against occlusive oils like coconut and mineral oils, as they can clog pores.
"This mask is made with DNA repair enzymes and a plankton-algae blend that helps calmly repair the skin, while simultaneously strengthening its barrier and boosting hydration," says Ronald Moy, MD, FAAD, of Moy Fincher Chipps Facial Plastics & Dermatology.
"Gentle yet detoxifying, this creamy face mask from Tata Harper purges pores of impurities and helps fight the visible effects of pollution without stripping the skin," explains Moy.
"I love this mask from Peter Thomas Roth," Metcalfe shares. "This mask has a physical exfoliant, chemical exfoliant (AHA), and pumpkin enzymes. It's a very fun, festive mask that smells like heaven, so I like it for people with normal skin who can tolerate fragrance and a combination of acids on their skin."
"I also love this lavender-infused face mask from Peach and Lily. It's packed full of lovely botanical ingredients, a little bit of salicylic acid, and the smell is amazing. I love all things lavender," Metcalfe adds.
"This face mask contains natural exfoliants like papaya, honey, and fruit extracts that aid in cell turnover without the harshness of a facial scrub," says Fine. "Using it once a week can help skin look brighter and more even, and it also contains green tea, vitamin E, and honey, which serve as potent antioxidants and enhance in hydration."
According to Metcalfe, with oily skin types, prevention is key—especially when it comes to blemish-provoking buildup found in our pores. "Just make sure not to over exfoliate," she warns. "Look for face masks with alpha hydroxy acid (aka glycolic acid), beta hydroxy acid (aka salicylic acid), lactic acid, clay, and fruit enzymes to help remove dead skin cells and impurities from the skin."
Plus, as Fine reminds us, adequately hydrating oily skin—as opposed to starving it—is equally important. "Making sure that the skin is properly hydrated can reduce the production of the skin sebum, while using overly astringent or drying face masks might stimulate the skin to produce even more oil—not the goal," she explains.
"This mask is definitely for the oiliest skin types, as it works like a charm to absorb excess oils and dry up active acne spots," Metcalfe shares.
According to Moy, this drugstore pick utilizes charcoal to detoxify and illuminate the skin, while potent ingredients like clay help clean out pores, drawing out deep impurities like dirt, oil, and pollution.
"Aesop's mask acts as an astringent with a clay-based formula and can be used as a spot treatment or all over on troubled, oily skin," says Moy.
"This mask deep-cleans and visibly reduces pores with activated charcoal that draws out impurities, toxins, dirt, and oil," touts Moy.
"I love clay-based masks for oily and acne-prone skin," explains Fine. "These types of masks can help with unclogging pores, especially in those stubborn areas like the nose and chin."
"I am obsessed with the Blue Tansy Mask by Herbivore Botanicals; it may be my favorite. It is exfoliating with natural forms of AHA but not too drying and is made with all natural very clean ingredients," muses Metcalfe.
"For dry skin types, it is best to stick to hydrating face masks with non-comedogenic oils, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and other moisturizing and calming ingredients," advises Metcalfe. "Excess dryness tends to cause inflammation in the skin and increases the appearance of fine lines." As far as what to avoid, Fine says dry skin types can steer clear of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid which, while great for resolving blemishes, suck the moisture out of skin types that are already dry, leading to flakes and peeling. Fragrances are best avoided as well.
This sheet mask is beloved by Metcalfe, as she explains it's super hydrating, boasting a long list of lovely oils that will enhance your glow.
Another favorite of Metcalfe's, this affordable option is packed with hyaluronic acid, which draws water into the skin for a plumped and ultra-refreshed look
"This option from Kiehl's is a balanced, hydrating mask that intensively moisturizes the skin overnight," Moy shares. "Key ingredients include fountain plant, glacial proteins, and desert plant extract, which smooth and soften the skin while you sleep at night."
Though not technically a mask, Moy cites this luscious face oil as a solid treatment option for dry skin. "As an overnight treatment, it can be used to deeply hydrate the skin, cater to fine lines and wrinkles, and repair and replenish the skin's barrier using powerful algae and moringa oil," he confirms.
According to Fine, combination skin types often require multiple products in order to address a variety of concerns. Typically, the T-zone will be oilier, while the cheeks will be drier. "There is a trend of doing 'multi-masks,' where different masks are applied to different parts of the face simultaneously," she explains. "This is quite effective for combination skin. For oily zones, avoid alcohols and non-comedogenic oils. For dry areas, avoid fragrances and harsh exfoliating agents."
Or as Metcalfe says, combination skin types can feel free to use exfoliating face masks (which are typically more drying) as long as hydration is added immediately after the masks removal.
"Since it contains charcoal, which helps to absorb excess oil, in addition to two different types of clay to help unclog pores, this mask also contains bisabolol and glycerin, which can reduce inflammation and provide hydration to combination skin types," cites Fine.
"I love this face mask from Herbivore Botanicals," shares Metcalfe. "It is exfoliating and brightening and is made with all-natural, very clean ingredients, including gemstone to brighten and illuminate the skin as well as natural forms of AHA."
"This mask is one of my all-time favorite face masks for combination skin types," Fine shares. "It is a gel mask containing botanical extracts such as cucumber, aloe, and hyaluronic acid which provide deep hydration and immediate calming effects."
According to Fine, this face mask features red algae and French red clay for deep-pore cleansing and a potent dose of vitamins A and E. There's also red wine extract to soothe and neutralize free radicals. "Its exfoliating texture stimulates cell turnover, helping to boost clarity for an even skin tone," she concludes.
"For sensitive skin types that tend to sting or burn when you apply a product, it is a good idea to try something before you buy it," Metcalfe advises. Because for the most part, it will come down to trial error. Unfortunately, she explains to us, sensitive skin types are often allergic to botanical ingredients—even if they're "clean." Thus, a certain degree of caution is necessary.
"Signs of true allergic contact dermatitis are itching and a dry, scaly pink rash usually around the eyelids and neck. I recommend introducing one product at a time to your regimen if you have sensitive skin. This way you can determine what works and what doesn't." Metcalfe also suggests avoiding any face masks with a "simple alcohol" on the ingredient list, which read as the following: SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol. As Fine points out, synthetic fragrances should also be avoided. For sensitives skin types, the more basic and gentler, the better.
Fine says this gel face mask, made of a natural polysaccharide seaweed extract for sensitive skin, soothes while flooding the complexion with antioxidants and natural botanical extracts that hydrate and tone.
"Using locally sourced honey for an ultra-hydrating effect, this mask is great for soothing and healing purposes," Moy explains.
"The Pink Clay Mask by Herbivore Botanicals is super gentle and nourishing with a very mild exfoliation," says Metcalfe. "It is packed with vitamin C, which helps to brighten the skin. I love that the full list of ingredients is made up of only five very clean, natural ingredients, including organic chamomile powder, which is calming to the skin. One trick from Dr. Nancy Samolitis at Facile is to mix Herbivore Botanicals' Pheonix Facial Oil ($88) with the Pink Clay Mask rather than water to provide a richer, more nourishing treatment."
"This botanical mask contains cucumber, thyme, and olive extract to calm and hydrate, and hyaluronic acid to retain moisture," describes Fine. "It has an immediate cooling effect and can help reduce inflammation, which is key for sensitive skin types."
Next up: Dermatologists say these are the best OTC treatment options for cystic acne.