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Face masks are undoubtedly the golden child of the skincare world, offering not only a quick dose of TLC for your complexion but also the opportunity to sneak in a little more self-care into a busy day. But by no means are all face masks created equal; part of the reason there are just so darn many options out there is that picking one that’s right for your skin type is crucial for scoring the best results.
Exhibit A: If you have oily skin, the endless amount of hydrating offerings on the market by not be quite right for you. Instead, purifying and detoxifying formulas are the name of the game, ones that can help keep excess oil in check (without stripping your skin).
Ahead, the best face masks for oily skin that do exactly that.
There’s really nothing this mask, a go-to for Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue, can’t do. Indeed, it can decongest pores and tamp down oiliness (thanks to kaolin clay), but the benefits don’t stop there. It’s also cooling and soothing, working to reduce both puffiness and redness or blotchiness. Basically, if your skin looks less than stellar for whatever reason, slather on this mask and prepare to be amazed.
Admittedly, any of these picks are a good choice for those prone to pimples, but Xue says this is an especially top option. It battles breakouts in several different ways, boasting oil-dissolving salicylic acid along with antibacterial colloidal silver. Add niacinamide—known for tamping down inflammation and controlling sebum protection—and you’ve got yourself a perfect way to help keep your complexion clear.
Dealing with combination skin often puts you into a perpetual Goldilocks-type state—you want something that will address oiliness but also works to hydrate any dry spots. It’s no easy feat, which is why we appreciate the prowess of this mask. It boasts ingredients that work on both ends of the spectrum. Three kinds of clay plus charcoal remove sebum, while soothing honey, chamomile, and aloe add hydration and ensure skin is never left stripped or irritated.
Having oily skin increases the likelihood of having pimples pop up (always at the least opportune time, of course). Whenever that happens, we reach for this mask time and time again. True to its name, it contains a 3% concentration of skin-clearing sulfur, which works fast—we always notice improvement after just one use. Plus, unlike other sulfur-based products which are notorious for their stinky smell, this one has a refreshing citrus scent.
Clay is a top choice for oily skin; it acts like a magnet to pull out oil and other assorted gunk from pores. This cult classic—which also happens to ring in at a very wallet-friendly price—is made of only 100% natural calcium bentonite clay. DIY aficionados will like it too since there’s no shortage of ways to use it, be that as a mask or a spot treatment. Not to mention that it also works well as foot or bath soak, or even as a treatment for an oily scalp.
You’ve likely seen bubbling masks all over social media—for good reason, they are super fun to use—but that bubbly action also serves a purpose. Namely, it helps to “massage out” gunk lodged in your pores. Here, it’s a carbonated water plus mud combo that creates those bubbles, coupled with charcoal powder to help absorb excess oil.
This drugstore fan fave earns our vote for offering plenty of versatility. Leave on the sal acid-based formula for just a few seconds and use it as a clarifying cleanser, or, let it dry on the skin for up to five minutes for a more intense mask. Along with salicylic acid, it also contains two types of clay for extra purifying prowess.
Removing excess oil is important for sure, but don’t forget how important exfoliating is for oily skin, too. To do so, we suggest using this unique powder-to-gel option that relies on papaya enzymes for ultra-gentle, yet ultra-effective exfoliation. Rounding out the list of completely natural (we’re talking edible) superfood ingredients are vitamin-C packed goodies such as lucuma and sea buckthorn that help ensure your skin stays perfectly glowy—not overly shiny.
It may sound oxymoronic, but you may in fact want to use a hydrating mask once in a while, even if you have oily skin. Why? Relying solely on purifying, oil-absorbing products day in and day out can inadvertently end up stripping your skin, and triggering it to end up producing more oil in the first place. Keep things balanced out by working a hydrating formula, like this guy, into the mix every so often. We like it because it’s moisturizing yes, but is also specially made to actually balance out sebum production, exactly what you want if you have oily skin.
If your skin is typically pretty normal but is prone to occasional bouts of oiliness, try this mask. A favorite of Byrdie Associate Editor Holly Rhue, it works just as well on oily and acne-prone skin as it does on a normal to combination complexion, making it a good option to use whenever. Charcoal and kaolin clay act as a deep detoxifier to unclog pores, while a unique blend of six different acids works to further clear out gunk and grime. The end result is a smooth and glowing complexion, plus much smaller-looking pores.
Rhue is also a fan of this pick, choice for those dealing with ultra-stubborn blackheads and/or whiteheads. It’s not your standard charcoal or clay that does the purifying here (though we’re obviously not knocking those ingredients), but rather finely ground clusters of hardened volcanic lava that sop up unwanted oil. There’s also gently exfoliating lactic acid in this creamy, wash-off formula.
Peel-off masks might seem a little gimmicky, but they can be a particularly great option if you have oily skin, mechanically removing impurities as you peel them off. If you want to try one, make it this guy, a recommendation from Karli Bendlin, Byrdie’s Email Editor. At work is red shiso leaf, rich in antioxidants and purifying minerals. Apply the liquid formula all-over and let it dry for 20 minutes (make sure to take a selfie in the meantime because the metallic pink hue is so photogenic). Then peel it off, removing dirt, pollutants, oil, and other grime in the process.
It may be the brand’s best-selling P50 toner that gets all the buzz, but according to Byrdie’s Senior Editor Hallie Gould, you really shouldn’t sleep on this luxury mask. It boasts purifying live yeast extracts (who knew?) plus astringent witch hazel to clear out and brighten skin.
Mix in a pinch of baking soda to target pesky blackheads lodged around your nose or chin.
You’re more likely to see sheet masks geared towards dry skin than oily skin, making this a noteworthy exception. Salicylic acid plus tea tree oil tamp down sheen, while glutathione (an antioxidant) helps combat dark spots. All this in a microfiber sheet mask that stays put and won’t slip and slide down your face.
We love this uber convenient, solid stick. While you could apply it all over, we think it’s choice for strategic swiping on areas prone to being extra oily, i.e. your T-zone. Mess-free and perfect for travel, masking has never been easier—simply apply where you want it, let dry for 10 minutes, then rinse off.
Ingredients to Look Out For
Written by Erin Jahns & Julyne Derrick
Reviewed by dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach
According to Houston-based dermatologist Suneel Chilukuri, MD, FAAD, FACMS, our skin's normal oil production combined with environmental dirt and debris can lead to clogged pores. "If left untreated, clogged pores can turn into blackheads and acne lesions," he explains. "Additionally, pores that are full of excess sebum and impurities will begin to look larger. Although pores don't actually change in size much until we grow older and our collagen breaks down more quickly, regular clearing of the pores will make them appear refined and smaller, ultimately leading to smooth, flawless skin." So what are the most strategic ingredients to fill your face mask arsenal with?
Clays: And specifically, the Kaolin and Bentonite varieties, which, according to Chilukuri, are highly absorbent, helping to draw out impurities from the skin and clear pores.
Sulfur: "Sulfur is a fantastic ingredient for those with oily skin," celebrity esthetician Shani Darden tells us. "It will absorb excess oil on the skin, and it also has antibacterial properties as well."
Glycolic Acid: "This acid reduces excess oil and prevents the clogging of pores that lead to a breakout," celebrity esthetician Angela Caglia explains.
Zinc: Another pick from Caglia, Zinc keeps skin mattified and non-greasy throughout the day.
Magnesium Aluminum Silicate: A naturally occurring, clay-derived mineral that Chilukuri says supports clear and healthy skin.
Charcoal: Contains a variety of minerals and works to absorb oil and impurities from the skin. "Its structure of very small pores allows it to be highly efficient for skin detoxification," Chilukuri adds.
Salicylic Acid: Has anti-inflammatory properties to calm down acne-prone skin.
Lemon and apple: Chilukuri says both of these will naturally exfoliate the skin and remove excess oil.
Ingredients to Avoid
"Coconut oil, mineral oil, camellia oil, sunflower oils, and petrolatum tend to clog pores," warns Chilukuri. "Additionally, alcohol, sodium lauryl, and sodium laureth sulfate strip natural skin oils, leading to more oil production and the chance of worsened acne down the line."