Using Acne Masks for a Clearer Complexion

Skin care. Woman applying clay mask on face. Spa.

An acne mask usually works better on dry skin, and the least expensive ones normally give the best results.

There is no cosmetic product you can apply to your face to keep your pores from making oil. There are facial masks, however, that can absorb excess oil from the surface of your skin and loosen up hardened oil that could form whiteheads and blackheads.

The key to success in using an acne mask is avoiding irritant ingredients. Usually the least expensive products work the best. This article tells you what to look for in an acne mask, and then reviews the pros and cons of the bestselling acne masks.


  • An acne mask is a product you leave on your face to absorb excess oil.
  • The least expensive acne masks usually work the best.
  • Acne masks usually work better on dry skin than on oily skin.
  • Fragrances added to acne masks don’t fight acne.
  • Even tea tree oil added to a mask won’t do any good for fighting acne if it is just added as a fragrance.
  • Face masks feel good—which is a legitimate reason to use them if they don’t contain excessive amounts of alcohol or irritant ingredients. But the best basic acne care is done with an acne care system.

How Acne Masks Fight Acne

Acne masks absorb excess oil from the surface of the skin. They may also exfoliate the skin, lifting tiny flakes of dead skin you might not have even noticed, opening pores, and giving the skin a healthy glow. Some may even help with acne scars, but they won’t completely erase them without other forms of treatment… Just as a mask alone isn’t going to cure acne. And while some of them may be ideal for body acne and bacne, applying it in some places isn’t exactly easy.

The main ingredient in most acne masks is medicinal clay. You may see this labeled as fuller’s earth, medicinal clay, or medicinal mud. Although this ingredient is dirt, it is dirt that has been sterilized to remove any earth-borne pathogens that could infect the skin. (Never, ever dig up your own mud to make a face mask, unless you have a means of sterilizing it before use.)

The problem with many anti-acne face masks is that they contain additional ingredients that they claim help get rid of acne, but the truth is they can irritate the skin. Usually the skin-irritant ingredients are botanicals or plant extracts added to the mask to make it smell good, or to leave the skin feeling tingly. When you first rinse off the mask, you will just notice a fine, even matte to your skin. It may be hours or even a few days later before you notice peeling, flaking, drying, or redness—at which point the manufacturer hopes you will try another treatment.

There is no evidence that mud from one part of the world is better for your skin than mud from any other part of the world. Some “medicinal” masks made with exotic muds, such as Dead Sea mud, can actually be inflammatory. Giving ingredients an exotic name helps users imagine they are doing something special for their skin, but usually they aren’t.

There are also masks, as well as cleansers and soaps, made from organic ingredients, usually purees of plants that are also used as food. These masks tend to be “thinner” than mud, and easier to remove. Sometimes, however, these plant-based masks are just right for dry skin. Usually mud works better on oily skin. There are also masks that contain plasticizing agents. These usually have to be pulled off the skin. Since pulling the mask off your skin can cause damage of its own, this article does not recommend any products that contain plasticizing agents. According to Dr. Erin Kil, bentonite and sulfur have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties that are good for your skin. Before applying it on your whole face, test it. It is best to be cautious, so that you don’t end up red faced and with irritated skin.

All of the products reviewed in the article have been analyzed for their benefits for different skin types. A product that controls acne for you may not work for someone who has a different skin type, and vice versa. Most masks are available over the counter.

How Often Should You Use a Mask?

Some people who have especially oily skin use an acne mask every day. Others may use a mask just once a week. A well-formulated acne mask can be left on the skin for 10 minutes up to an hour, and then washed off with warm water. Always test a dot of a mask material on the skin of your inner forearm, leaving it there for 8 to 12 hours, to make sure there are no ingredients in the mask that could irritate your skin or cause any severe reactions.

Now let’s take a look at some of the world’s bestselling acne masks.

Ahava Intensive Hydrating Mask (US $28.00 for 3.4 oz/95 g)

This pricey product contains glycerin and waxes plus a tiny amount of Dead Sea water. If you have ever gone swimming in the Dead Sea, you know that Dead Sea water causes serious skin irritation very fast. Fortunately, there is not enough Dead Sea water in this product to irritate your skin, but this acne mask will not work any better for any skin type than less expensive products.

Ahava Purifying Mud Mask, for Normal to Dry Skin (US $28.00 for 5.3 oz/148 g)

This mask actually might be OK if you have oily skin, but the lack of emollients makes it a poor choice for dry to normal skin.

Ahava Purifying Mud Mask, for Oily Skin (US $28.00 for 5.3 oz/148 g)

This mask contains a tiny amount of witchhazel and a lot of alcohol. It will feel good on oily skin, but the alcohol just makes oily skin oilier as the skin repairs the damage alcohol does.

Arbonne FC5 Intelligence Exfoliating Masque with Thermal Fusion (US $32.00 for 4.6 oz/135 g)

This mask makes your skin feel warm due to the addition of citrus extracts and benzyl nicotinate, a chemical derivative of the B-vitamin niacin. If you have rosacea, the combination of citrus extracts and the niacin derivative almost guarantee your skin will break out if you use this product. If you don’t have rosacea, your skin may just have a rosy glow, or red irritation.

Arbonne NutriminC RE9 RElease Deep Pore Cleansing Mask (US $31.00 for 5 oz/140 g)

This product is a standard clay mask, suitable for normal or oily skin, containing a small amount of comfrey extract. If you only use the mask occasionally, there is little worry of damaging your skin by exposure to the comfrey extract, but this amount of comfrey is banned in the European Union.

Aubrey Organics Skin Care Sea Buckthorn & Cucumber with Ester-C Moisturizing Mask for Combination/Dry Skin (US $8.98 for 4 oz/112 g)

This product is labeled as a mask, but it is really a scrub. It contains tiny amounts of coconut fiber that can loosen up hardened oils on the skin, but it also contains a chamomile extract that fights irritation. It’s not a bad choice at a very competitive price.

Aubrey Organics Dry Skin 1 Jojoba Meal & Oatmeal with Rosa Mosqueta Mask & Scrub, for Dry Skin  (US $8.98 for 4 oz/112 g)

This product’s first listed ingredients are an unidentified detergent and alcohol. While it is probably more practical to use it as a scrub instead of a mask, either way, it can simultaneously dry out the skin and increase oil production, a bad combination for acne control.

Aveda Deep Cleansing Herbal Clay Mask (US $20.00 for 4.4 oz/122 g)

Here is a mostly-clay mask with just enough added emollients to moisturize dry skin. It is not an ideal product for oily skin.

Aveda Outer Peace Cooling Mask (US $37.00 for 4.2 oz/117 g)

This product is advertised for “cooling” blemished skin, but it only offers clay with a small amount of alcohol and some plant extracts for fragrance. It will leave a nice matte on your skin, but it is very expensive for what it does.

Aveda Tourmaline Charged Radiance Mask (US $29.00 for 4.2 oz/117 g)

Here is an excellent acne mask for dry skin. It is free of irritating plant extracts and detergents, and contains lycopene from tomato extract, which slightly increases oil product and stops inflammation. Its effects on the “radiance” of your skin are due to zinc oxide rather than to tourmaline, but it will still bring out skin tones on fair skin. Don’t use this product if you have dark brown or black skin.

Avon Mark Calm Yourself Hydrating Mask (US $7.00 for 3.4 oz/95 g)

This inexpensive product is good for dry skin in people who don’t have strong reactions to citrus extracts. Be sure to test a dot of the product on your forearm to make sure you are not allergic to any of the botanicals it contains.

Avon Mark Shine-Fighter Oil-Control Mask (US $7.00 for 3.4 oz/95 g)

Here is another inexpensive Avon product that is good for oily skin, but not combination skin. It contains alcohol, so don’t leave it on the skin longer than directed.

Skip any product that "heats" your skin, especially if you have rosacea.

Skip any product that “heats” your skin, especially if you have rosacea.

Biore Purify Self Heating Mask (US $7.99 for 2.04 oz/57 g)

This product claims to give pores a “deep clean,” but it cannot break up hardened skin oils in whiteheads and blackheads. Heating the skin is never a good idea, especially if you have rosacea.

Body Shop Tea Tree Face Mask (US $15 for 3.85 oz/108 g)

This product contains enough tea tree oil to smell good, but not enough to have any effect on acne bacteria. It is OK for treating unblemished skin, but the thickening agents in this mask could make the pores on blemished skin even more clogged.

Body Shop 3-in-1 Honey and Oatmeal Scrub Mask (US $16.50 for 3.6 oz/102 g)

Honey and oatmeal make a delicious breakfast, but they really are not all that helpful for your skin. This product makes a good scrub, but as a mask it makes oily skin too moist and dry skin irritated.

Body Shop Blue Corn 3-in-1 Deep Cleansing Scrub Mask, for Normal/Oily Skin (US $16.50 for 3.6 oz/102 g)

The corn meal in this product exfoliates your skin as you rinse, making it a good scrub. The essential oils in this product, however, can irritate your skin if it is used as mask.

Body Shop Seaweed Ionic Clay Mask (US $22.00 for 4.2 oz/118 g)

This clay mask is OK for most skin types, but the iodine from seaweed can make your skin break out if you have rosacea.

Yuli Pure Treatment Mask ($65 for 1.7 oz)

This unique mask has a rich and vibrant color and is made from finely grained powder. In order to activate it, you have to add a bit of water. You can also add yogurt or honey to it. This mask can be used on any skin type since it adapts itself to the skin type of the user. This is due to the live ingredient that it has. Yuli products are known for their high quality and purity. Its ingredients consist of clay, enzymes and plants that are activated and come alive when water is added to it. Every ingredient in the powder serves a specific purpose when applied on the skin. The fact that the mask is made out of powder shows that it has no preservatives or fillers added to it.

There are four different types of clays used in this mask. These clays have minerals, magnesium and zinc, which help to improve the health of your skin, nurture it and revitalize it through the antioxidants and nutrients that they contain. The combination of the four clays helps to get rid of clogged pores, blemishes and it helps in revitalizing wrinkled skin. These natural clays can be used on any skin type without them being too harsh on the skin or drying out the skin, since they can adapt to different types of skins. Some of the ingredients included in this mask include

  • Mung bean powder is an anti inflammatory, which helps to deal with aging and skin blemishes. It also helps in detoxifying the body and in preventing skin breakouts and skin breakdown by cooling the heat condition.
  • White Willow Bark Powder helps to renew cells on the skin, which helps to deal with the aging of the skin and it also helps in the cleansing and toning of the skin. Since it naturally has salicylic acid, it is quite effective in exfoliating dead skin cells and in the treatment of acne. It is not often that you find salicylic acid being used in its natural form considering how expensive it is. In most cases, its synthetic variation is what is used in most beauty products. However, it causes irritation of the skin. Since this product uses it in its natural form, it shows how much attention to detail the manufacturer of this product has paid to it.
  • Goji berries are just one way Yuli's mask fights inflammation common with acne.

    Goji berries are just one way Yuli’s mask fights inflammation common with acne.

    Biophotonically Charged Matcha is derived from green tea. It is a powdered form of green tea leaves which have undergone the biophotoinic process to help it improve its nutritional value. 100 percent of the nutrients of this product are soluble in water. Based on ORAC, matcha has been found to have 137 times the amount of antioxidants that regular tea has. When it undergoes the biophotonic process, this amount goes up even higher, such that the antioxidants and phytonutrients multiply. For instance, the amount of beta carotene multiplies by up to 9 times what is found in carrots. Beta carotene helps to revitalize aging skin and gives a youthful appearance as a result of promoting cell renewal on the skin. The ECGC that is found in green tea, which is 28 times more in Matcha, helps human DNA cells which have been damaged to either self destruct or to regenerate new cells.

  • Gojii Berry is an anti-inflammatory that helps in preserving even skin tone, fights against aging, wrinkles and spider veins. It is higher in beta carotene compared to carrots and helps in the growth of new cells and skin regeneration, it is high in Vitamin C, which helps in the stimulation of collagen.

Burt’s Bees Pore-Refining Mask (US $8.00 for 1 oz/28 g)

This product is nothing but clay with mint extracts. It smells good, but it can irritate your skin.

Ultra Acne and Marks Wash and Mask ($5.97 for 6.78 oz)

This is both a cleanser and a mask. Since it is clay based, it is most suitable for oily skin even though it is not a very good mask. Since it is combined as a mask and as a cleanser, it means that it won’t do a very good job of cleansing the skin as a normal cleanser would. In addition, leaving a cleanser on your skin for extended periods of time is not advisable as it can lead to the skin getting irritated. In any case, this product is not very good at exfoliating given that it has a high pH. In addition, this product does not have salicylic acid, which is effective in fighting against acne.

There are a few advantages of using this product, though. It soaks up excess oil produced on the skin, which makes it quite good for oily skin. It has niacibamide, which facilitates communication between cells. It also has a couple of anti-irritants. Its disadvantages include the fact that it can cause irritation on the skin if left on for too long, plus the amount of salicylic acid it contains is too small to have any significant impact on acne due to the high pH levels of the product.

In addition, the product has a strong fragrance, which is not helpful in any way for the treatment of acne and it does not fade red marks left on the skin by acne. The red and pink marks left on the skin are referred to as post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation and they are a great source of frustration for people who are struggling with acne. Even though salicylic acid is great at helping to get rid of red marks on the skin, it is more effective when used on products that you can leave on your skin for quite some time. However, leaving a cleansing agent on your skin for long, such as this product, can slow down your skin from healing.

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Daily Leave on Mask ($8.99 for 2 oz)

One of the things that make this mask really effective is that it treats acne right from under the skin even before the blemishes break out on the surface of the skin. It also reduces redness on the skin and it minimizes the sizes of pimples. Once you apply this mask, you don’t wash it off. You leave it on your skin, where it continues to get absorbed in your skin and works on it throughout.

Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores ($26 for 3.4 oz)

This is a charcoal activated mask. It works by clearing out dirt and anything else that clogs the pores on your skin, while absorbing the toxins on the skin. The active ingredients in this mask includes white China clay, which absorbs toxins, charcoal, which draws out anything that is clogging your pores and lecithin, which helps in getting rid of impurities from the skin. Some of the cons of using this product include the fact that some people have stated that it causes their skin to tighten too much, which results in them being uncomfortable. It can also cause the skin to be extra dry and depending on your skin type, it can take long for the mask to dry.

Probably by now you get the impression that good acne masks are hard to find. They are. You can save money and make real progress in getting rid of skin blemishes, however, with a money-back guaranteed acne treatment system like Exposed Skin Care.

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