These spot-fighting face masks will clear your acne, asap

best face mask for acne
10 of the best face masks for fighting acneCourtesy of brand

When you suffer with acne, you've probably tried pimple patches, spot treatments, and face washes in a bid to calm things down, but know that a decent face mask can seriously help too.

Packed with supercharged ingredients that draw out excess oil, battle bacteria, unclog pores, the best face masks work like fire fighters to calm and treat red-hot acne.

Luckily, we’ve dealt with many stress-, hormone- and sweat-induced spots over the years – as well as the flare-ups that show up for no apparent reason – so we can point you in the right direction of the best formulas to shop.

Can a face mask actually treat acne?

Introducing a face mask into your routine can go a long way in helping to clear your complexion; but unfortunately, no formula will remove a spot entirely (sorry to disappoint).

We are here to back their corner however, as there are a lot of good things that a face mask can do. They will lift blackheads from your nose, soak up excess oil and help prevent future blemishes from forming. Some also contain anti-inflammatory ingredients that'll take the heat and redness out of a painful bump.

‘Face masks should be used to supplement your skincare routine, rather than as a catch-all', says Dr Emma Craythorne, consultant dermatologist and SkinCeuticals expert. 'They can be a really helpful way to relieve redness and reduce sebum and when used effectively they can help to reduce and clear some whiteheads and blackheads,' she adds.

Dr Craythorne suggests pairing your face mask with a more targeted treatment to really help tackle acne. 'I always recommend an effective cleanser in your routine and then using something to ensure that there is no blockage in your pores, such as chemical exfoliants like beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)'.

What ingredients should you look out for?

If you’re investing in your acne-fighting skincare routine, keep these ingredients on your radar: salicylic acid and retinoic acid. Dr Craythorne says they are the most helpful for keeping your complexion clear, whilst also recommending kaolin clay to reduce oil and sebum.

Azelaic acid is another green flag to look out for as it has antibacterial properties and can help combat clogged pores. It’s also wise to scan the inci list for hydrating and skin-soothing ingredients – hyaluronic acid and green tea will do the trick.

How often should you use a face mask, to help with acne?

Like many situations in life – weight training or learning to drive included – start slow and gradually work your way up. Face masks designed to treat acne tend to contain powerful active ingredients, so you shouldn’t use them more than once a week.

Also, refrain from using other actives in the rest of your routine as this can overload your skin and cause irritation (so save the retinol for another time, please.)

So, what are the best face masks for fighting acne?

From a science-y formula that targets blemishes at the core, to an unassuming budget buy that our beauty writer swears by, see our edit of the best formulas worth stocking up on.

1. Medik8, Natural Clay Mask

If you’re dealing with deep-set blackheads and congested skin, consider this clay mask your first (and probably best) line of defence. The clay in question is kaolin clay which lifts impurities and gunk without stripping your skin (no tight and dry cheeks here). Your skin stays comforted, and your pores will look noticeably smaller too.

2. The Ordinary, Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

Kaolin clay and salicylic acid are your acne’s worst enemies; they’re great decongesting ingredients that lift oil and dirt from your pores. This hard-working formula works to clear your complexion without stripping or drying out your skin.

3. The Inkey List, Kaolin Clay Mask

Take a look at the INCI list (pardon the pun) of any great acne mask, and kaolin clay will likely feature. It's a lighter clay that works well on reactive skin, and will help to soak up excess oil and slough away dead skin cells.

A top formula to try is The Inkey List's offering. It delivers all the best benefits of kaolin clay (read: reducing oil production and unclogging pores) and does so without drying out the skin barrier. Also, it's one that your bank balance will condone, which is another reason why we rate it so much.

4. Malin + Goetz, Detox Face Mask

If you're sick of your reactive skin playing up (or just want to keep a good streak going) Malin + Goetz's Detox Face Mask is a great middleman to use in between your salicylic-acid spiked formulas.

The hydrating foam is enriched with comforting ingredients, like amino acids and squalane, which strengthen and hydrate the skin barrier, while also working to gently suck up excess oils. Apply a thick layer of gel and watch as the mask transforms into a bubbly foam. Rise off with lukewarm water and your skin will feel hydrated and fresh, never stripped.

5. Murad, Rapid Relief Sulfur Mask

Murad's Rapid Relief mask is a real winner for cystic acne. Fortified with sulphur, the lightweight formula promotes clearer skin while salicylic acid smooths bumpy texture.

It’s also infused with kaolin clay, which act like sponges to absorb oils that sit in your pores. Slot in a weekly appointment with this mask and wave buh-bye to congested skin.

6. Ole Henriksen, Cold Plunge Pore Mask

Living a poreless existence is impossible – and quite frankly, it doesn’t sound fun either – so instead you can make them look a little less noticeable. This comforting mask uses kaolin clay, lactic and salicylic acid to draw out impurities, refine pores and prevent future breakouts from appearing.

7. Faace, Sweaty Face Mask

Sweat = spots. So, if you’re battling with post-gym breakouts, this mask will have your back. Perfectly named, the Sweaty face mask is formulated with argan oil and bergamot – two effective ingredients for regulating sebum, nixing acne and reducing inflammation (in a very gentle manner of course.) Top tip: slather this on your back too if you suffer from bacne.

8. Boots, Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Blemish Stick

Here is a gatekept secret our beauty writer has used for years. This Boots blemish stick is a little pocket rocket for targeting spots. As soon as you open the bullet, you’ll know by the smell that tea tree is the main acne-fighting ingredient. But on top of that, there’s witch hazel to reduce inflammation and shrink blemishes, too.

Scribble it on the areas you want to target, leave it to settle overnight and your acne will look less red and inflamed. It’s not a miracle product, but for £3.50, we’d say it’s nearly there.

9. Caudalie, Vinopure Purifying Mask

The Vinopure Purifying Mask is an acne-prone beauty’s best friend; a twice-weekly mask that uses 99% natural-origin ingredients — including green clay and zinc — to rid skin of pesky blemishes, leaving a smoother complexion in its wake.

10. Glow Recipe, Watermelon Glow AHA Night Treatment

Yes, dehydrated, acne-prone skin is very much a thing – and if that ticks your box, we know how frustrating it can feel. If you want to absorb excess oil whilst keeping your complexion nourished (and smelling pretty yum too), check out this double-duty mask from our favourite K-beauty brand.

It’s formulated with glycolic and lactic acid to gently exfoliate, while hyaluronic acid (seven weights of it may we add) works to keep your skin hydrated. It’s not the kind of mask you leave on for 20 minutes and rinse off, but a leave-on that requires minimal effort.

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