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The best face mask of 2024 is powerful, unique and extremely fun to use

We tested face masks for enlarged pores, wrinkles, dryness and more — here's why we think Peach Slices Snail Rescue is the holy grail.

The best face masks of 2024 are from Chanel, Peach Slices and By Roe New York. (Amazon, Sephora)
The best face masks of 2024 are from Chanel, Peach Slices and Byroe New York. (Amazon, Sephora)

Fun fact: The first time I learned about face masks was from an ‘80s movie. (The image of a woman relaxing with green cream on her face and cucumbers on her eyes is a common film trope!) But the best face masks don’t just make for a good sight gag; in fact, they can work wonders for skin — clarifying tone, plumping up and moisturizing, and helping to reduce fine lines. While using a quality face wash every day will keep your skin clean from pore-clogging grime and a good hyaluronic serum ensures optimal hydration, treating yourself once or twice weekly to a face mask helps highly concentrated ingredients (like peptides and snail mucin) really sink in and nourish your face in a way many regular non-mask products can't.

Quick overview

Face masks also offer that important bit of “me time” that we so often ignore, a needed pause in the chaos of our days. “Many people find the process to be quite relaxing, perhaps due to the ritual aspect of it, or perhaps because it’s difficult to work with a mask on, so it encourages the need to stop and sit,” explains Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.

Face masks come in all sorts of forms, such as sheet masks, clay masks, peel-off masks and overnight masks. The benefits are just as varied — some pump moisture into the skin while others tackle texture, breakouts, wrinkles and more. Of the dozen-plus face masks I tried, even the most ultra-popular sheet masks actually did little for my skin (except make it feel soothingly cool and damp). And, after testing more product-driven masks, I found the universal, great-for-all-skin-types winner to be Peach Slices Snail Rescue Intensive Treatment Wash-Off Face Mask. Keep reading to find out why.

Formulation: Jelly | Size: 3.38 oz | Skin Type: Dry, normal, oily | Key ingredients: 95% snail mucin, cica, birch juice, licorice

Face masks can feel like a luxury experience, but Snail Rescue is proof that you don’t need to spend a lot to get that. (Spoiler: There are some real splurges coming up later.) At $16.99, less than the cost of the expensive bagel I had this morning (no joke), you get a powerful, fun-to-use mask that does a lot. I was mainly interested in the hydration aspect of this mask, since perimenopause has been making my skin oscillate between its usual combination type and feeling extra dry. But after just a couple of weeks of use, my skin looked brighter and refreshed, not to mention my pores were less noticeable.

Interesting and unique ingredients are always something that will catch my eye, especially if they're effective. Snail mucin, which came to the mainstream beauty industry by way of Korean beauty innovations, ended up being the key ingredient in my winning face mask. Snail Rescue contains a high concentration of mucin (95%), which contains allantoin, collagen, elastin, glycolic acid, natural peptides, proteins, antioxidants, and more. (Who knew snails had all of this power?) Research has shown that snail mucus can potentially improve skin hydration and skin structure, reduce hyperpigmentation and even fight acne.

Also, if you’re wondering how they harvest snail mucin, according to Peach and Lily (Peach Slices’ sister brand), they get it from cultured snails in a lab, and collect the snail trails that they leave. (Now, THAT is a lab I’d want to visit). They then purify it before it gets put into products. Along with snail mucin, the mask contains soothing cica, vitamin-rich birch juice, and licorice, which can help bring radiance to your complexion.

Aside from the price, there are other features of the mask that I think would appeal to a wide audience. It is unscented and doesn’t have a tingling sensation like other face masks, so it can be used on all skin types The jelly texture of this mask makes it extremely fun to apply, though I can see why others with sensory issues might be weirded out. On Amazon, over 800 reviewers have awarded it five stars, praising it for everything from its firming and hydrating power to resulting in fewer breakouts, less redness, and more. Of course, snail mucin means this product is not vegan, but it is Leaping Bunny-certified (aka cruelty-free). 

If you’re even slightly curious about the skin-saving power of snail mucin, you should add this to your cart, pronto.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Leaping Bunny-certified
  • Helps reduce bright spots
  • Hydrating
  • Gently exfoliates
Cons
  • Not vegan
  • Hard to rinse off quickly
  • Jelly texture might be off-putting to some people
$17 at Walmart
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$17 at Amazon$17 at Ulta Beauty

Formulation: Cream | Size: 3.4 oz | Skin Type: Normal, oily, dry, combination | Key ingredients: Glycolic acid, citric acid, melipona enzymatic ingredient

When I use a mask at home, I like it to feel like a real treatment — the kind I’d get at a fancy spa. This one from Chanel feels just like that — you can put it on at home during a commercial break (just kidding, you don’t get those when binging Bridgerton) and wash it off in a few minutes. In fact, this mask was inspired by Chanel’s spa treatments and aesthetic procedures and is meant to be used between treatments to help maintain results.

Aside from AHAs (glycolic and citric acid), which exfoliate dead skin cells, Le Lift's star ingredient is melipona enzymatic honey. If you know anything about honey, you know that it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties, helps with wound healing and more. However, studies have found that stingless bee honey (from the Melipona bee) is richer in certain nutrients than regular honey. The Melipona enzymatic honey is highly concentrated in amino acids and helps with aging signs and promoting cell turnover while reinforcing the skin’s support. (It’s also sustainably harvested in Costa Rica once a year in extremely small quantities and without destroying any hives.)

As for the product itself, it is a lightweight formula that you apply with the included fan brush. First of all, I would exercise caution here because it is spicy. The strong, tingly sensation was fine for me to handle for a few minutes, but if you have extremely sensitive skin or can’t stand any tingling, be warned. Also, make sure not to use it on any skin that is compromised. For example, if you plan on dermaplaning, don’t use this peel immediately after. I had just shaved a little bit of my moustache (TMI?) and the spot got really red, though, it wasn’t irritated. All that said, the potency and swift efficacy of this mask is what makes it stand out. In just five minutes, your dead skin cells get sloughed off and away, revealing fresher, firmer and plump-looking skin. It’s a legit splurge at over $200, but worth it, considering how good my skin looks after and how it gives more time between in-office treatments.

Pros
  • Great for large pores
  • Sustainably sourced ingredients
  • Comes with an applicator brush
  • Boosts radiance
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Strong tingling sensation
  • Might not be good for sensitive skin
  • Fragrance-free but does have a slight chemical smell
$220 at Nordstrom

Formulation: Clay | Size: 2.28 oz | Skin Type: Oily, combination, sensitive, normal | Key ingredients: Fermented clay, upcycled donut peaches, kombucha tea, Dermabiome 8HA

As Dr. Nazarian pointed out, clay is great for skin, especially if you are oily or acne-prone, and it purifies pores. This Byroe option is an under-the-radar gem. It’s made from fermented clay but also contains upcycled donut peaches (which sounds kind of delicious), peptides and kombucha tea for fighting acne and boosting skin barrier function. There is also a moisture-boosting blend of hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and probiotics.

While there are less pricey clay masks out there, I found that a lot of them made my skin feel super dry afterward. This one doesn’t do that. Instead, it makes my skin feel soft and hydrated while simultaneously making my pores look smaller and mattified, no doubt because of the other antioxidant and vitamin-rich ingredients. I love using this mask twice a week to keep my skin balanced. Another pro? I love a clay mask that I don’t have to mix myself!

Pros
  • Vegan and cruelty-free
  • Free of parabens, mineral oils, triclosan, benzophenone and phthalates
  • Draws out impurities
  • Refines pores
Cons
  • Pricey
  • Lightly scented; not for the fragrance-averse
$140 at Amazon
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$70 at Saks Fifth Avenue

We liked so many things about the Sisley Paris Black Rose Cream Mask but ultimately could not justify the $200 cost.

And, while Farmacy's 10% Niacinamide Night Mask leads many Best Face Mask lists, we ultimately found the formula too harsh for most skin types.

Finding the best face mask often comes down to personal preference (are you put off by scented products?) and understanding your individual skin's needs (can your skin tolerate tingling/stinging acid ingredients?), though some rules are universal: Look for masks made of high-quality ingredients that are at least somewhat hypoallergenic and sustainably sourced. Also consider timing: Can you manage 15 minutes twice per week? Or do you need a product you can wear overnight? Remember the best face mask is one you'll actually use.

Over the past few months, I tested over a dozen products, judging them by ingredients, texture, efficacy, ease of use and value. Ultimately, while there are many different types of masks serving different complexion and anti-aging needs, I wanted to find the absolute best that I could recommend to anyone, regardless of their skin type.

I also made a few discoveries about my own mask preferences. For example, while I love a travel-friendly sheet mask, I actually prefer those that need to be applied directly onto the skin. I also enjoy feeling like I’m using an actual treatment; something that has to be washed off instead of left on overnight (even though those sound nice when I’m lazy and tired!). When choosing the masks for this evaluation, I additionally looked for highly concentrated ingredients and high user ratings.

Mentioning those “mask movie tropes” earlier, I may have given the impression that face masks are frivolous and unnecessary to people who don’t use them, but anyone can benefit from adding this extra step to their routine. “Face masks offer benefits because they allow for contact with active ingredients under occlusion, i.e., a layer of covering, or applied in a thick layer for short contact. “This process enhances penetration of the active and inactive ingredients.”

Some mask ingredients contain hyaluronic acid, squalane or ceramides, says Dr. Nazarian, which allow the skin to rebuild itself with the building blocks for retaining and drawing in moisture. Another common ingredient in face masks is the aforementioned clay. “Kaolin clay is an ingredient that has been used in dermatology for many years. It’s naturally cleansing and great for decreasing oil, and many oily-type, acne-prone people find it useful to improve the quality of their skin,” she explains. Mature skin types should look for masks that contain squalane, she adds, which improves skin barrier and hydration and can decrease the appearance of fine lines. “Masks containing retinol, bakuchiol or peptides can also stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin fibers and are great as a part of an anti-aging regimen.”

Face masks can usually be applied to the skin with clean hands, but you can also use a special brush or applicator for a more even application. Make sure to avoid your eyes and mouth (you can use a separate lip mask for extra self-care!).

Some face masks only require a short amount of time to be effective, whether it’s as little as five or as much as 20 minutes. For over-40 skin concerns, you might want something that stays on longer, according to Dr. Nazarian: “Masks can also be effective in fighting signs of aging in mature skin, but keep in mind that oftentimes the longer an ingredient has contact with the skin, the more effective it can be,” So, although masks are effective, a leave-on cream, serum, or lotion would be superior from this standpoint.” (There are also overnight masks that can be washed off in the morning.)

Yes, face masks expire! You can usually find the expiration date printed on the product itself. Depending on ingredients, individual masks can stay fresh for different times — but most all will expire within three years.

All face masks are different but are typically used once or twice a week. That's especially true of masks that are meant for oily or mature skin, says Dr. Nazarian, because they may contain potent ingredients that can be more irritating when used too frequently. “Those that are used for calming skin or improving hydration are much more tolerable and can be used nightly if desired.”

Face masks should always be used on freshly cleansed skin. A time-saving hack is to apply one before stepping in the shower, especially if it requires 10-15 minutes. You can do the rest of your bathing routine (washing your hair, shaving, etc.), and once the time is up, wash the face mask off in the shower.

Dr. Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City.