Everyone loves a good face mask, and there are a lot of great ones that can help with acne — but some will be much more effective than others. In general, the best face masks for acne work to do one or more of the following things: unclog pores, soak up oil, calm inflammation, and provide some surface-level exfoliation. To help narrow things down even further, Bustle spoke with Dr. Hilary Baldwin, M.D., Medical Director of the Acne Treatment and Research Center in Brooklyn, NY. She says the best ingredients for people with blemish-prone skin can be divided into four general groups:
1) Oil-control: This includes clay, charcoal and exfoliating acids like AHAs and BHAs.
2) Anti-inflammatories: Helpful for acne-prone patients with sensitive skin. These include niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and certain botanicals like algae and aloe.
3) Exfoliants: These exfoliate the outer layer of the epidermis and allow over-the-counter acne products to perform better. (Chemical exfoliants include AHAs and BHAs such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid.)
4) Antibacterials: These ingredients (such as sulfur, tea tree oil, and benzoyl peroxide) are actually capable of killing the bacterium (cutibacterium acnes) that causes acne.
“Group three and four ingredients are the most important for getting at the root cause of acne,” explains Dr. Baldwin, although she adds that a retinol might be necessary to treat more than just surface blackheads. Avoid pore-clogging lipids — some nourishing or hydrating masks may contain lipids that work great for dry skin types that don't experience breakouts, but not so well on acne-prone skin, the doctor explains. Finally, “If oily skin is not a problem, or if sensitive skin is a problem, avoid groups one and three" as they might be too drying or irritating.