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There are several ingredients you should keep an eye out for when shopping for the best face masks for whiteheads, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav tells Elite Daily. Whiteheads, which are a mild form of acne that present as white, round bumps, are caused when your pores that get clogged with bacteria, oil, and keratin (skin cells that aren’t shedding properly), so choose an exfoliating mask that helps resurface your skin and/or clear out your pores. “Salicylic acid and glycolic acid are two powerful options available in many masks,” says the expert. “Mud masks are perfect for unclogging pores and absorbing excess oil, especially when done in tandem with gentle exfoliation. A purifying mask with exfoliating benefits can help you achieve those results in one step — something formulated with AHAs or BHAs would be a great option!”
Because you leave masks on your face for an extended period of time (as opposed to rinsing them off immediately like you do with a cleanser), and because a mask’s ingredients are often in a more concentrated form, Dr. Yadav suggests using your mask about once a week. And if you’re using an exfoliating or purifying mask, you should always apply a layer of moisturizer afterwards, since those types of masks can leave your skin feeling dry.
To shop the best face masks for whiteheads, keep reading.
1. The Best Budget Face Mask For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin & Whiteheads
This under-$15 mask from Acne Free contains two powerful purifying ingredients, clay and sulfur, which makes it ideal for oily skin that’s prone to whiteheads and other forms of acne. There’s also vitamin C in here to promote a more even complexion, which can be helpful if your previous whitehead flareups have left you with unwanted hyperpigmentation, and zinc for its anti-inflammatory benefits. This mask is also unique in that it delivers a cooling sensation to your skin, and it turns from white to blue when your skin has fully absorbed the product so you know exactly when to rinse it off.
2. The Best Salicylic Acid Face Mask
Dermalogica Sebum Clearing Masque is made with salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that treats acne and whiteheads by deep-cleaning your pores, as well as two different types of clays — kaolin and bentonite — to absorb excess oil and leave your skin feeling purified. Rounding out the formula are niacinamide, glycerin, and oat kernel extract, which provide soothing and moisturizing benefits, to counteract the potentially drying effects of the salicylic acid. Be aware that this mask uses menthol to provide a cooling sensation, in case that’s an ingredient you prefer to avoid (as it can cause irritation if your skin is particularly sensitive).
3. The Best Glycolic Acid Face Mask
The AHA glycolic acid is the star ingredient in InstaNatural’s popular Exfoliating Glycolic Mask, which works to exfoliate and refine your skin so it’s smoother, clearer, and less congested (which naturally makes it an excellent choice for whiteheads). Soothing turmeric and the antioxidant vitamin C encourage a brighter complexion, while aloe vera provides plenty of hydration. Thanks to the tiny quartz crystals in this mask, it offers physical exfoliating benefits as well, so you can use it as a face scrub if you don’t have time for a full-on masking session.
4. The Best Jelly Mask
This show-stopping mask from Herbivore is another great choice for congested, uneven skin, thanks to a combination of botanically derived AHAs and BHAs. It’s particularly satisfying because of its refreshing, jelly-like texture, and because it’s formulated with such gentle ingredients (like aloe juice and rosewater), it’s a safe choice for whitehead-prone skin that’s on the sensitive side. And let’s be honest: It doesn’t hurt that it’ll look gorgeous in your bathroom cabinet, either.
5. The Best Mud Mask
Made with kaolin clay for its purifying benefits, jojoba granules to manually exfoliate dead skin, and water and mud sourced from the Dead Sea, this mud mask is rich in all sorts of beneficial nutrients and minerals. Unlike a lot of mud masks, which can be drying, this is formulated with aloe juice, mineral water, and glycerin to leave your skin feeling comfortable and soft. This makes a great treatment for any type of blemish-prone skin, whether you’re dealing with whiteheads, blackheads, or some other form of acne.
6. The Best Tea Tree Mask
Though there is salicylic acid in this mask as well, the real superstar of the formula is tea tree oil, a botanically derived ingredient that’s commonly used to treat acne (including whiteheads), as it has all sorts of antimicrobial properties. This is technically designed to be worn overnight — it won’t stain your pillows! — but you could, of course, wear it during the daytime if you’re doing an at-home spa day. It has a delightful gel-cream texture and smells refreshingly of its main ingredient.
7. The Best Korean Face Mask For Whiteheads
The AC Clean Up Pink Powder Mask from Korean beauty brand Etude House gets its color (and soothing properties) from calamine, while a trio of clay, mud, and tea tree leaf powder help purify your pores of whitehead-causing gunk. Though most mud and clay masks dry out on your skin, this creamy treatment stays moist the entire time, so when you do rinse it off, there’s zero dryness or tightness — just soft, clear, bouncy skin.
Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder, Skin Science Dermatology