Seeing spots? If you’re prone to blackheads and breakouts like many of us are, you’re all too familiar with the frustrating (and sometimes harrowing) task of getting rid of those plugged-up pores, just for them to reappear (like an ex who can’t take a hint). Perhaps you’ve even dabbled in the dark world of painful pore strips or irritating scrubs that are readily available on the pharmacy shelves, like so many of us have.
Blackheads form when “oxygen reacts with dead skin cells and sebum, plugging up the pore,” says Jessie Cheung, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. Basically, the dead skin oxidizes and turns a dark, blackish color. The good news? You can get those pesky, plugged pores under control and achieve blackhead-free skin. Look for a mask that has blackhead fighting ingredients like chemical exfoliants (AHAs or BHAs), clay, sulfur, or retinol. Here are some expert-backed picks for masks that we love.
About the Experts:
Sarah Akram, a celebrity esthetician loves this mask and recommends it to her patients who need to clear out current breakouts before they can maintain clear skin. “It contains a blend of exfoliating acids that fight/treat breakouts and congestion,” says Akram. “Present breakouts and congestion are cleared and the skin's texture is left refined. It also regulates sebum production which prevents new blackheads from forming.”
Okay, we love a product that deals with our issues now and prevents them from occurring later.
This mask “combines lactic acid and salicylic acid with plant enzymes and silica for gentle but effective exfoliation,” says Dr. Cheung. Leave it on for just two minutes, twice a week. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Stephanie Kosack, an esthetics coordinator with Woodhouse Spa loves the SKINCEUTICALS clay mask. Make a mini spa moment at home and add some steam to it like the pros do. “It’s mildly resurfacing and contains salicylic acid,” says Kosack. “We apply it with a little steam and pores shrink before your eyes! I love it after extractions because it also helps calm the skin.”
Besides being super satisfying to smooth on, this detoxifying mask gets down to the nitty gritty, helping to rid your skin of environmental pollutants while absorbing excess oils for a clearer, smoother complexion.
This cult-favorite product from one of the top K-Beauty brands earns a spot on this list for a reason. It contains Jeju volcanic clusters—a.k.a. finely ground particles of hardened volcanic lava—which naturally absorbs excess sebum. The formula also includes lactic acid to help exfoliate dead skin cells, clear out debris and oil, and quickly minimize the appearance of pores without drying out your skin.
The fizzy effect here isn’t just for show. As soon as you apply this mask and the fizz starts to activate, it helps decongest skin and open up your pores. Add in sulfur (which has antibacterial effects that can help counteract acne) and kaolin clay (which helps absorb excess oil all day long) and you’ve got one buzzy skincare product that’s worth the hype.
Pores can’t actually change size, but with the right products, they can appear smaller. And this clay mask is one of those key products. A blend of kaolin and bentonite clays draw out excess oil and impurities for clearer, smaller looking pores, while aloe soothes and refreshes your skin.
If you’ve got sensitive skin, finding the right face mask that won’t have you seeing red can be tricky. Luckily, this mask contains a host of super-soothers like chamomile, green tea, and willowherb built in to help calm irritation and help prevent acne, along with three different types of clays to help minimize shine.
If your last-minute plans are greeted by a last-minute breakout, reach for this skin-hero-in-a-jar. Formulated with eucalyptus, activated charcoal, and a blend of six acids, this mask helps to detoxify and shrink the appearance of large pores while delivering an all-over healthy glow without drying out your skin. P.S. It works like magic as a spot treatment, too.
Ginger and vitamin-rich pumpkin are the stars of the show in this rinse-off mask. The two ingredients soothe irritated skin while still pulling gunk out of your pores, so you can get all of the benefits of a detoxifying mask without the irritated skin aftermath. “Love this mask,” says an IPSY subscriber who received the product in their Glam Bag. “I even used it as a spot treatment for the occasional pimple and it is very effective!”
This mask contains mud from the actual Dead Sea to gently cleanse out everything clogging up your pores. It’s made specifically for those dealing with oily skin, and the combination of the natural mineral blends from the Dead Sea and soothing jojoba spheres will leave your skin looking brand new.
“I’m VERY impressed with this mask,” wrote an IPSY member in their product review. “I have very sensitive skin and I was nervous to try this, but my skin felt soft and bright after and I didn’t break out after.”
Another of Dr. Cheung’s recommendations includes this facial mask that helps to detoxify, soothe, cleanse, purify, and refine pores with 100 percent natural ingredients. Its powerful combination of antioxidants, white clay, and jojoba esters help to gently exfoliate and promote cell turnover. A few times a week is all you need to clear dead skin and build-up, and reveal your radiance underneath.
There are several clay masks on this list, but only one that comes in stick form. The hands-free application means no mess and no fuss—you just apply as you would a stick foundation or blush to your congested areas or all over your face, let it sit for up to 10 minutes, and rinse. The detoxifying clay, witch hazel, and apple cider vinegar will do the rest of the work for you.
Not only does this purifying mask feel like you're treating your skin to a professional-grade skin detox, but the AHA and BHAs provide additional pore-unclogging benefits. Plus, the vitamin C-rich pineapple and papaya enzymes help to slough off dirt and debris and serve up a serious glow, which we all love. And did we mention the cool gold color? It’s just asking for a selfie.
This single-ingredient mud mask is no one-hit wonder; it has a serious cult following, and for good reason. It’s made with only one ingredient—bentonite clay— that’s sourced from volcanic ash. Bentonite clay has been used on skin for ages thanks to its purifying, acne-clearing, oil absorbing, and anti-inflammatory properties. Just mix it with water, slather it on, and allow 20 minutes for it to fully dry before rinsing with warm water (just a warning, it gets pretty messy). The directions suggest adding some apple cider vinegar to loosen up its texture, but warm water is just fine if you have sensitive or dry skin.
In just 15 minutes, this purifying and nourishing face mask will leave you feeling fully refreshed, hydrated, and replenished. The hero ingredient is green tea extract, one of the most powerful antioxidants out there, in addition to charcoal powder to help extract dirt and oil while deep-cleaning your pores. The formula also features ginger and lemon to soothe sensitivity, boost glow, and fight free radicals.
“My face has never been softer than after using this mask," one IPSY subscriber raves. Another says the face mask "leaves my face glowing after I use it.”
There’s something so satisfying about a peel-off mask—especially one that lifts away without stretching out your skin. Besides being super gentle, this baby infuses good-for-you ingredients like anti-aging niacinamide to help brighten skin tone and lighten dark spots, squalane to balance your complexion, and charcoal to help draw out toxins and purify your pores.
This mask has been a favorite for years thanks to its magical powers of reducing acne and absorbing sebum. This treatment can be used as a regular face mask, a gentle exfoliating cleanser, or a spot treatment.
This product is part cleanser, part blackhead-removing mask (and all-around must-have). When you let this pore-purifying treatment sit on your skin for 20 minutes, the formula's key ingredient (red clay) penetrates your skin deeply to unplug your pores of all its clog-causing buildup and gunk, while minimizing its appearance. This highly concentrated formula also controls excess oil. Skin is left with a smoother texture and less congestion overall.
"It's perfect for me," one happy IPSY subscriber writes. "I love how my face feels fresh and clean after I use it. The texture is thick, which is really nice in my opinion. 10/10 would recommend."
Those who have tried (and loved!) this mask say it’s like you can feel the toxins literally being pulled from your skin as you apply this mask after a day in the sun, a night out, or anything that puts your skin through the ringer. “This mask was easy to apply and peel off,” says an IPSY member. “It left my skin looking matte, but not dry. My pores looked smaller and my skin looked smoother.”
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