When you’re a teenager dealing with your first (or fiftieth) breakout, the plan of attack tends to be pretty straightforward. Squeeze out a generous dollop of
drugstore spot treatment each night, bleach some pillowcases, and hope for the best. Rinse, repeat. Acne is never fun, but at least when you’re under the age of 25, you can still pray you’ll grow out of it. This will all end the minute you graduate and get your own apartment, right?
Adult acne is a different beast — a more persistent evil that’s an established part of your life, not something that might go away in 3-5 years or whenever your hormone levels stop fluctuating wildly. So you treat it differently, with a diligent skin-care routine and an arsenal of potent products (which you can now, hopefully, afford to spend a little cash on).
Blemish-fighting face masks are particularly essential, and with the number of amazing formulas and proven ingredients on the market, acne sufferers have more options than ever. Bring out the breakout-zapping big guns with these best-in-class masks — now, if only they'd been around when you were 14 and relying on an expired tube of cream your mom gave you.
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Rare is an acne-fighting mask that’s potent enough to banish breakouts, yet gentle enough to leave your face feeling balanced, not parched. The combination of absorbent bentonite clay and renewing retinol and turmeric root in this one make it one of the best for giving stressed skin a full overhaul, but it’s the healthy bacteria in the probiotics that really goes the extra mile.
Tula Exfoliating Treatment Mask, $54, available at Tula. More
A daily pore cleanser, an instant purifying mask, an overnight spot treatment — this longtime favorite does it all, thanks to a formula rich in Umbrian clay, the brand’s proprietary ingredient for clarifying and detoxifying all skin types. The clay acts as a neutralizer to balance oil production and reduce inflammation, and sandalwood oil has an astringent effect that won’t dry you out.
Fresh Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask, $62, available at Nordstrom. More
You can’t do much better than this tried-and-true clearing mask, a perennial go-to for its reasonable price and effective zit-zapping power. The cooling sensation makes it feel like a real-deal spa treatment, and the clear, refreshed complexion it reveals once rinsed is truly impressive for something you can find at a suburban mall.
The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Clay Mask, $11.90, available at The Body Shop. More
This intense treatment is not for skin-care wimps, but if you like to really feel your products working, then watch out: You’re about to get hooked. Like a clay mask on crack, the technology in this multifunctional formula breaks down clogged pores, delivers oxygen to deep within the skin, and reduces inflammation all in one go. The strong stinging sensation after it’s washed away is
so worth it. NIOD Flavanone Mud, $39, available at Deciem. More
Honey is the first (and most plentiful) ingredient in this mask, which gives it unique moisturizing qualities — without feeling heavy or sticky. Exfoliating AHAs, superfruit extracts, and a blend of healing essential oils refine pores, zaps acne, and make skin look and feel soft, smooth, and perfectly clarified.
Tata Harper Clarifying Mask, $68, available at Sephora. More
This beloved detoxifying mask stands alone in its category as one of the few over-the-counter treatments that shuts down severe hormonal breakouts — you know, the kind you feel coming before you can even see that they’re there. With a lightweight gel texture and soothing effect, it doesn’t feel like much, but the results are staggering.
Renée Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Masque, $60.50, available at Renée Rouleau. More
It’s the perfect middle ground: a mask that both replenishes the skin’s moisture with soothing oils and floral extracts while drawing out dirt, oil, and impurities from deep within the pores. This clay-based mask is truly gentle on skin, and won’t irritate even the most sensitive complexions — but it
will leave stressed out, acne-prone skin clean, calm, and blemish-free. Ole Henriksen Hygge HydraClay Detox Mask, $32, available at Sephora. More
Even the Big Dipper of breakouts will fade into the background with this futuristic formula, which packs every acne-fighting ingredient you could need — sulfur, bentonite clay, tea tree oil, even the highly underrated zinc PCA — into one small-but-mighty tube.
Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask, $55, available at Sephora. More
A good clay mask deep cleanses the pores and battles clogged while washing away the dirt and debris that (partially) causes them in the first place. This top-rated formula does all that and more, leaving skin soothed, hydrated, and bright without any irritation. You don’t always get what you pay for, but this is one splurge that’s worth every cent — all 12,500 of them.
RéVive Masque de Glaise Purifying Clay Mask, $125, available at Nordstrom. More
This mud mask absorbs oil and fights breakouts with salicylic acid and charcoal. Chamomile and tomato extracts soothe red, inflamed skin.
Yes To Tomatoes Clear Skin Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask, $15.99, available at Ulta Beauty. More
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