With countless recommendations from celebrities, Instagram influencers, and digital publications, splurging on a new face mask should be an easy and fun thing to do — right? As any beauty-obsessed online shopper will tell you, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When you have dozens of your favorite blogs curating lists of the best face masks on a weekly basis, narrowing down which one is actually worth buying can be slightly overwhelming (#firstworldproblems, I know).
Hear me out, though. When the majority of your waking hours are spent working, commuting, and sweating it out at the gym, you want to make sure every minute (and dollar) you spend on your skin care routine is well worth it. For many — myself included — that 10-minute act of self-care is a sacred ritual: the quiet, the solitude, the sensation of all the day’s built-up tension melting away as you massage your moisturizer from your T-zone towards your temples.
But let’s not kid ourselves. We’re doing this for the results, too. As meditative as the act of applying skin care products can be, at the end of the day, the motivating factor is results we can see. So of course, we only want to be using the best and most effective formulas. Especially when it comes to masks — the most important step for anyone looking to chill the eff out and solve a specific skin issue at the same time.
As someone who has used — and written about — hundreds of masks, I’m here to give you my top, holy grail picks. And why should you trust me over the countless other beauty writers and editors out there, you might ask? Well, I don’t really have a good answer to that, except that I created this list with a jaded skin care junkie (me; you) in mind. If you’re reading this, you can probably see through the B.S. articles that claim every one of the 17 masks on this list will shrink your pores. No, this is simply a compendium of the best face masks I’ve ever tried — for every type of skin care concern. No gimmicky gold or bubbles, no irritating peel-off gels, and definitely not a single glitter-infused formula in sight.
1. Best Sheet Mask
This hero product from Leaders — a top skin care company from Korea — has a cult-following amongst sheet mask connoisseurs for its seemingly miraculous formula that calms troubled skin, fades acne scars, and provides a healthy dose of moisture. It’s an excellent choice for anyone looking to treat a particularly nasty breakout (one friend with hormonal acne swears by it) and it helps soothe inflammation and redness, too. I’ve used this mask a bunch of times and I find that it balances my oily T-zone and clears up any oncoming blemishes. For $15, you’ll get 10 sheets, and each packet is loaded with tons of extra serum, so it’s a great value.
2. Best Overnight Mask
I love this mask because it’s one of the few I’ve used that actually gives you “radiant” skin like so many claim to. Wear it to bed and prepare to wake up glowing — in fact, since it perfectly preps skin for makeup application, you might be tempted not to wash it off at all. Like all Paula’s Choice products, it’s fragrance-free and safe for all skin types, including sensitive. This is definitely a mask to use if your goal is a dewy, hydrated complexion — and nothing less.
3. Best For Acne Or Serious Detoxing
No matter how mainstream this cult-favorite clay has become, I’ll never stop recommending (or using) it. This is the only detoxing or blemish-fighting mask you need to own; It solves pretty much every problem and banishes pimples like nothing else. It’s also insanely cheap, and one jar will last you forever. Mix some up with apple cider vinegar (it’ll be much more effective than if you use it with water) and leave it on until you feel your skin pulsate (if you know, you know). Some redness is to be expected — it’ll fade quickly, leaving you with smooth, clear, deeply-cleansed skin.
4. Best For Dry Or Dehydrated Skin
If your skin is stressed out or seriously dehydrated, look no further than this French pharmacy miracle product. It doubles as a heavy-duty moisturizer (you can leave it on as long as you want), so I always apply it before a flight (it’s perfectly TSA-friendly at less than 2 ounces, and a little goes a long way). Since it’s non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic, it’s safe to use on sensitive skin, and the brand’s signature thermal water from its namesake town, which is infused into the formula, helps reduce inflammation and soothe irritation. Pro-tip: Keep it in the fridge for an even more refreshing experience.
5. Best For Red, Irritated, Or Inflamed Skin
While the Avène mask (above) is also wonderful for reducing redness and inflammation, this is the product to reach for when you want to repair skin that’s been seriously damaged (think from things like the sun, free radicals, or chemical peels). It uses a nourishing blend of antioxidant- and nutrient-rich vitamins and botanicals to boost collagen production — which, in turn, increases elasticity — so your previously dry and tight complexion will feel healthy and hydrated. I use it when I’m hungover and my skin’s looking particularly dull.
6. Best Splurge
One of the most widely beloved detoxing treatments on the market, Eve Lom’s Rescue Mask is a game-changer for anyone looking to smooth out their complexion and reduce the appearance of enlarged pores. With a kaolin clay-based formula that’s infused with naturally antibacterial honey, this cult-favorite mask soothes inflammation, gently exfoliates, and leaves skin looking fresh. It’s not cheap, but if you’re looking to splurge on a legit product that you’ll get a ton of use out of, this is it.
7. Best Bundle
I’ve tried pretty much every Asian beauty brand out there and have come to the conclusion (with the help of Reddit’s very passionate skin care community) that My Beauty Diary makes, overall, the best sheet masks. This 10-piece bundle will only set you back $15 and you’ll get to try all their most popular treatments, including the cult-favorite Imperial Bird's Nest and Royal Pearl formulas. Most of these masks are for moisturizing, hydrating, and revitalizing, but each one is made of its own set of innovative ingredients (like Mexican cactus and red wine) and has a distinct scent. The packets come absolutely loaded with serum, so you’ll have some left over after each use, and the soft fabric makes these masks easy to cut or tear to fit your specific face shape.
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