On the list of things that should be easy but actually aren't, tracking down truly organic skin care products is right up there with running for two minutes without getting winded and putting together IKEA furniture. Many consumers — even typically resourceful ones — don’t actually know what organic (and similarly, natural/green/clean) skin care means, because there is no single, federally regulated definition of what constitutes organic, natural, green, or clean skin care. Unhelpful. So for the most part, the best organic face masks contain ingredients that have been certified organic by trusted, third-party organizations, like NATRUE, ECOCERT, BDIH, and COSMOS.
Each of these organizations has established their own criteria dictating how a product achieves “organic” accreditation. Generally, though, those standards require that ingredients are grown in chemical-free soil, come from organic farms, are free of GMOs, and that products contain a certain amount of naturally derived ingredients. They also create standards for product labelling, in an effort to crack down on greenwashing.
Because of rigorous standards and confusing guidelines, it's rare to find a skin care product as a whole that's been certified as organic — but with the masks below, you're at least getting formulas that contain mostly organically farmed and/or naturally derived ingredients.
At the end of the day, all the face masks listed ahead help soothe, nourish, clarify, brighten, hydrate, exfoliate, or protect your skin (or all of the above) in one fell swoop, and automatically carve out a chunk of time for self-care. But in this case, you can also feel completely confident about the products you’re putting on your face. Because masking should be easy. (So should running, but we can work on that.)
Interested in more clean beauty? Then check out this no-nonsense guide to the best organic skin care products.
1. The Best Brightening Mask
This ACURE face mask is a USDA Certified Biobased product, which means it contains a passing percentage of ingredients that are derived from renewable materials. 93% of the total ingredients in here are biobased, and it’s also 100% cruelty-free and vegan. Like all ACURE products, this mask contains almost entirely naturally derived ingredients, many of which are certified organic, and all of which are easily pronounceable. Functionally, this mask does, in fact, work to brighten your skin (which, in beauty terms, means it promotes a clearer, more even-looking complexion), thanks to chlorella and antioxidants. It also contains kaolin clay, so it’s great for quelling breakouts and blackheads. Unlike most clay masks, though, this one is gentle enough for people with dry and sensitive skin, thanks to several plant-based oils in the formula that work to counteract the clay's potentially drying effects.
2. The Best Exfoliating Mask
The word “peel” in the title of this Naturopathica mask may conjure terrifying images of circa-Season 5 Samantha’s burned, flaking face at Carrie’s book party (if you know, you know), but I promise the effects here are about a billion times milder than that. This mask employs lactic acid as the main exfoliating agent, which gently sloughs away dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, revealing a brighter, fresher complexion underneath. Jojoba wax beads also work as a nourishing physical exfoliant, which is not an oxymoron. Leave it on for just three to five minutes to keep the burn at bay. Certification-wise, this mask is certified as a Natural and Organic Cosmetic by ECOCERT Greenlife, and 86.04% of the total ingredients are sourced from organic farms. Additionally, over 99% of the ingredients are naturally derived, and the formula is certified vegan, too.
3. The Best Moisturizing Mask
Try this Dr. Hauschka Hydrating Cream Mask if your skin is in need of some comfort. It’s enriched with avocado, sweet almond, and sunflower oils for nourishment, while rose wax creates a protective barrier to shield your skin from environmental aggressors. After 20 minutes, your skin will feel thoroughly soothed. Your head/heart/spirit will probably feel better, too. This product has been certified by NATRUE, which means it contains at least 95% natural and/or organic ingredients, among the organization’s other rigorous standards.
4. The Best Antioxidant Mask
Lots of plant extracts are packed with antioxidants, so all the masks on this list have some amount of antioxidants in them. But none have as many as this Juice Beauty mask, with its store of antioxidant powerhouses like resveratrol, vitamins C and E, and turmeric. All these ingredients promote a brighter, firmer, more even complexion, help your skin retain moisture over time, and protect it from free radical damage — pretty much everything you could ever want from a product.
This mask hasn’t (yet) been officially certified organic by a third-party agency, though it is verified by EWG, a private non-profit that monitors toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. But most of its ingredients are grown on the Juice Beauty's own organic farm in Sonoma County, California, and Juice Beauty is generally known as being one of the safest, cleanest brands around, so you can definitely trust it.
5. The Best Clarifying Mask
Another clay mask that won’t make your face feel as shriveled as the Crypt Keeper’s: This Andalou Naturals Instant Clarity Face Mask, which strikes the perfect balance between clarifying and hydrating. Two kinds of clay, plus willow bark extract (a natural form of salicylic acid) draw out acne-causing impurities, but argan oil, sunflower oil, and vegetable glycerin swoop in to restore moisture without plugging up your pores again. One Amazon reviewer said the consistency is thick and whipped like Greek yogurt, which sounds absolutely lovely. You’ll get six single-use pods with this Amazon order, so that’s useful for travel and/or mitigating portion control issues.
Andalou Naturals was the first beauty brand to receive Non-GMO Project Verification on every single one of their products (including this one, of course), and it contains many certified-organic, fair-trade ingredients, though this mask hasn't been certified as organic by any third-party or governmental organization, to be transparent.
6. The Best Sheet Masks
These BDIH COSMOS-certified sheet masks are like a tall glass of Pedialyte for dull, dehydrated skin. Each mask is soaked in a concoction of intensely hydrating ingredients, like aloe, chamomile, rose, and rosemary leaf oil. Use these ultra-moist (ew, but had to) masks twice or three times a week, for 10 to 15 minutes a pop, and press any remaining essence into your skin after you peel it off. You’ll never need a highlighter ever again.
It's worth noting that it's extremely uncommon to find a face mask, let alone a sheet mask, that's been certified as organic, so these really are a rare unicorn.