Is there anything more frustrating than a face mask that doesn’t seem to do anything to improve your skin? I like to call these Instagram masks — skin care concoctions that only exist because they look cool in pictures. They don’t include any active ingredients and your skin looks no better after you’ve rinsed them off. Those masks are garbage. If you’re anything like me, you’re only interested in using the most effective face masks, and nothing less.
Let’s get right down to business: if performance is your first priority when shopping for a new face mask, it’s all about active ingredients — ingredients that are scientifically proven to be effective at treating specific skin conditions. If your skin is severely dehydrated, look for a mask that contains hyaluronic acid or shea butter. Are you after a brightening effect? Try a formula with papaya extract or BHAs. And if you want to purge clogged pores, you can never go wrong with clay.
Ahead, I’ve rounded up six of the most effective face masks on the market. Each one targets a specific concern and suits a different budget. They may not be the most Instagram-worthy while they’re on, but they leave behind photo-ready skin once you rinse them off.
Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
It’s almost impossible to talk about amazing masks without mentioning the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. This cult-favorite buy is known for its deep-cleansing abilities on both your face and the rest of your body: use it as a body wrap, foot soak, clay bath — however you choose! It’s made from 100 percent calcium bentonite clay that’s been dried and finely milled, so it comes in powder form. All you’ve got to do is add apple cider vinegar or water, mix it into a paste, and voila! You’ve got a mask that unclogs pores, tightens skin, and minimizes blemishes in one shot. Leave it on for 10 minutes if you’ve got sensitive skin or up to 20 if you’re combination or oily.
A few warnings, though: regardless of your skin type, your face will probably be slightly red afterwards. This is normal and will fade. Also, the mask tingles — the brand literally says you’ll “feel your face pulsate,” and they’re right. And, since it requires mixing, it can get a bit messy, so make sure to do your masking in the bathroom or over the sink for easy cleanup. All that being said, this is probably the most effective deep cleansing mask on the market. It’s super affordable, will last you ages, and is one of the few I’ve tried that treats breakouts successfully.
Dr. Jart+ Clear Skin Lover Rubber Mask
If you’re interested in a cleansing mask but the Aztec clay sounds like too much of a process, slap on the Dr. Jart+ Clear Skin Lover Rubber Mask. It unclogs pores in two simples steps without requiring any mixing or getting residue all over your bathroom. The first is a pore-clearing ampoule that you apply before the actual sheet. It’s full antioxidant-rich ingredients, like green tea, grape seed, and persimmon extracts, which purify skin and reduce the appearance of congested pores. Then, you apply the rubber mask, which contains green seaweed to diminish shine and improve your skin’s overall health. It’s also soaked in brown algae, which moisturizes and cools your skin; keep it in the fridge for an even more refreshing sensation. Leave it on for up to 30 minutes and save any leftover ampoule to use on your décolletage.
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
If you don’t have the patience to sit around in a mask for 20 minutes, you’ll love Laneige’s Water Sleeping Mask. This beloved K-beauty favorite is for overnight use, so it works its magic while you sleep: think of it as a heavy-duty night cream. It has a gel-like texture and is formulated with three unique beauty technologies to hydrate and rejuvenate dull looking skin: Sleep-Tox™, a calming complex that repairs stressed and damaged skin; Hydro Ionized Mineral Water, which combines six minerals that provide long-lasting, deep-penetrating hydration; and Moisture Wrap™, which locks in the active ingredients and forms a time-release formula that moisturizes skin for up to eight hours. Rinse it off the morning to reveal an all-day glow.
Nügg Deep Hydration Moisture Boost Face Mask
If you’re looking for a convenient, TSA-friendly mask to bring with you when you travel, pick up this five-pack of Nügg’s single-serve Deep Hydration Moisture Boost Face Masks. For less than $20, they come out to just over $3 each, and considering how impressive the formula is, you’re getting a great bargain — it even won an Allure Best of Beauty Award four times! The key ingredients are camellia seed oil, spirulina extract, and aloe juice, which are all incredible at soothing and hydrating dry skin. It’s free of parabens, phthalates, sulfates, mineral oil, and synthetic fragrances and colors; plus, it’s Leaping Bunny-certified, so it’s not only green-beauty-friendly, but cruelty-free, too.
Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask
There are masks that are made to hydrate and pamper your skin — and then there are masks like Tata Harper’s Resurfacing Mask, which put your skin through serious bootcamp. Tata Harper creates all of her products on her organic farm in Vermont using only the most sophisticated botanical ingredients. Her formulas are always free of anything even remotely toxic or synthetic, and all of the gorgeous packaging is recyclable — hence, the hefty price tag. This award-winning beta-hydroxy mask deeply exfoliates your skin, working more like a peel; it sandblasts dead skin from your face, leaving a clear, baby-soft, complexion in its wake. Once your skin is well-exfoliated, beet extract comes in for the assist to deliver intense hydration; it also helps even out skin tone, which helps with radiance and clarity. If that weren’t enough, there’s willow bark and meadowsweet, which are known for their brightening abilities — completing the trifecta of skin resurfacing.
Sisley Paris Black Rose Cream Mask
Another prestige pick we couldn’t resist including is Sisley’s Paris Black Rose Cream Mask, one of the most heralded, beloved masks of all time. Some people say it works miracles, but what it really does is brighten, moisturize, and soften skin with just one application; this is the stuff to use if you need to look impossibly refreshed and well-rested on short notice. In the formula is black rose extract, which hydrates and smooths skin, while red vine — which is rich in antioxidants that help protect against free radicals — promotes radiance. There’s also chlorella, shea butter, vegetable glycerin, and a whole lot more that revitalize and nourish stressed and tired skin. After just 15 minutes, your face will appear firm, plump, and bright. If you can stomach the brutal price tag, this is absolutely a mask you’ll want on rotation.
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