The Best Face Masks For Acne-Prone Skin

Face masks that won’t make you break out, plus a few DIY Dos and Don’ts.

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Curology Team
May 25, 2018 · 4 min read

Men with face masks and purple background
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

We love relaxing with a good face mask on — and there are plenty of options out there for every skin type or concern. Masks may be more of a treat than a necessary step in your skincare routine, but depending on your (sk)individual situation, they can definitely be beneficial. Say your skin is dry, or stressed out from anti-acne treatments and in need of a little love, or your pores are stubbornly clogged.

In any case, here are a few important things to consider before using a face mask:

  1. Does it pass the CosDNA test? Look it up on (or copy-and-paste the ingredients into their Analyze Cosmetics page) to make sure it won’t irritate your skin or clog your pores.

  2. What is it used for? (Does your skin really need it?)

  3. How does it smell? (And will the fragrance irritate your skin?)

  4. When would you use it in your routine (before or after cleanser)?

DIY face masks Dos and Don’ts

Don’t: Lemon juice

Lemon juice has a pH of around 2, meaning it’s very acidic. Normal skin has a pH of 4.5–5. Many skincare products try to stay in this range, in order to minimize irritation. So if you’re doing a homemade mask, just say “no” to lemon juice!

Don’t: Honey

Yum on Greek yogurt, but sadly, honey isn’t reliably safe for your skin (we went over this in our recent post, 8 DIY Skincare Treatments That Are Actually Bad For Your Skin). Unless you’ve got some seriously pure Manuka or medical-grade honey, it’s best to avoid adding it to homemade skincare concoctions.

Do: Oatmeal

A DIY oatmeal mask can be good, especially as an eczema treatment. Soy and water are fine to mix with the oatmeal, just avoid mixing it with sugary or irritating ingredients such as honey and lemon juice!

Our picks

Here are a few store-bought masks we’re into.

Josie Maran Whipped Mud Mask Argan Hydrating and Detoxifying Treatment — $48.00

whipped mud mask product

Photo Credit: Sephora

  • This is great if your pores are feeling clogged!

  • Passes the CosDNA test

Peter Thomas Roth Therapeutic Sulfur Masque — $47.00

Peter thomas roth product


  • Targeted toward acne

  • Smells great (despite the sulfur!)

  • Passes the CosDNA test

SheaMoisture® African Black Soap Clarifying Mud Mask — $14.99

  • Can be used mid-routine 1–2 times per week

  • Active ingredient: salix nigra (willow bark extract), a mild BHA (beta-hydroxy acid)

  • Also contains tea tree oil

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask- $45

watermelon glow sleeping mask product

Photo Credit: Sephora

  • Buzzed about; long waiting list

  • Passes the CosDNA test

  • Sleeping mask, light fluffy texture, can be used in place of nighttime moisturizer

  • Must mix when you first get it, as ingredients separate

  • Active ingredients: glycolic acid, lactic acid (alpha-hydroxy acids, aka AHAs) for chemical exfoliation

  • Contains sodium hyaluronate, great moisturizing ingredient that has a plumping effect on the skin.

JJ Young Pore Bubble Mask- $16.99

pore bubble mask product

Photo Credit: CVS

  • Micro-oxygen bubbles penetrate into skin for brightening and complexion

  • Buffing grains leave the skin bright and clean by eliminating impurities and sebum within the pores

  • Passes the CosDNA test

  • Charcoal acts like a magnet to attract and absorb dirt and oil

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Superfood Skin Reset Antioxidant Mask- $44

superfood skin reset mask product

Photo Credit: Nordstrom

  • Spirulina: Tones skin, creating a glowing complexion with vitamins and minerals

  • Passes the CosDNA test

  • Microalgae: Supports natural collagen production

  • Kale: Preserves youthful skin

  • Spinach: Repairs against environmental stresses, while fighting visible signs of skin aging

  • Use 1–2 times per week

Mask madness 🎭

We’re only scraping the tip of the proverbial iceberg here, but let this be your starting point for navigating the super-saturated world of face masks. And remember: it’s all about finding what works best for you. Stay tuned for future product reviews and more advice for dealing with your skin’s unique quirks.

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