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  3. > What are some of the best face masks for sensitive skin? Experts explain

What are some of the best face masks for sensitive skin? Experts explain

These products won’t break out or irritate sensitive skin.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 28, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
What is Sensitive Skin
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 28, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Laura Phelan, NP-C
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.

When we think of skincare, face masks are often part of the picture. These products can effectively moisturize and cleanse the skin, giving the skin a youthful, radiant glow. After all, face masks generally contain a wide range of ingredients that perform different roles, from hydrating and brightening the skin to removing excess sebum and slowing down the signs of aging.¹ So there’s likely a face mask out there for you!

But with all the options available, finding a suitable face mask to add to your sensitive skincare routine can be tricky. A safe and effective face mask should hydrate and nourish your skin without irritating it, but it may take some experimentation to find a product that meets those requirements. To take some guesswork out of this equation, our team of licensed dermatology providers have compiled a list of reliable face masks, all of which have been carefully formulated for those with sensitive skin. Get ready to mask!

What is “sensitive skin?”

Do you often experience an unpleasant sensation when your skin comes into contact with certain products or ingredients— particularly those ingredients which aren’t generally known to cause irritation? You may have sensitive skin.. Although every individual is different, common signs of sensitive skin include:²

  • Stinging

  • Burning 

  • Pain

  • Itching

  • Tingling sensation

  • A feeling of tightness or dryness.

  • Redness or inflammation of the skin

All skin types can fall under the umbrella of sensitive skin, and this includes oily skin, dry skin, and acne-prone skin.³ ⁴ That means that no matter your skin type, there is a possibility that you can also have sensitive skin. That said, there are certain triggers and factors that can increase your chances of developing sensitive skin. Environmental triggers, including cold weather, humidity, wind, heat, and sun exposure, can put you at a higher risk of developing sensitive skin.⁵ Even your diet and hygiene habits may affect how likely you are to have this issue.⁶

How to find a suitable face mask for sensitive skin

Many of today's face masks are formulated with sensitive skin in mind. Here are three tips for how you can spot formulations that are likely to be effective and soothing for delicate skin. 

Tip 1: Determine your skin type

Certain formulations are designed to restore the normal oil balance of acne-prone, sensitive skin, while others focus on rehydrating dry and delicate skin. This is why it’s important to determine your skin type before adding the product to your shopping cart. Here are some steps to help you determine your skin type: 

  • Cleanse your face. 

  • Wait an hour before checking your skin in the mirror. 

  • Gently pat a blotting paper on each area of your face. 

  • Wait another hour before observing your face in the mirror. 

If you notice that oil has reappeared on your face, you might have oily skin. But if only certain places are oily (usually the T-zone), you likely have combination skin. Those with dry skin will often notice dry flakes or tightness of the skin. Once you’ve determined your skin type, you can look for products specially designed for your skin type. 

Tip 2: Look out for helpful ingredients 

Before purchasing a product, give its label a good read and keep an eye out for soothing and gentle ingredients. Hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and jojoba oil are all face mask ingredients that can help hydrate and calm sensitive skin. You can also look for niacinamide, which has skin-lightening and anti-inflammatory properties. Azelaic acid in lower concentrations may also be another suitable ingredient for sensitive skin and may serve as a brightening agent in face masks.⁷

Tip 3: Avoid irritants

It’s best to avoid alcohol and fragrances in any skincare product you use if you have sensitive skin. These ingredients may disrupt your skin’s barrier function, which can predispose you to a higher risk of skin irritation.⁸ There is also some debate about the use of parabens in face masks. Parabens are a group of chemicals that are utilized as preservatives to help to prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria in skincare products.⁹ They’re generally considered safe, though they might be best avoided if you have sensitive skin. 

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is another common skin irritant that should be avoided. SLS can alter the integrity of your skin barrier by increasing pH levels, though more research is required to confirm the exact mechanism behind this effect.¹⁰

Many face masks contain these potentially irritating ingredients, so be sure to give the product label a thorough read before you purchase it. If you're struggling to find a sensitive-skin-friendly way to keep your skin hydrated, Curology’s moisturizer could be the solution. This lightweight, everyday moisturizer is suitable for any skin type, including sensitive and delicate skin. 

8 non-irritating face masks for sensitive skin

Best Face Mask for Sensitive Skin

Here are a few of our top face mask picks that we'd recommend. 

Cetaphil DermaControl Purifying Clay Face Mask

This clay mask is designed for oily, sensitive skin, with a creamy formula that ensures your skin will not dry out. One of its ingredients is cucumber seed extract, which is known for its skin-brightening benefits. The product also helps to remove pore-clogging impurities, minimize the appearance of pores, and lift away dead skin cells. 

Benton Aloe Soothing Mask 

The Benton Soothing Mask is a lightweight Tencel fiber sheet mask that fits comfortably on the skin and is free from alcohol, fragrances, and other irritating ingredients. Aloe vera and green tea extract are the star ingredients in this mask. They help to hydrate and calm irritated skin while leaving a cooling effect.

Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask 

The Laneige overnight mask delivers a hydration boost that helps soothe and nourish stressed skin and strengthen the skin's moisture barrier. It's recommended for sensitive, dry skin. The brand recommends leaving it on overnight and rinsing it off in the morning for the best results. 

Beauty of Joseon Centella Asiatica Calming Mask

This thin Tencel sheet mask is highly-breathable and adheres closely to the skin for a comfortable fit. It’s formulated with three types of hyaluronic acid for a hydration boost. It’s also suitable for all kinds of skin but is ideal for dry and sensitive skin. 

Paula’s Choice Hydrating Treatment Mask

This hydrating mask is great for rough, dehydrated, and patchy skin. It’s formulated to be gentle on sensitive skin and can even be used on skin prone to eczema. It contains plant and vitamin-based antioxidants that can help to combat redness and inflammation. Plus, this mask is designed with plant oils and lipids to provide moisture and nourishment to the skin.

Dr. Jart+ Dermask Micro Jet Clearing Solution Face Mask

If you have acne-prone, sensitive, and irritated skin, this Dr. Jart+ mask may help improve your skin's condition. It works to clear acne, reduce redness, and soothe inflammation. Apart from that, it contains glutathione, which may help to even out skin tone and combat hyperpigmentation. 

OLEHENRIKSEN Cold Plunge Pore Mask

This salicylic acid clay mask aids with oil control and reduces the appearance of pores. Other benefits include lifting and removing dead skin cells and other impurities that clog your pores. You'll also notice a soothing, cool feeling on your skin when using this mask. Salicylic acid may be irritating for some with sensitive skin, so if you choose to try this mask be sure to start slowly. 

Dr. Brandt Skincare Hydro Biotic™ Recovery Sleeping Mask

This light gel cream is suitable for all skin types. Apart from strengthening your skin’s barrier and replenishing moisture, it can also help combat signs of redness and irritation. It’s free from phthalates, parabens, and synthetic fragrances and can keep skin hydrated for up to 72 hours.

If you aren’t sure which facial mask product suits your skin best, it’s always best to consult your healthcare provider who can provide you with personalized advice. 

Choosing the right products for your sensitive skin

If you have sensitive skin, it’s important to pick a facial mask that does not contain ingredients with a high potential of irritating your skin. Whenever possible, perform a skin patch test with the product to minimize the risk of skin irritation. 

Facial masks are just one way to keep sensitive skin happy and healthy. The rest of your skincare routine also makes a big difference. Everything you use—from your cleansers, moisturizers, and makeup removers—should be gentle and contain non-irritating ingredients. 

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Curology's cleansermoisturizer, and micellar makeup remover are all designed with sensitive skin in mind. These products are suitable for all skin types, including delicate skin, so anyone can adopt a comprehensive skincare routine that won't lead to irritation, breakouts, or inflammation! 

FAQs

Are face masks okay for sensitive skin?

Yes, face masks are suitable for sensitive skin as long as they do not contain potential irritants. Some examples of these irritants include alcohol and fragrances, as well as sodium lauryl sulfate.¹¹ If the face mask comes in the form of a gel or cream, you can patch test the facial mask before using it. This helps you ensure that the product is safe and gentle enough for your skin before you use a larger quantity of it on your face.

Are clay masks good for sensitive skin?

There is no concrete research proving that clay masks are great for sensitive skin, in particular. However, there are brands of clay masks that have been designed specifically for those with sensitive skin. As long as they are tolerated, people with sensitive skin can also reap the benefits of using a clay mask. For instance, clay masks can be used to remove excess oil from the skin.¹² Additionally, these masks have cleansing and hydrating properties and help with skin toning and tackling acne.¹³

What should you do if a face mask burns your skin?

Face masks should not hurt in any way. If you experience burning, redness, or any pain, immediately remove the product and wash it off with a gentle cleanser. In this case, it’s best to avoid using the product again. You should also seek medical advice if the irritation continues to persist or worsen even after you’ve washed off the product.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Nilforoushzadeh, M.A., et al. Skin care and rejuvenation by cosmeceutical facial mask. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (August 2018).

  2. Farage, M.A. The Prevalence of Sensitive Skin. Frontiers in Medicine. (2019, May 17).

  3. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. (July-August 2017).

  4. Hong, J.Y., et al. Oily sensitive skin: A review of management options. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. (2020, February 29).

  5. Farage, M.A. The Prevalence of Sensitive Skin. Frontiers in Medicine. Ibid.

  6. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. Ibid.

  7. Nilforoushzadeh, M.A., et al. Skin care and rejuvenation by cosmeceutical facial mask. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  8. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. Ibid.

  9. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Parabens in Cosmetics. (2022, February 25). 

  10. Heetfeld, A.B., et al. Challenging a paradigm: skin sensitivity to sodium lauryl sulfate is independent of atopic diathesis. The British Journal of Dermatology. (July 2020). 

  11. Duarte, I., et al. Sensitive skin: review of an ascending concept. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia. Ibid.

  12. Velasco, M.V.R., et al. Characterization and Short-Term clinical study of clay facial mask. Journal of Basic and Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences. (January 2016). 

  13. Nilforoushzadeh, M.A., et al. Skin care and rejuvenation by cosmeceutical facial mask. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Ibid.

Laura Phelan is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She earned her Masters of Science in Nursing at Benedictine University and went on to get her post-master’s certificate as a Family Nurse Practitioner at the University of Cincinnati.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Image of Laura Phelan Nurse Practitioner

Laura Phelan, NP-C

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