Stress, shifting hormone levels, certain medications and even air travel can all cause acne flareups — whether you are 15 years old or 40 years old. Any one of those factors can leave you with a major case of acne. While long-term treatment with gentle cleanser and salicylic acid spot treatment works fine, an acne mask can help speed your breakout on its way a little faster.
When you’re considering acne masks, keep an eye out for some key ingredients that help clear up blemishes. Salicylic acid breaks down pimples and soothes inflammation. Benzoyl peroxide dries up pimples fast by killing bacteria. Sulfur attracts oil so that blemishes dry up and disappear. Retinoids slow down your skin’s production of pore-clogging sebum and increase the speed at which your cells shed and renew themselves. Glycolic acid helps speed-up cell turnover. Tea tree oil helps kill bacteria and calms inflammation over time.
Several different types of masks can help fight acne. Exfoliating masks gently rub away old skin cells to reveal newer, fresher skin beneath and are a good choice for treating and preventing breakouts. Clarifying masks help soak up excess oil on the surface of your skin and attract oil and bacteria from existing pimples to clear them up. Anti-inflammatory masks help soothe redness and fight infection caused by bacteria in your pores.
Before applying an acne mask, make sure your skin is clean, dry and free of any makeup or skincare products. Use a headband or clip to pull your hair back from your face so that your hair doesn’t get mask in it. Use your fingers to smooth the mask all over your face, moving your fingers up and outward. Start with about 1 tbsp. of your acne mask and add more as you need it until your face is completely covered. Let the mask dry on your skin for the recommended amount of time listed on the packaging — usually about 30 minutes. Rinse the mask with cool, clean water and pat — don’t rub — your skin dry.
To make your own exfoliating acne mask, combine 1 tbsp. baking soda with a few tablespoons of water until the mixture forms a thick paste. Apply the mixture generously to your face to help promote cell turnover. Let the mask mixture sit on your skin for about 30 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water.
Some acne mask ingredients can have a strong effect on your skin. Benzoyl peroxide can cause redness, burning and irritation and may be too drying for older skin. Retinoids can also cause redness and burning, as well as increasing your skin’s sun sensitivity. If you use a retinoid acne mask, be sure to follow up with broad-spectrum sunscreen in the following weeks. If you have an ongoing problem with breakouts, a mask may not be enough. See a dermatologist who can prescribe prescription-strength medication to clear up your acne.