Blackhead Masks to Use If You're Fed Up with Clogged Pores

ishonest / Chloe Jeong

Chances are you've used a blackhead mask or two as a teenager. But even if you’re well past your teen years (raises hand), know that blackheads can still rear their ugly heads. After all, plenty of people experience acne well into their 30s, 40s, and beyond.

“A blackhead forms when an open-pore becomes clogged with sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria,” explains dermatologist Dr. Marie Hayag. “The mixture forms a waxy substance that builds up inside the pore over time.” As for their characteristic black hue, it's a result of oxidation: “As air mixes with the gunk inside, it turns black,” says Hayag.

That’s where those blackhead masks of your youth come in—although the formulas available today are arguably better than they were years ago. When choosing a blackhead mask, Hayag suggests looking for ingredients like activated charcoal, salicylic acid, and calcium bentonite clay. As for how you go about using a blackhead mask, Hayag advises being cautious, particularly when it comes to peel-off varieties, which might disrupt your skin’s barrier by stripping skin of its natural oils. In general though, blackhead masks “appear to be safe,” says Hayag, “although overuse could cause skin dryness, redness, and sensitivity.”

Here, we’ve rounded up the best blackhead masks to clear your pores and give you brighter, smoother skin.

  • Our Picks
  • Final Verdict
  • What To Look For

Best Overall: Caudalie Instant Detox Mask

This blackhead mask is powerful yet gentle, making it safe and effective for all skin types. Its formula includes grape marc (the remains of grapes after being pressed) to purify, pink clay to absorb dirt and oil, papaya enzymes to brighten, and organic essential oils like lavender and sage to fight bacteria. Users rave about the ease of use and how soft, smooth, and clear their skin looks and feels after using it.

Best Budget: Bioré Instant Warming Clay Charcoal Face Mask

Key Ingredients

“Activated charcoal helps draw out debris such as dead skin cells and excess oils from the pores, which could lead to blackheads,” says Hayag. “Also, it helps clear pores without adsorbing vitamins and nutrients that are vital for the skin.”

Coming in at a bargain price, this blackhead mask gets the job done without wrecking your wallet. The coolest thing about this charcoal mask: It warms upon contact with your skin. The mask, which comes in single-serving packets, works in just one minute, thanks to the activated charcoal in the formula.

What Our Testers Say

"It was like I’d placed a warm, steamy towel on my face." —Bianca Lambert, Product Tester

Editor's Pick: Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask 2X

Volcanic clusters from Jeju Island in South Korea are an incredible oil- absorber, while lactic acid is a powerful alpha hydroxy acid that exfoliates dead skin cells and shrinks the look of pores. In fact, Faith Xue, ishonest’s Editorial Director, can’t get over how much gunk this blackhead mask removes from her pores.

What Our Testers Say

"The clay brought my whiteheads up and soaked up the excess oil from my t-zone and cheek areas on the first use." —Bianca Lambert, Product Tester

Best Splurge: Lancer Skincare Clarifying Detox Mask

Recreate the spa at home with this luxe blackhead mask. At 3% sulfur, the formula gets deep into pores to blast blackheads and whiteheads, while azelaic acid brightens skin, and green tea provides antioxidant protection and calms inflammation. While sulfur can sometimes stink, this blackhead mask earns high praise from fans for its refreshing citrusy scent.

Best Natural: Tata Harper Purifying Mask

Normal, combination, and oily skin types will benefit from this natural blackhead mask. It features a potent combo of white clay meant to absorb oil and dirt and papaya enzymes meant to gently exfoliate dead skin cell buildup. The formula is 100% natural and free of synthetic ingredients.

Best for Oily Skin: Dermalogica Blackhead Clearing Fizz Mask

If you have oily skin, then you’re most susceptible to blackheads. Enter this mask, formulated especially for your skin type. Sulfur unclogs pores and fights bacteria, apple fruit extract nourishes skin, and kaolin clay sops up excess oil. When you apply the mask, it fizzes upon contact, so you know it’s working.

Best for Sensitive Skin: First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Purifying Mask with Red Clay

Good news, sensitive skin types: You too can use a blackhead mask. It’s all about finding one that’s gentle enough for your skin—and this one fits the bill perfectly. This peel-off blackhead mask relies on red clay to absorb dirt and oil, rosemary leaf oil to unclog pores, and glycerin to protect skin from moisture loss so you don’t have to worry about irritation. Plus, the mask is free of potentially irritating fragrances.

Best Peel-Off: No B.S. Charcoal Detox Peel-Off Mask

This next-gen peel-off mask for blackheads will give your skin a serious glow. It’s powered by activated charcoal meant to banish blackheads and balance oily skin, as well as squalane, and plant stem cells meant to improve skin tone and elasticity without drying you out. Users appreciate that this peel-off mask doesn’t hurt to remove, in addition to how clear and smooth it makes their skin look and feel.

Best Charcoal: Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask To Clear Pores

Brighter, clearer skin is coming right up when you use this charcoal blackhead mask. Not only does it promise to effectively remove pore-clogging dirt and oil, but it also refreshes dull skin for an overall more radiant appearance. Users enjoy how this mask tightens pores and results in smoother skin.

Best Clay: L'Oréal Paris Exfoliate & Refining Face Mask

Three types of clay—kaolin, montmorillonite, and Moroccan—as well as red algae extract promise to put the kibosh on blackheads by absorbing dirt and oil, unclogging pores, and exfoliating dead skin cells. Users note the mask’s fast- acting results—tighter pores and clearer, smoother skin in just 15 minutes.

Best Sheet Mask: Burt's Bees Detoxifying Charcoal Sheet Mask

Sheet masks are all the rage, and this particular variety is a major blackhead buster. Formulated with charcoal, this blackhead mask draws out impurities like dirt and oil for fresher, cleaner skin. The formula is 99% natural and gentle enough to be used by sensitive skin, thanks to the addition of soothing honey.

Final Verdict

While we try not to play favorites, team ishonest really can’t go past the Caudalie Instant Detox Mask. It’s one of the few masks on the market that really feels nourishing, but still promises to brighten and deeply cleanse the pores thanks to a mix of papaya enzymes, pink clay, and coffee extract. The Biore Charcoal Instant Warming Clay Mask is a great budget option for an at-home spa experience. And if you’re trying to nix breakouts, the Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask is unbeatable. The charcoal, kaolin, and bentonite clays promise to absorb oil and dirt.

Hayag suggests testing a blackhead mask on a small patch of skin before using one for the first time. And “if you have sensitive skin, avoid masks with fragrances, dyes, parabens, and other chemicals that may cause a reaction,” she says.

What To Look For When Choosing A Mask To Treat Blackheads

What are blackheads?

For all intents and purposes, blackheads occur when the opening of a hair follicle (otherwise known as a pore) becomes clogged or plugged with dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil. The black color occurs when the congestion is exposed to air, thus oxidizing and darkening in color. They’re super common, and most often occur in areas of the face and body where oil flow is at its highest (like the nose, chin, and back).

How can a mask help?

Certain masks can help by softening the pore and absorbing some of the stuff trapped inside. Blackhead-specific masks might also offer a gentle form of exfoliation, working to both clear out an already clogged pore and remove bacteria and sebum that might cause blackheads to occur.

How often should I use one?

Masks targeting blackheads are typically made of clay and can be used once or twice a week. This is a generalized statement though, so following product instructions is the safest way to go. We also suggest using your mask after showering as the steam will relax the pores.

Johns Hopkins Medicine. Acne.

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