When I was in middle school, this Oxy Face Wash was my main skincare step. I washed my face with this, and then (if I remembered), applied sunscreen over it, because the bottle of Oxy said to do so. This, I believed, would cure the acne that graced my face in middle school.
It did tackle my acne, but it also made my skin peel. I would place the back of my hand on my face throughout the day, only to feel dead skin rub off of my face and onto my hand. It’s safe to say that I knew next to nothing about skincare back then, apart from, “use the product that says it will eliminate acne, and follow with sunscreen.”
I used Oxy throughout middle school and high school. Then, in college, Oxy stopped working. Instead, throughout the day my skin got ridiculously shiny, and the acne came back with a vengeance, particularly when it was that time of the month. I switched to a face wash that was geared toward oily skin, because I thought that the oil was causing my acne. I used charcoal masks like I was being paid for it, and my face would turn bright red immediately after washing them off. I thought this was normal, and vital for the acne-eliminating process.
Then, in my mid-20s, I was introduced to the skincare queens of YouTube (most especially Renee of Gothamista and esthetician Caroline Hirons). I learned two very important things: 1. My skin wasn’t oily; it was dry/dehydrated and sensitive/sensitized. And there I was, like a fool, stripping it of oils on the daily; and 2. Your face masks should not turn your skin bright red and make them feel uncomfortably dry.
I overhauled my entire skincare routine, which included getting rid of all of the charcoal masks that were not ideal for my face. Since the overhaul, I’ve been testing out which face masks are the best for when my hormonal acne pops up, when my skin gets angry (which happens far less frequently than it did before), and when my face just feels gross. Here are the ones I’d recommend for anyone with dry/sensitive skin (although I believe these could work for any skin type). None of these links are affiliate links:
- Origins Out of Trouble ($26)
This is the lone mask I’ve been able to use throughout college and even now. Origins claims that this is for oily/combo skin, but I’ve been happy with my results using this as an overnight spot treatment and as a 10-minute mask. It’s a bit difficult to wash off without a washcloth, so I’d recommend using one of those, otherwise you’ll be at your sink for at least five minutes.
- Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask ($55)
This is everything for hormonal acne, or for unexpected breakouts in general. I apply this just to the problematic areas of my face (chin and jawline mostly) for 20 minutes, and then wash it off with a washcloth. It’s an expensive face mask, but I only use it once a month for hormonal acne, so it’ll last me for a year. The only downside is that I would not recommend using this as an overnight spot treatment. I mean, technically you can, but the smell is dreadful. The oil version of this mask smells much better, and is good for daily maintenance, but it’s not as potent for sudden breakouts as the mask is.
- Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask ($48)
This is ideal for weekly maintenance. It’s also technically not an acne mask, but an exfoliation mask. Exfoliation is super important anyway, because if you don’t get rid of the dead skin on your face, the dead skin could clog your pores and cause blemishes. Apply this mask and wait until it dries (I usually keep it on for 10-15 minutes), and then wash off (again, with a washcloth). It tingles a bit at first when you apply, but the tingling goes away in about a minute. Unlike the previous two masks, one jar will not last you a year. Herbivore prides itself on being a “green” brand, so its products are best used within a few months. Otherwise, they lose their potency and change color. For that reason, this is more of a splurge than any other mask on this list.
- Ren Evercalm Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask ($42)
I remember when a Sephora employee gave me a sample of this mask and I applied it in a state of desperation that very night (which sounds dramatic, but when you can’t figure out why your skin is behaving a certain way, everything feels like drama). This was prior to my skincare overhaul, so my skin was red and breaking out and, in a word, angry. I washed my face (using a different acne face wash that was still too powerful for me), applied this, waited fifteen minutes, used a damp paper towel to get the excess off (there wasn’t much), and then followed with a serum and moisturizer. The next day, my skin was no longer red, and the breakouts had gone down significantly. I’ve since learned from Caroline Hirons that you can just apply the mask and sleep in it.
- Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask ($56)
This is another mask that can last you a whole year. I don’t use this for breakouts, specifically, but this mask is quite good at clearing up hyperpigmentation that results post-acne. This mask has a dense and sticky texture when applied, but when you rub it on your face, the honey texture turns creamy and it begins to warm up. Wear the mask for about 10-15 minutes and wash off. This washes off pretty easily, so you won’t need a washcloth. I would not recommend using this when you have a cold/have been blowing your nose, because it will feel like a burning sensation near your nose instead of a pleasant warming sensation.
I don’t use all of these masks every week. Usually, I’ll use one of these a week. I think if I used any of these masks (with the exception of the Ren mask) more than three times a week, I would be hurting rather than helping my skin. As a result of their limited usage, most of these masks have lasted for a while. Each mask is available at Sephora, so I usually wait until the VIB/Rouge sale in the fall to restock at a discount.
Note: If your acne is out of control, it is highly recommended that you go see a dermatologist or an esthetician. A face mask is meant to help with skincare maintenance, or to assist with a particularly nasty breakout. Face masks cannot replicate the results of, say, Retin-A. But if your skin gets congested easily (i.e. you have city skin), a face mask once a week can do wonders.
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