- Whiteheads are a mild form of acne characterized by small, white bumps on the skin’s surface.
- Face masks that effectively treat this type of acne contain ingredients that exfoliate dead skin, reduce excess oil and kill acne-causing bacteria.
- The four primary types of face masks are sheet, peel-off, rinse-off and hydrogel.
- Peel-off and rinse-off masks tend to be better suited for oily skin, while sheet and hydrogel masks are more suitable for dry or sensitive skin.
Whiteheads develop when pores become clogged with sebum, dead skin cells and debris. They appear white in color as they are protected with a layer of skin. While they are a mild form of acne, they can become inflamed and develop into more severe forms of acne if left untreated. Face masks for whiteheads are a gentle and effective treatment that offers customizable treatments.
Face masks are designed to cleanse skin of excess oil, dead skin and other debris; they can also infuse skin with hydrating and nourishing ingredients. Many types are available for purchase over the counter (OTC), but they can also be made at home using simple, natural ingredients.
Why Use a Face Mask?
Face masks deliver concentrated ingredients deep within pores to break down trapped impurities, reduce excess sebum and prevent the development of whiteheads. They are formulated with various ingredients to address the needs of different skin types and to target specific concerns.
While these masks are not as effective at treating whiteheads as medicated acne creams, they are gentler, which make them ideal for dry or sensitive skin. DIY formulas offer even more flexibility as you can custom-fit your mask to suit your particular needs.
How to Choose a Face Mask for Whiteheads
Face masks are available in four formats: sheet, peel-off, rinse-off and hydrogel. Peel-off and rinse-off masks tend to be more effective at exfoliating dead skin, reducing oil and removing surface debris. Other types serve primarily to infuse the skin with active ingredients.
Masks offer different benefits and should be chosen based on skin type and concern.
|Mask Type||What it Is||Benefits/Drawbacks|
|Sheet||One-time use mask made of paper or cotton, saturated with active ingredients||Helps dry skin retain moisture|
Meant to hydrate rather than cleanse; less effective for acne care
Prevents whiteheads from becoming inflamed
|Peel-off||A formula that dries upon contact with the skin, traps impurities that is then peeled away, leaving behind little residue||Effectively absorbs excess oil|
Uncomfortable removal process
Ingredients don’t penetrate deeply into pores
|Rinse-off||A creamy or foamy formula that is easily washed away with lukewarm water||May provide a variety of benefits depending on the ingredients used|
Clay and charcoal masks effectively exfoliate and absorb excess oil
Hydrating masks replenish moisture and prevent inflammation
|Hydrogels||Similar to a sheet mask, but made of a softer and more absorbent gel material for added comfort and more potent benefits||Nourishes and refreshes dry skin|
Gentle; ideal for sensitive skin
Prevents whiteheads from becoming inflamed
Face Mask for Treating Whiteheads
The most effective face masks for treating whiteheads are those that address its root causes: bacteria and excess oil. Face masks that provide these benefits typically contain ingredients with antibacterial properties and astringents to address these issues.
Face mask ingredients are usually safe for most skin types; however some oil-absorbing ingredients—such as charcoal and certain types of clay—may be irritating for those with dry or sensitive skin.
Those with sensitive skin should also avoid masks containing artificial preservatives or added fragrances, as these can also cause irritation.
Rinse-off masks are commonly formulated with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as lactic or citric acid. These are chemical exfoliants that can effectively treat a range of acne symptoms. They slough away layers of dead skin and dissolve the accumulations of dirt and oil that cause whiteheads to develop.
Charcoal is a common ingredient in peel-off and rinse-off mask formulas that effectively absorbs excess oil. The slight coarseness of charcoal particles also helps to exfoliate surface skin, preventing clogs that result in whiteheads. Their effects are especially beneficial for those with oily skin.
However, charcoal masks have a drying and abrading effect that may be damaging or irritating to dry or sensitive skin. They also have the potential to strip the skin of natural oils, which can result in dryness and flaking, or may cause the skin to respond by overproducing oil. For this reason, these masks should be used no more than once every two weeks.
Clay fights whitehead formation by absorbing excess oil and killing bacteria. Although kaolin and pink clays are gentle and suitable for sensitive skin, green and bentonite clay are highly astringent, and are better suited for oily or combination skin.
Clay masks should always be removed after about 15 minutes. After this point, the clay will be completely dry and will begin to draw moisture back up from the skin. If the mask is not removed, this can result in dry, red and irritated skin.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree essential oil has powerful antibacterial properties, and has been demonstrated to effectively treat mild to moderate acne symptoms. Other essential oils, such as thyme and cinnamon oil, have also been found to effectively reduce whitehead count.
Other ingredients included in whitehead mask formulas include astringents such as green tea and witch hazel to reduce excess oil, and aloe vera, honey and turmeric to kill acne-causing bacteria. These ingredients work to reduce the appearance of whiteheads, and to prevent future breakouts.
DIY Face Masks for Whiteheads
By formulating a face mask at home, you have the opportunity to select the ideal ingredients for your skin type and concerns.
Before applying a DIY formula to your face, perform a spot test on your upper arm to determine any sensitivities.
Thyme and French green clay mask for oily skin
Effectively balance oily skin and prevent pore clogs with a potent blend of thyme and French green clay. Honey has a soothing effect that helps to prevent inflammation, which prevents whiteheads from worsening into more severe acne.
- 1/2 tsp thyme powder
- 1/2 tsp French green clay
- 1 1/4 tsp raw honey
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl; blend to form a paste
- Apply mask to the face with fingers or a clean brush; avoid the eye area
- Allow to rest 10–15 minutes; wash off with lukewarm water or use a wet face cloth
Aloe gel and green tea face mask for sensitive skin
By combining the soothing effects of aloe vera with the mild astringency of green tea you can gently cleanse pores and wash away excess oil without causing irritation. This combination is an ideal choice for a gentle rinse-off mask for treating whiteheads on sensitive skin.
- 1 tbsp aloe vera gel
- 1/4 cup cooled green tea
- Combine both ingredients in a bowl; mix well
- Apply mask to the face with a clean brush; avoid the eye area
- Allow to rest for 15 minutes; rinse off with lukewarm water
Alternatives to Face Masks for Whiteheads
If you are looking for other methods to treat whiteheads, there are several effective OTC whitehead treatments that are available.
- Cleansers formulated with potent ingredients such as salicylic acid or AHAs will kill bacteria, exfoliate dead skin and reduce oil buildup
- Acne creams containing ingredients such as retinoids or benzoyl peroxide are known to effectively treat whiteheads
- Chemical peels formulated with salicylic, glycolic or lactic acid can provide dramatic results.
Whiteheads are a mild form of acne that develop when pores become clogged with debris and a layer of skin forms over top. If left untreated, they can become inflamed and develop into more severe types of acne. Specially formulated face masks offer a gentle and effective solution for both treating and preventing whiteheads.
Face masks of any kind can be used to treat whiteheads, however peel-off and rinse-off formulas tend to do so most effectively. Sheet and hydrogel masks can infuse the skin with beneficial ingredients that prevent acne formation, but are less effective at removing impurities.
Face masks that effectively treat whiteheads contain ingredients that exfoliate dead skin, remove excess oil, cleanse pores and kill bacteria. These include AHAs, clay, charcoal, tea tree oil and a range of other natural ingredients with astringent and antibacterial properties.
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