New to face masks? Start here.
New to face masks? Start here.
Peter Thomas Roth/Kiehl's/Indie Lee

If TV tropes from the latter half of the 20th century are to be believed (note: they are not), there was a time when face masks were reserved exclusively for girls at sleepovers and housewives in curlers and bathrobes. If a face mask was ever spotted on a man, it was likely an ill-conceived comedic trope in which the man was pretending to be a woman, the face mask was somehow actually pie, and you were watching Mrs. Doubtfire.

Whether or not such a time ever existed, it has passed. Face masks are for everyone, regardless of gender identity, marital status or proclivity for robes. Why? Because everyone has skin, and — no offense to Robin Williams’s pie face — skincare is no joke. 

Everybody’s skin is prone to aging, blemishes, dryness and plenty of other problems. And although sexist beauty standards may lead society to be more accepting of some of those flaws in certain genders, poor skincare catches up to everyone eventually. According to New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, M.D., face masks can be a good way for men who may have been neglecting skincare to begin to catch up. 

“Unlike women, most men know very little about skincare or products they should use for young, healthy skin,” Dr. Green tells InsideHook. While she notes that face masks are usually only part of a full skincare regimen, she advises men to “consider using face masks for overall skin rejuvenation and health.”

In fact, while face masks (along with many other cosmetic and hygienic practices, for some reason) may still be associated largely with women, extra irritation and dryness from shaving could mean many men actually stand to benefit from them the most. 

“The benefits of using a face mask two or three times per week, especially for men who shave, is soft, smooth skin free from irritation and infected hair folliculitis,” says Dr. Green. That said, she cautions men not to use face masks on freshly shaven skin at the risk of causing stinging or irritation: “Apply these masks the day after shaving and then every other day for best results.”

Now that we’ve established the how and why, let’s talk which. From sheet masks to mud and even gold, there’s a lot of stuff you can put on your face, so we tested a bunch of them to help you pick the best. Whether you’re new to the concept that your skin doesn’t take care of itself or you’ve been wearing face masks since before Orlando Bloom made it cool, let this staff-tested-and-approved selection be your guide to a better face. 

(SK-II)

BEST SHEET MASK: SK-II Facial Treatment Mask

If you’re new to the whole face mask thing, start here. Sheet masks are simple, unmessy and generally great for lazy, hands-free skin care. Just unfold, slap it on and remove after about 15 minutes. No need to get up and wash it off, either. Just rub any excess product into your skin like a regular moisturizer. 

As far as sheet masks go, the SK-II is pricey, but for a reason. This ultra-hydrating mask has received multiple awards from the likes of Harper’s Bazaar and InStyle, where it’s been named not only among the best sheet masks, but has also taken rank alongside the best masks OF ALL TIME. The brand’s not-so-secret “miracle ingredient” is the trademarked PITERA, which marketing materials describe as a “bio-ingredient derived from yeast fermentation” containing “over 50 micro-nutrients like vitamins, minerals, amino acids and organic acids to condition skin’s natural functions.” It’s a splurge, but you only get one face.

(Peter Thomas Roth)

BEST MUD MASK: Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud Mask

Remember everything we just said about how simple and clean sheet masks are? You can go ahead and forget that now, because mud masks are, as you may expect, muddy. This jet-black Irish Moor Mud Mask from Peter Thomas Roth is messy, but so worth it. Made with (allegedly) 9,000-year-old black moor mud hand-harvested from the Irish countryside, this is the mask a hero in a gothic Victorian novel would’ve used if paid product placement had been a thing in 1847. Heathcliff vibes aside, this rich mask packs vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into a smooth, cooling formula. What does that mean for your face? Smaller pores, reduced fine lines and wrinkles, and of course hydration. One word of caution, this is one of the more alarming-looking masks on the list, so try not to sneak up on anyone mid-treatment. 

(Indie Lee)

BEST MASK FOR CLEARING UP YOUR SKIN: Indie Lee Clearing Mask

One of the fun things about getting older is your awkward teen acne becomes cool, mature “adult acne.” Kidding, acne sucks no matter how old you are. If there is one benefit to adult acne though, it’s that you have much more sophisticated (and better-smelling) options for treating it than the Noxema and Stridex pads you used as a teen. The Indie Lee Clearing Mask is a thick yet lightweight formula that uses known acne enemy salicylic acid to fight breakouts. As Dr. Green notes, masks containing salicylic acid can also help prevent ingrown hairs and razor burn by keeping pores and follicles clear of dirt oil and bacteria. 

However, as anyone who has ever battled acne knows, salicylic acid can be harsh on skin, so this mask features other ingredients, like bentonite clay and colloidal sulfur, to help to purify the skin, while zinc oxide, chamomile and red seaweed extracts soothe and hydrate. You can spread a thin layer over your entire face or use as a spot treatment, which is what I usually opt for. This mask is also safe for use to fight breakouts on the chest and back. 

(Kiehl’s)

BEST ALOE MASK: Kiehl’s Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Masque

You may have noticed that if there’s one thing all these masks have in common, it’s the promise of hydration. Your skin, like people who slide up into DMs, is thirsty as hell. While nearly all face masks moisturize to some extent, aloe masks make it their top priority. You use aloe on sunburns because its powerful hydrating properties can help breathe life back into your scorched skin, but you actually don’t have to fry yourself first to reap the benefits. A good aloe mask can give your skin a healthy shot of hydration whenever it needs it, whether you’re post-beach or post-binge drinking. Kiehl’s cooling calendula and aloe mask is a lightweight, gelatinous mask that cools, hydrates and energizes with a light, refreshing fragrance.

(Kiehl’s)

BEST 2-IN-1 MASK: Kiehl’s Age Defender Dual Action Exfoliating Cleanser

This mask is the only product on the list marketed as being explicitly for men. I tried it out and my delicate girl skin didn’t melt off my face or anything, so as far as I can tell, the only thing that makes this a “men’s” product is the bottle’s manly-man black-and-red color scheme and the fact that it’s a 2-in-1 face wash and mask. From what I’ve gathered, marketing strategists have decided men are lazy and easily swayed by the promise of convenience, which is why so many of you have fallen victim to 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner (or, worse yet, 3-in-1 shampoo/conditioner/body wash). As a man, you should: 1) Be offended that brands think you’re this lazy and 2) not prove their point by using 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner. 

That said, as far as 2-in-1 products go, a cleanser/face mask isn’t a bad combo, especially since, as Dr. Green notes, face masks should always be applied to clean, freshly washed skin. “This will allow the ingredients to penetrate into the skin and work their magic,” she says. Kiehl’s Morrocan Lava Clay formula is a powerful exfoliator that cleanses deeply and breaks down dead skin cells, providing a clean canvas for the mask of your choice. Alternately, using this cleanser as a mask just involves letting a thin layer dry on your face, then massaging with warm water to rinse off, which allows the dried particles to act as extra exfoliants. 

(Majestic Pure)

BEST GOLD MASK: Majestic Pure Gold Facial Mask

If your skincare regimen could use a little 24-karat magic, look no further than Majestic Pure’s Gold Facial Mask. Gold has been a trendy skincare ingredient for a few years now, but aside from just making you look and feel super luxe, it actually boasts some helpful anti-aging properties. Made with real 24K gold foil, this creamy mask helps to moisturize and rejuvenate while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This mask is a good go-to for when both you and your skin need to treat yourselves a little. The rich, liquid gold vibe obviously looks pretty cool when you have it on, but it also really does leave behind a dewy, golden glow.