not a professional. just crazy.

The 12 Face Masks That Are Always in My Medicine Cabinet

The author in her Neutrogena light-therapy acne mask. Photo: Courtesy of Rio Viera-Newton

Before I became a psychotic beauty obsessee, I thought that face masks didn’t do anything. Most often, I used them socially, throwing on an old CVS clay mask while watching a movie with friends. It was only when I started having frequent breakouts — and went down the rabbit hole of skin-care bloggers and YouTube gurus — that I realized how naïve I’d been. As it turns out, most experts consider face masks to be an integral part of their daily routine — masks are actually the ninth step in the famous ten-step skin-care regimen. And I also learned that you’re supposed to use them every single day. Since my skin at the time was screaming desperately for help, I decided to put in the effort (and trust me: I’m aware that carving out time to mask on the daily is a lot). And I could not believe the results. Over time, masking frequently has brought my skin to that elusive next level. I’ve tried many, many masks over the years, and as a result have become fairly fluent in (I don’t know how else to put this) the Art of Masking. Below, a few of my favorites that’ll provide your skin with the boost of radiance, hydration, and love it needs.

Editor’s note: Since this story was published, Neutrogena’s Light Therapy Acne Mask (which Rio is pictured wearing above) was recalled. Accordingly, we’ve removed the product from the below list.

This Taiwanese brand was recommended to me by the women who work at oo35mm, the K-beauty store in Chinatown that I frequent (arguably some of my closest friends). This mask is deeply conditioning, and hydrates and soothes irritated skin. As someone who is constantly battling dry skin, eczema, and allergy-induced rashes, this face mask has been a total lifesaver. Also, these are only $2 per sheet — are you kidding me?

Update: If these sell out, I also like a lot of the others from My Beauty Diary, including the Black Pearl, Hyaluronic Acid, Red Vine, Royal Pearl Radiance, and (yes) Imperial Bird’s Nest. This sampler pack of ten different varieties is a great way to start, too.

My friend swears by this Tata Harper mask for her acne, so I decided to give it a try. Guys, I was floored! Acne-focused wash-off masks tend to really dry out my skin, but this one left me feeling super soft and smooth. Some people seem to dislike this mask’s strong eucalyptus-and-licorice scent, but it doesn’t really bother me.

When I first heard about this dry mask I thought, ???? — but I was really pleasantly surprised with the results. Truth be told, I’m not really sure I understand how the product itself works because it kind of feels like you’re putting an oddly fitted cloth over your face. But when I took this mask off the first time, I became a believer — my skin looked super bright, radiant, and clear. The thing that usually bothers me about doing sheet masks before I go out is that sometimes they make my face sticky, and then I can’t properly blend my makeup. This mask has no serum — making it the perfect pre-night-out mask.

This is another great vitamin-C mask to use when you’re trying to liven up your skin and get rid of any hyperpigmentation. It tones, moisturizes, and replenishes the skin. It’s also just really fun to use because it comes with two packets and a wooden spoon that you use to mix the contents of the packets with in a bowl.

As you guys know, I love a snail-based product. If you’re suffering from breakouts, irritation, or dehydrated skin, snail is a real must-try. I know it sounds sort of gross and weird, but for your skin’s sake, get over it. I’ve tried just about every snail mask on the market — and I’m here to tell you that this one is by far the best. The brand that makes these masks is actually a dermatological company, which makes sense because the results are fairly incredible — they consistently help with retexturing, elasticity, and breakouts. If your skin is looking a little meh, throw this on and I can almost guarantee that you’ll see what I’m talking about. This is how much I love this mask: If I don’t have at least one of them in my cabinet at all time, I actually get anxiety.

All of the Naruko masks are incredible. My current favorite is the Raw Jaw mask. I don’t know what is in this mask, but if I put it on before bed, I wake up in the morning looking super radiant, like I’ve never had a pore in my life. If that doesn’t sell it to you, I don’t know what will. Raw Jaw is a mystery ingredient I’ve only ever seen in Taiwanese products — again, don’t know exactly what it is, but I believe in its powers.

Update: If these sell out, I also love several of the others, including the Rose, the Edelweiss, the Snail Essence, and the Collagen Booster.

You guys all know how much I love and believe in SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence. While painfully expensive, this mask makes me look like I have the dewiest, freshest, softest skin of all time after I use it. It can also really help with fading dark marks from blemishes. I make my mom buy me these for Christmas and my birthday because I’m a scrub.

Anytime my face is feeling really dry and dehydrated, this is my go-to mask. It doesn’t make me break out, but I wouldn’t say it necessarily helps cure spots. Still, it’s my favorite mask to use after I’ve been lying out in the sun or walking around in the heat.

This mask is packed with vitamin C — it’s best if you’re struggling with hyperpigmentation or sunspots. It has “jelly essence,” which makes it penetrate deeper into the skin and make your skin feel soft and bouncy.

Update: This exact SNP mask is sold out, but I also love the SNP Brightening Mask.

This mask was initially invented for Korean brides to use on their wedding day to make their skin look especially bright … i.e., what I attempt to accomplish every day. It’s super rich, hydrating, and leaves your skin looking illuminated.

All the Korean-beauty gurus I follow on YouTube rave about Manyo Factory, and I am so glad that I decided to give it a try. If you’re struggling with breakouts or redness, this is a really good option. It’s packed with tea tree and centella to soothe and calm inflammation and redness, as well as trehalose, an antioxidant. I love doing this mask on those days when I’m feeling shitty about my skin — when I have this on, I feel like I’m actively doing the most I can to fix it.

My facialist Sofia at Aida Bicaj taught me to mix this mask with the Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant and apply it once a day for optimum results. I’ll just tell you now — this is perhaps the most visually unappealing face mask of all time (so, so brown), and it smells like actual trash, but the results are worthwhile. It’s incredible for breakouts, hyperpigmentation, and just all over brightening. Also, I’m so, so sorry about the price.

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The 12 Face Masks That Are Always in My Medicine Cabinet