Sheet Mask Reviews: Acne Treatment

I have moderate-to-severe hormonal acne as a result of high testosterone levels. So with that in mind, any topical acne treatment will never be 100% effective for me. I do think that since I've had adult acne for years and have treated it for quite a while, I have a good understanding of what works and doesn't work for my own skin type.

While a sheet mask will never fully resolve visible breakouts, I have found certain masks to be calming, anti-inflammatory, and helpful for speeding the healing of existing pimples. The one warning I have is that it seems like a lot of anti-acne sheet masks can be quite drying, even on oilier skin types. Several of the sheet masks I used left my skin feeling clean but uncomfortably tight the following day. In my opinion, a sheet mask should hydrate or in some cases, have no impact (positive or negative) on skin's moisture levels. If a sheet mask actually saps moisture, I feel that it counterproductive in terms of tackling acne.

My skin type: Oily with hormonal acne and post-inflammatory erythema (PIE)
My masking process: I wear mask sheets for 20 minutes, and use them after my essence step and before my moisturizing cream.

The winning masks!

Benton Snail Bee High Content Mask Pack

Camellia Sinensis Leaf Water, Snail Secretion Filtrate, Glycerin, Arbutin, Pentylene Glycol, Diospyros Kaki Leaf Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Plantago Asiatica Extract, Laminaria Digitata Extract, Ulmus Campestris (elm) Extract, Althaea Rosea Root Extract, Aloe barbadenis Leaf Extract, Bacillus Ferment, Azelaic Acid, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Hyaluronate, rh-Oligopeptode-1,Beta-Glucan, Betaine, Bee Venom, Xantham Gum, Panthenol, Adenosine, Allantoin

This is one of the most popular sheet masks recommended for people with oily skin, acne troubles, and redness. The essence version (bottled) is one of my HG products for soothing irritable skin. However I did not have great luck with the mask sheet. 

This sheet is average in thickness, nice and clingy, with a watery essence texture that has no sticky or goopy feeling. There is no scent that I can detect. My skin felt hot and stingy while wearing it- a red flag which I should have heeded but I was so curious about the product that I persisted in wearing it for the full 20 min. When it came time for removal, my upper lip had dried out but the rest of the mask was still damp allover.

Upon removal, I saw no brightening, smoothing, or plumping effects. My nose was bright red but no other areas were affected. I continued with my routine and enjoyed an awful hot feeling on my face for the rest of the evening. My skin the next day felt fine, no additional irritation, but I also had none of the usual post-sheet mask hydrated feel over the course of the day. I was glad that my acne was not further irritated but neither was it improved or soothed in any capacity. I had lingering nose redness the next morning, but it was gone by the evening. All in all a neutral-to-negative experience.

A lot of people do love this mask, so don't let my experience stop you. But I think that liking the bottled essence (which I do) does not guarantee you will like the sheet mask. 

Rating: 2/10

Naruko Tea Tree Shine & Control Blemish Clear Mask

purified water, butylene glycol, ethyl alcohol, hamamelis virginiana extract, transexamic acid, xanthan gum, 2-phenoxyethanol, sodium citrate, chlorphenesin, salicylic acid, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, serenoa serrulate fruit extract, lens esculenta (lentil) seed extract, enantia chlorantha bark extract, sodium hyaluronate, piroctone olamine, kalanchoe spathulata extract*, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract*, scutellaria alpina flower/leaf/stem extract*, peucedanum ostruthium leaf extract*, ginkgo biloba leaf extract*, artemisia umbelliformis extract*, leontopodium alpinum extract*, epilobium fleischeri extract*, calendula officinalis flower extract*, chamomilla recutita (matricaria) flower extract*, camellia sinensis leaf extract*, essential oils of tea tree (melaleuca alternifolia), orange (citrus nobilis), spearmint (menta viridis), lemon (citrus limonum), lime (citrus auantifolia), peppermint (metha pipertia), grapefruit (citrus paradise), niaouli (melaleuca viridiflora) *

This next mask comes from one of my favorite brands. Naruko, a Taiwanese brand with a great USA storefront and appealing prices, uses a lot of ingredients that my skin responds well to. I use tea tree in my routine on a daily basis- usually in the form of pure oil added in TINY quantities to my oil or cream step. I was excited to use a tea tree mask considering that my face has adored all the other Naruko masks I tried so far.

This sheet is a black mask, which is just about the coolest looking thing ever. Seriously, I don't know what voodoo is in black mask sheets or if it's just that an opaque material looks more interesting than the white translucency of your average mask sheet, but I enjoyed wearing this mask a lot. It has a minty, toothpaste kind of smell. Not like actual tea tree. It feels cooling but not tingly or numbingly cold. The essence was watery and not sticky, and it did not drip down my neck at all. 

Upon removal, my skin feels refreshed. The surface of my skin had this feeling like it had been softened and exposed- I squeezed a few clogged pores that had been resistant to treatment and the sebum plugs slipped out, something which has never happened from a sheet mask and my face in the past. I was very interested to see that it had a similar "purifying" effect the way that a clay mask would. It won't have the same effect as a chemical exfoliant, but it does seem to be acting in a visible way on clogs. I think the inflamed acne I had at the time of wearing this mask was soothed, not aggravated, but not improved in a meaningful way. The difference was more apparent on the plugs/clogs I had close to the surface of my skin.

This sheet also gave quite a soft focus look to the face, but no additional radiance. The next morning I felt that my skin was tight and dry. Throughout the day, despite my routine being consistent and full of hydration and moisture, my skin got flaky and tighter. While I felt this was a purifying and decongesting mask which had interesting palpable results, it's a bit too powerful for me. And I have oily skin with a lot of congestion. I find it challenging to imagine who would find this gentle. It's possible I'm sensitive to an ingredient that's overly drying me out, but I would recommend anybody with concerns over potential dryness try a single one out before purchasing a box. I might repurchase 1 to use in the very middle of summer when my skin is at its plumpest and oiliest, but certainly will not be using it again in colder weather.

Rating: 5/10

TonyMoly I'm Real Mask Sheet Rice

Water, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Mineral Oil, Allantoin, Polysorbate 80, Carbomer, Chlorphenesin, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Xanthan Gum, Dimethicone, Phenoxyethanol, Tromethamine, 1,2-Hexanediol, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, llicium Verum (Anise), Fruit Extract, Snail Secretion Filerate, Propanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance

This mask gets a lot of shoutouts as the best from the "I'm Real" line. Its packaging promises "Clear Skin" and I had read many raves about its soothing properties. I ended up loving this mask and ordering a 10 pack to use when my face is irritable.

This mask doesn't have a scent to my nose. Some people say it has a lovely smell, but I only detected a vague solvent-y chemical scent like partially-evaporated alcohol. The essence is translucent but not as watery as some mask essence. It's not totally creamy. Maybe I'd describe it as milky. It is very cooling and feels like it's working moisture deep into my skin the minute I slap it on.

Upon removal, I do not notice much difference in anything. Skin is not sticky but very slick after mask removal, and it takes several minutes of waiting to allow the essence to sink in fully. After I allowed the essence to dry, I was surprised to see that my face was beaming and bright. There was an odd pure kind of glow coming from my face that I didn't have before masking, or right after I removed the mask. It also made the few swollen zit areas I had at the time flatten quite dramatically. I thought this was coincidence but I used it twice more on other occasions when I had inflamed, painful spots and it had the same effects.

What I appreciated most was that it had no drying effects. It felt simultaneously purifying/soothing and hydrating. I never compromise my hydration routine. For me substituting an acne treatment for hydration only ever sets me back. So the fact that this soothes my acne and does a good job at hydration like any other sheet mask, and provides a beautiful lit-from-within glow, makes it a no-brainer favorite of mine.

Rating: 9/10

Bonvivant Madecassoside and Mugwort Botanical Mask Pack

Water, Dipropylene Glycol, Glycerin, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Artemisia Princeps Leaf Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Potassium Hydroxide, Allantoin, Panthenol, Punica Granatum Fruit Extract, Ficus Carica (Fig) Fruit Extract, Morus Alba Fruit Extract, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Madecassoside, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance

This mask comes from a Botanical line that emphasizes one or two main ingredients and touts each mask as targeting specific areas of concern. This version is meant to be restorative and soothing, and since both madecassoside and mugwort are often contained in acne-soothing preparations, I wanted to see how this would stack up.

First off the mask has an unpleasant rubbery and musty smell. Reminds me a bit of patchouli, which can be tolerable in small amounts but is not my favorite when sniffed in isolation. The essence is watery but still slippy, like your average viscous hydrating toner. It feels cooling and soothing upon application. The fit is phenomenally bad- something I don't notice with most masks because the majority are neither good nor bad enough to comment on. The nose is extremely long (and I have a prominent nose) which means I need to fold the nose up on itself so I can breathe.

When I took the mask off, I noticed that the essence of the mask had a pleasant jellied kind of texture that sunk in fairly quickly and left my skin looking nice and dewy. This made my deeper painful pimples feel immediately more chilled out and kind of took the angry swollen feel down a bit. The next morning my pimples looked flattened and withered like they'd been dried out. Unfortunately so did the rest of my face. All day I felt strained and tight, a sensation that I never suffer from unless I have overexfoliated with chemical actives.

I would not use this again- it falls in the same category as the Naruko Tea Tree mask. While it was purifying and definitely did something interesting to heal my acne, it came at the too-dear cost of sapping moisture from the rest of my face.

Rating: 5/10

Tosowoong Dr. Troubex Sparkling Mask

Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Peg/Ppg-17/6 Copolymer, Bifida Ferment Filtrate, Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Centella Asiatica Extract, Rh-Oligopeptide-1, Carbonated Water (100 ppm), Larix Sibirica Wood Extract, Chrysanthellum Indicum Extract, Rheum Palmatum Root/Stalk Extract, Asarum Sieboldi Root Extract, Quercus Mongolia Leaf Extract, Persicaria Hydropiper Extract, Illicium Verum (Anise) Fruit Extract, Corydalis Turtschaninovii Root Extract, Coptis Chinensis Root Extract, Machilus Thunbergii Bark Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Dimethyl Sulfone, Allantoin, Betaine, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Arginine, Disodium EDTA, Adenosine, Salicylic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Perfume

I think I saw just as many raves for this one as I did the Benton Snail Bee one when reading discussions of masks for irritable skin. I have never tried a single product from Tosowoong so I was also going in blind, but the ingredients list looked fairly innocuous. I ended up really enjoying this mask although it's a bit more expensive than some of the others I like.

There is no scent here, and the essence is very watery and non slippery. Similar to the Benton sheet's essence. I actually wondered if there was enough essence to last 20 minutes because the mask sheet didn't feel soaked or saturated as I'm used to. However it lasted 20 minutes sitting in a very dry room with a fire going, so my worries were unfounded. It felt comfortable and neutral. Not super cold and clammy, but definitely soothing and cooling.

When I took it off, I noticed my skin looked very firm and even in tone. I noticed that my face was hydrated and looked and felt very plump all day after I took this off. I kept pressing my palms against my face to feel it- and my skin definitely had that healthy, moist "stick" that made it feel springy and bouncy. It did not give me a glow the way the TonyMoly mask did, but it did a wonderful job of soothing my active acne, calming and cooling the rest of my face, and hydrating and plumping.

I was surprised by how much I liked this mask. I think it suits the purpose I wanted the Benton mask to fulfill. I think this is a fantastic all-purpose mask if you struggle with irritation and acne but don't want to forgo the hydrating effects of your other sheet masks. There is no glow, sadly, but this would be a good mask to calm your skin when it's aggravated.

Rating: 8/10


I'm afraid that even though I have very troubled acneic skin, many of the popular anti-acne sheet masks are too heavy duty for my liking. I think that regular chemical exfoliation with your favorite ingredient will be a better long-term solution. And while I appreciate the immediate acne-flattening powers of some of the above masks, others do have the unfortunate side effect of being overly drying. I switched from American drugstore products to Asian ones for a reason. The emphasis on hydration and protection seem to be more productive than attacking your skin and drying it out in my opinion. 

I did find 2 masks that I really adore and they both have a balanced approach to hydrating and soothing. I couldn't tolerate the dehydrating/tightening effects of the other masks I sampled, but I'll happily continue to use the TonyMoly Rice and the Tosowoong Dr. Troubex on days when I have extra irritation that needs to be addressed.


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