If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
I don’t know if society will ever be able to fully erase the association of a facial mask with a woman in curlers and a bathrobe with a face coated in thick green clay. Luckily, guys are finally realizing what women have known all along — face masks are rad. And they don’t even have to be green.
The best face masks are an effective and time-honored method of exfoliating the skin, which is important for clearing away oil, dirt, and dead skin, which can clog pores and create acne and wrinkles. Worked up a sweat at the gym or been hiking or camping all weekend? You’ll want to slap a face mask on for a deep clean. For anyone who doesn’t want to add a daily exfoliating step to their skincare routine, a weekly facial mask is an excellent (and easy) option.
We’ve put together a few of the best facial masks for men which use the properties of activated charcoal or organic clay to clear away impurities. These are different than chemical exfoliants, which utilize ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid so they’ll be gentle without losing efficacy.
What You Need to Know About The Best Men’s Facial Masks
Men’s vs. Women’s Face Masks: The main differences between face masks for men and women aren’t necessarily the ingredients that are used, but rather what they are used for. Most of the best men’s facial masks will address common concerns like sagging skin and wrinkles, but they’re also helpful in tackling issues like sweat build-up from a heavy workout, or helping to relieve dry, rough skin caused by shaving.
Ingredients: We found men’s facial masks that contain activated charcoal and clay. Activated charcoal has had something of a moment in the skincare world recently, and has been touted as a miracle cure for everything from teeth whitening to insect bites. While there is limited research, many skincare experts believe in the positive effects activated charcoal has on clearing skin of impurities. Certain clays, like kaolin clay meantime, have been shown to effectively absorb oils and clear clogged pores. Though many clays can be drying, some products include moisturizing ingredients ideal for sensitive skin.
Antioxidants: Most skincare experts agree that any skincare product you use should include some antioxidant ingredients which help nourish the skin, especially important after a deep clean like an exfoliating mask. Ingredients like green tea or Vitamin C are common and especially useful.
Wash off vs. Peel: Many charcoal masks are peel-off masks, so when the mask dries, you peel it from your skin like a film (yes, like American Psycho). Wash off masks are simply rinsed away with warm water and a clean cloth. While most peel off masks are perfectly gentle, charcoal masks can sometimes be particularly difficult to remove because of how strongly they adhere to the skin. This can be irritating, especially around the beard area, so best to pull off gently. That said, they produce an extremely satisfying colony of gunk pulled from your pores.
1. Piero Lorenzo Blackhead Remover Mask
For peel-off masks, we particularly like this activated charcoal “suction” mask, which uses the properties of bamboo charcoal to soak up excess oil, dirt, and other impurities from enlarged pores. The mask also helps to clear away stubborn blackheads that create that dreaded red “strawberry nose.”
This mask is a particularly strong cleanser, which is why we like that the formula also includes nourishing antioxidants like green tea and chamomile, as well as hyaluronic acid, which is an effective hydrating agent.
To use the mask, apply a thin layer to the skin and allow to dry before peeling off. You may need a thicker layer for more troublesome skin and acne problems. Follow up by applying a warm, damp towel, and never use on irritated skin.
Pros: Highly-effective at clearing away blackheads and clogged pores and includes nourishing antioxidants.
Cons: Not recommended for sensitive skin. The manufacturer claims the mask will shrink pores, but we would note that while pores cannot really be made smaller with any product, cleaning them out will definitely reduce their appearance.
2. RUGGED & DAPPER Detox and Acne Face Mask
This Rugged and Dapper mask is made with kaolin clay, a clay shown to be especially detoxifying. According to the brand, this product was developed by a husband and wife team, when the husband needed something to protect the skin from the harsh conditions of his construction job while still suiting his low-maintenance lifestyle.
We like the formula’s natural hydrating and antioxidant ingredients like aloe vera, spirulina, and sea kelp, in addition to the cleansing power of kaolin clay. We also like that it can be used comfortably by those with or without facial hair.
It is designed to be used twice a week, and comes in a five-ounce jar with distinctly masculine packaging.
Pros: One jar should last you about five months of use. Mask is gentle on facial hair.
Cons: If left too long, the clay can dry out.
3. Men’s Face Mask by Beau Brummell
We like this Beau Brimmel mask because it uses the deep cleansing properties of both kaolin clay and activated charcoal, but is washed off and not a peel. As the clay hardens, it constricts the pores and absorbs excess oils on the face, especially the “T-zone” around your nose and forehead.
This product is especially notable for the fresh, masculine fragrance, developed using only organic essential oils, as synthetic fragrances can clog pores. The scent is earthy and clean, without any of the overwhelming sharpness other men’s fragrances sometimes have. People who use this product note that clearer pores can also help a razor move more smoothly over the skin and helps produce a closer shave.
It comes in a five-ounce tube and should last for around six months.
Pros: Clean, masculine scent and tightens pores.
Cons: It’s pretty thick so it will take a couple of rinses before the product is fully removed.
4. Black Mask by Sunatoria
This is another peel-off charcoal mask we particularly like (again, be careful around the beard area). While charcoal peel-off masks can be harsh on skin, this one has undergone rigorous testing and certification so you can be sure it is safe to use. The manufacturer notes it will not cause redness or irritation.
The high-quality activated carbon has superior deep cleansing and acne-treating properties, while nourishing natural antioxidants — including grape seed, oat extract, rosmarinus, calendula, and citrus nobilis — makes for a more gently exfoliating mask.
While many charcoal masks can be painful to remove, users like how easily this one peels away. We also give it points for the included applicator, which we don’t often find, and for its mild scent which also sets it apart from similar products.
Pros: Gentle on skin without losing efficacy.
Cons: It comes in a two-ounce tube, which is less than our other picks.