Would you like to brighten up your skin with an effective face mask? We tested some of the most popular products on the market and nominate The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution as the best in test.
Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.
The face masks were used regularly a couple of times a week for four weeks by people of different ages, who are all regular users of face masks. The instructions on the packaging were followed in terms of how the masks should be applied and how long they should be left on before removal.
Use: How easy is it to apply the face mask? Is it easy to remove?
Fragrance and packaging: Is the packaging user-friendly and hygienic? Is there a lot of unnecessary packaging? Is the scent irritating?
Results: Does the product deliver what it promises? Does the skin get irritated? Is the result immediate or long-term, or simply absent?
The evaluation was based on the total overall experience of the face mask. This was then weighed against the price of the product and a score allocated.
We tested a selection of the market's most popular face masks. Compare prices of all listed face masks on Pricerunner here.
Great value, very effective face mask that both peels and exfoliates
Type: Liquid Purpose: Exfoliating Price: Budget
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is startlingly nicknamed “the blood mask”. Why this is becomes clear when you use the pipette to drip the liquid mask into your hand – because it really looks like you have filled your palm with blood.
This is a combined AHA and BHA mask. AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) exfoliates the surface of the skin, is water soluble and is used to peel off the old skin cells. BHA (beta hydroxy acid) is fat soluble, which means it effectively dissolves sebum so it can get into the pores and remove the dirt that’s collected there. In other words, this mask does a really good job of peeling your skin – and it definitely feels like it when you apply it.
Just like almost every other mask containing AHA and BHA, this mask makes your face tingle, while simultaneously making you look like you've been in a performance of Carrie. But the tingle and the terrifying appearance produce a really great result, and if you use it 1-2 times a week (according to the instructions, you shouldn’t use it more often than this) your skin will definitely look clearer and cleaner.
It’s also so cheap and good value that there’s no point not testing it if you're looking for an acid face mask. The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution does a thorough job of exfoliating the skin, so don’t forget to moisturise afterwards, ideally with a moisture-boosting night mask.
An organic face mask that exfoliates and challenges more expensive brands
Type: Gel cream Purpose: Exfoliating Price: Medium
eCooking is a Danish brand that offers organic products. Several of their products come in brown glass bottles or jars reminiscent of old-fashioned apothecary packaging, and they're a pleasure to set out in the bathroom.
eCooking Peeling Mask is a pleasant gel cream that you most easily apply using a facial mask tool (these look like a flat spade, with the blade often made of silicone). You apply the mask after cleaning the skin, and to begin with it shouldn’t be used for longer than 4-6 minutes. But you do have to be careful about the timing. As with all exfoliating masks, it’s a good idea to start with a really short treatment – even if the tingly feeling goes off after a couple of minutes. One of our testers ended up with extremely red skin after using eCooking Peeling Mask, and while you can expect a certain amount of redness, it should disappear quickly.
This mask makes your skin tingle quite a lot, which is normal for an exfoliating product containing lactic acid, salicylic acid and AHA. And you don’t have to wait for the results – the skin immediately looks clearer. The mask quickly polishes away dry areas, but make sure you moisturise thoroughly afterwards, ideally with a cream that has a calming effect.
If you’re looking for an exfoliating mask that’s extremely effective, you should try the eCooking Peeling Mask – but be careful, as this isn’t a product for sensitive skins.
Effective moisturising face mask that comes in a practical tube
Type: Cream Purpose: Moisturising Price: Medium
The only thing that lets down Beauté Pacifique Instant Hydrating Mask is that the scent feels a bit too much and a little old-fashioned, but otherwise this is a lovely moisturising mask. Instant Hydrating Mask contains proven moisturisers such as glycerin, squalane and vitamin A, which makes this mask great not only for dry but also for mature skin.
This is a mask that doesn’t need to be washed off and therefore works really well as a night mask. You simply apply a generous layer before bedtime (preferably after using an exfoliating face mask), massage it in a bit and then enjoy a really well moisturised face when you wake up.
It might seem odd to call a night mask ‘a quick fix’, but as you sleep through most of the action, it feels quite magical to wake up with soft and happy skin like you do with Beauté Pacifique Instant Hydrating Mask as your bedmate.
Soothing and moisturising face mask that’s a real life saver for dry skin
Type: Bouncy Purpose: Moisturising Price: Medium
Not many face masks make you giggle with pleasure, but Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask actually does exactly that – it’s a mask that not only gives great results but is fun to use as well.
Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask comes in a jar with a screw lid, something that’s not really ideal for skincare products in general as the contents quickly come into contact with air, and air means the expensive ingredients start to oxidise. But when you feel the consistency of this mask, you can see why it comes in a jar – because it’s what’s known as a bouncy mask.
The texture can best be described as pudding-like. You initially think that this type of consistency will make the mask difficult to apply, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Because it melts in contact with the skin, turning into a thick, milky serum that’s really easy to apply.
This is a true multi-purpose product, making it feel great value for money. It’s primarily a night mask, which means you apply it before bedtime and then leave it on overnight. When you wake, your skin feels wonderfully smooth and looks brighter.
You can also use it as a serum before your day cream, and some of our testers also had success when they tried it as a primer before applying their make-up. Regardless of how you use it, you quickly notice the difference, particularly if your skin is tight and miserable after a sudden change in the weather.
The mask ingredients include niacinamide, which can give a more even skin surface and reduce the impression of visible pores, together with vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that strengthens and protects the skin. Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask is a lifesaver for dry skin, and the fabulous consistency really will make you smile.
A mask that gives lots of moisture and is ideal for night time use
Imagine a mask that takes your dehydrated winter skin and pumps it full of moisture while you sleep! Well, that’s N.C.P Essentials Revitalization Mask.
This isn’t actually a dedicated night mask, and you only need to have it on for 20 minutes to make your skin feel less tight and dry. But it’s if you leave it to work overnight that you’ll see real, fast results.
You use a night mask like you would a night cream, with the difference that you perhaps apply it a bit more generously. N.C.P Essentials Revitalization Mask looks like a normal, if slightly richer cream. In other words, it isn’t a clay mask, and anyone you’re sharing your bed with won’t even notice you’re giving yourself a minor spa treatment overnight.
Hyaluronic acid helps to bind the moisture, and a moisture boosted skin often gives the impression of having fewer and less deep lines. If you suffer from extremely dry skin, this mask will be like a gift from above.
In terms of scent, it smells like any other unperfumed cream or mask – in other words of nothing very much but a hint of skincare product.
It’s easy to like this mask, and it will quickly become a recurring part of your bedtime routine during the cold and dry months.
Effective cleansing face mask with a distinctive scent and anti-inflammatory properties
Type: Clay mask Purpose: Cleansing Price: Medium
The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask is a clay mask that really makes your skin tingle. With ingredients such as activated carbon from bamboo, crushed tea leaves and tea tree oil, this mask is particularly suitable for people with greasy skin, as the carbon has anti-inflammatory properties and the tea tree oil gives a clearer skin.
The mask gives a real tingle on the skin and the result is that your skin both feels and looks cleaner after use. At least... it feels like that once you’ve managed to wash off the mask, because this product isn’t quite so easy to get rid of once the time comes.
The clay sticks, the crushed tea leaves are really stubborn and once the mask is off your face, your sink will look like a muddy field. The easiest way to get rid of the mask is to use a washcloth, preferably made of towelling, but be careful not to rub too hard.
The biggest downside to The Body Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow Mask is the extremely strong odour. It has a strong scent, and the tea tree oil also smells rather strong and the combination of the two almost makes your eyes water. And unfortunately not from happiness. The jar, made of heavy glass with a screw cap, doesn’t gain any plus points, even though it is nice to look at.
But despite its shortcomings, the benefits of this mask still outweigh the downsides and there’s no denying that this is an effective mask for greasy skin. If, on the other hand, you have dry or sensitive skin, you should be careful with this clay mask.
Bubbly face mask with clever packaging that gives an immediate, invigorating result
Type: Oxygenating Purpose: Exfoliating Price: Premium
Filorga Scrub & Mask is an oxygenating face mask that contains small grains. You apply the mask by massaging it in, which allows the grains to lightly exfoliate your skin, and then the mask begins to bubble. The fact that it bubbles usually gives this type of face mask the nickname of champagne mask – which, sadly, doesn’t mean the mask contains that famous sparkling drink.
You let the mask bubble until it stops. Once the last bit of the mask is then rinsed off, your skin looks fantastic. After this scrub mask, your skin gets an immediately visible pick-me-up and even if you're the kind of person who sleeps far too little, it almost looks as if you've been able to sleep in peace and quiet for at least three or four nights!
The feeling of the mask bubbling perhaps isn’t for everyone. Instead of being calming or refreshing it can sometimes feel more irritating, as if you constantly have a fly landing on your cheek. But if you breathe deeply through this particular feeling, you're rewarded with visibly brighter skin.
The mask does come in a jar, but the jar has a pump lid so the product is protected and you don’t have to dig it out using a spatula or your fingers. If you don’t mind the bubbling, Filorga Scrub & Mask is a face mask that produces a fast, revitalising result.
Maybe you have sceptical memories of face masks from your childhood – sticky things that set on your face only to cause a lot of pain and leave behind irritated, dry skin when you removed them. But face masks have come a long way since then, and nowadays there are a huge range of masks that will help you get the best from your skin. See them as an intensive beauty treatment – because a good face mask can give your skin a real boost in a short period of time.
When you choose a face mask, it's important to remember what type of skin you have – dry, sensitive, greasy, mature or combination. It’s also useful to think about what effect you want from the face mask. In the winter perhaps you want a moisturising mask for when your skin feels dry and tight. In the summer maybe you're after a mask that will calm your skin after too many hours in the sun.
Face masks are generally used after cleansing but before serum and moisturiser, unless you’re using a sheet mask. If so, these are best used after you've applied serum but before you moisturise. But night masks are the last thing you apply during your beauty routine, and as the name implies you leave them on the skin overnight. How often you want to use a face mask, and what type, is entirely up to you. If you find face masks hard to wash off, you can use a washcloth and lukewarm water.