The best face masks and chemical peels don't have to be messy and time-consuming.

By Claudia Fisher
Updated July 29, 2019
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At one point over the past few years, my nighttime skincare routine consisted of nine steps, not including any additional face masks or peels outside my daily products. I actually found myself procrastinating going to sleep because nine steps stood between me and my pillow, and sometimes it was just too daunting after a long day at work or a late night with friends. I started yearning for skincare products I just didn't have to think about too much. Even South Korea, the purported capital of super-lengthy skincare routines, is thinning its lineups now and favoring a so-called “skip-care” approach.

Luckily, I'm in a position where I get to try out a lot of different types of skincare products, including myriad face masks and peels. Following the rising K-beauty trend, I've managed to whittle my nightly skincare routine to a more manageable list, but a lot of that is thanks to a few strong products that I throw into the mix a few times a week. Face masks and peels can really help with persistent concerns you may have, like acne, blackheads, dryness, uneven texture, fine lines, and discoloration. These face masks and peels are quick, easy, and effective–perfect for people who simultaneously want an uncomplicated skincare routine and perfect skin.

InstaNatural Glycolic Peel

Glycolic acid is a widely-used alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) known as somewhat of a skin savior. The little guy (it is a very tiny molecule) exfoliates and smooths your skin, brightening and evening tone while helping to fade scarring and old acne spots. There's a wide range of ways people integrate glycolic acid into their skin-care regimens: Some people use glycolic acid products every day, while others go into a dermatologist's office to get higher-dose chemical peels administered.

InstaNatural's glycolic peel, however, requires much less effort. Once a week, you pump some onto your fingertips, apply a thin layer to your face, and then wash it off with cold water in 30 seconds to a minute. No cotton pads needed, and timing is flexible–you can start out at under a minute and increase the time you leave the solution on your skin based on your own preferences, reactions, and results.

To buy: $26;

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial

Another once-a-week skin treatment, Drunk Elephant's beloved Babyfacial harnesses the power of both AHAs and the beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) salicylic acid. While AHAs are water soluble, salicylic acid is oil-based and gets down to deeper layers of your skin to clear out pores and prevent breakouts.

I typically use this chemical peel on Sunday nights when I'm in need of both a mental and physical reset. The easy thing about this 20-minute, at-home peel is that it comes with a small tube of Drunk Elephant's Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil for a quick dose of deep moisture and rejuvenation immediately following your exfoliating peel. It takes the guesswork of "What product comes next?" out of the skincare equation.

To buy: $80;

Dr. Brandt Skincare Vacuum Cleaner Pore Purifying Mask

This pore-purifying mask is one of the newer releases from Dr. Brandt Skincare's Pores No More line of skincare products, just hitting shelves last year. With both glycolic and salicylic acids, the face mask breaks down dirt and grime deep in your pores to clear them out and remove blackheads, which subsequently helps minimize their appearance.

This exfoliating face mask has been one of the most seamless introductions into my skincare habits because you don't need to keep your eye on the clock, counting down the minutes until it's time to rinse your face. The instructions say to leave the face mask on for five to 10 minutes, but it turns a grayish blue when it's dry, making it pretty easy to notice when it’s time to wash it off. Two to three times a week, I apply a thin layer onto my face, gently blending the blue beads into the clear gel. It's another quick, no-mess beauty product that packs a lot of skin-purifying and smoothing benefits with minimal hassle.

To buy: $42;

Blue Mercury m-61 PowerGlow Peel

Blue Mercury's m-61 exfoliating chemical peel might be the lowest-maintenance, yet effective, skincare treatment you could think up. Individually-wrapped pads come pre-soaked with a solution of glycolic and salicylic acid mixed with vitamin K and antioxidants, which you swipe over your face and then throw out. That's it–there's no wait time or rinse off. It's a one-minute, one-step process that promises to smooth skin, even tone, diminish breakouts, and calm irritation. The mix of exfoliating chemicals and soothing extracts allows to mask to combat oiliness without over-drying or irritating your skin.

To start, the directions recommend using the towelettes three times a week. From there, you can build up the frequency depending on how your skin handles the acids.

To buy: $116;

DR. JART+ Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask

My love for Dr. Jart knows few, if any, bounds. The brand’s BB Cream has been my founding makeup step for almost a decade, and the skincare company has lines that combat everything from redness to extreme dryness with a luxurious medicinal feel to its products. The Korean brand’s Water Fuse Hydro Sleep Mask is particularly easy to use because the formula flouts mask convention, instead featuring directions more akin to a regular nighttime lotion. Every night before bed, apply the sleep mask onto your face after your normal moisturizer and leave it on while you sleep. In the morning, wash your face with warm water. That’s literally all it takes to check “do a hydrating face mask” off your self-care to-do list.

The mask, which works to restore your skin’s moisture balance while you sleep (putting the beauty into beauty rest), has a whopping 10,000 “loves” from Sephora Beauty Insider customers, who love the “amazing” product for its hydrating benefits.

To buy: $48;

Bioré Charcoal Self-Heating One Minute Mask

Charcoal is a great ingredient for drawing out build-up from pores, mattifying, and purifying skin, especially when you’re battling summer humidity. Bioré’s clay mask warms when mixed with water, prompting pores to open wider for a deeper clean, and then cools to leave your skin feeling tingly and refreshed. The one-minute treatment has racked up over 1,500 perfect five-star reviews from customers who notice smoother skin and fewer blackheads with consistent use.

You can use this natural charcoal mask two to three times a week, which means it will take you two to three minutes max every week to give your pores that deep-clean treatment they’ve been yearning for.

To buy: $6;

TONYMOLY I'm Real Hydrating Mask Sheet

Tony Moly is a very fun brand, known for bright, often animal and food-themed product packaging, but don’t let the cartoon-ish imaging fool you: This brand is not child’s play. The highly-effective products from South Korea have gained quite the following among beauty enthusiasts—especially considering you can pick up a pack of the company’s acclaimed sheet masks for under $3 a pop.

The K-beauty brand’s I’m Real Hydrating set features 10 sheet masks with various ingredients and a three-layer sheet design that brightens and soothes your skin via an intense dose of hydration—perfect after weekends spent soaking up the sun and salty ocean water. Slap on a 20-minute sheet mask, and give your sun-kissed skin the glow it deserves.

To buy: $26 for 10;

Boscia Sake Bright White Mask

I’m going to be honest—peel-off masks are never completely hassle-free because they rarely come off your skin in one complete piece, sticking more to areas of your face with any hair and breaking apart as you remove them. That said, if you’re determined to try one, let it be from Japanese-inspired skincare company Boscia. Boscia’s Sake Bright White Mask features an all-star exfoliating ingredient only recently making waves in the Western beauty market: rice ferment filtrate (sake). 

The iridescent cream has a tacky feel when it comes out of the bottle but dries completely on your skin in around 30 minutes. After you peel off the sake brightening mask, you should notice a brighter complexion and more even overall tone thanks to the formula’s hyperpigmentation-fighting benefits.

To buy: $38;