Why You Should Be Masking
From clarifying and brightening to moisturizing and firming–there’s a face mask for that
Once reserved for traditional facial spa treatments, the at-home face mask market has boomed over the last several years. Chalk it up to K-beauty and the introduction of the sheet mask, or pandemic lockdown that forced us all to take beauty matters into our own hands–whatever the reason, masking is having a moment and we are not mad about it. Aside from providing an indulgent moment of self-care, a face mask can deliver an instant glow in a hurry, revive dehydrated skin in minutes, and treat a variety of skin concerns from breakouts to hyperpigmentation. For that reason, we believe, you can never have too many face masks. But how do you choose the right ones for you? Read on for our guide to this skincare must-have.
What Are the Benefits of a Face Mask?
Just like a serum or moisturizer, a face mask is essentially a skincare ingredient vehicle. No matter what the type, face masks are designed to deliver highly concentrated actives, vitamins, and nutrients to the skin in an intensive burst. Most masks, unless they are overnight, are designed to be left on the skin for 10 to 20 minutes, giving the ingredients time to penetrate the surface of the skin and take effect. Face masks are also occlusive, meaning they create a physical barrier that locks in beneficial ingredients, and allows the skin to absorb them more efficiently.
Face masks are designed to be used intermittently, two to three times a week, and depending on what your skin needs. Among the many issues that a mask can tackle are dryness, enlarged pores, uneven skin texture and tone, clogged pores, breakouts, and redness. Some are meant to be rinsed off, some wiped off, and some left on like a serum. Like any skincare product, they are formulated to target specific skincare concerns or, more recently, areas of the face including the eyes, lips, and even the neck and décolletage.
What Are the Best Face Masks for Your Skin Type?
Clay and Mud Masks
Suffering from acne, breakouts, or excess oiliness? Reach for a face mask that contains clay or mud. From soft, white Kaolin clay, which gently absorbs excess sebum while providing mild exfoliation, to mineral rich Green, Rhassoul, and Bentonite Clays, which draw out impurities while delivering nutrients, these ingredients are best suited to normal, oily, and blemish-prone skin. Like clay masks, mud masks are known for their antibacterial and exfoliating benefits and are perfect for removing dead skin cells and impurities. Muds containing Silica, meanwhile, have also been found to improve skin barrier function.
Defined by a cool, jelly-like texture and a high concentration of water, gel masks are largely focused on soothing and hydrating. Often formulated with humectants like Aloe Vera, Hyaluronic Acid, and Glycerin, which attract moisture, leaving your skin plump and hydrated, and calming botanical extracts like chamomile and damask rose, which combat redness and irritation, gel masks often also contain ingredients that firm and tighten tired skin. Due to their replenishing nature, gel masks are a go-to for sensitive and dry skin types.
As the name suggests, cream masks have a rich, creamy consistency similar to a rich moisturizer. Formulated with emollients and oils, cream masks can deliver deep hydration and many can be left on all day or overnight like a night cream for even deeper absorption. Best for dry and mature skin types, cream masks are also a great option for restoring moisture after a long haul flight or during the cold winter months when a combination of dry and cold air can exacerbate dryness and irritation.
Almost unheard of outside of South Korea until going viral via the sheet-mask selfie craze of 2016, these single-use, serum-soaked, sheets of cellulose are now ubiquitous. With a wide range of formulations tailored to address nearly every skin concern from uneven skin tone and texture to dullness and dryness, sheet masks are easy, effective, and fun to use. Unlike other delivery systems, the ingredients in sheet masks are not meant to be rinsed off but left on the skin like a treatment. Don’t forget to use the excess on your neck and décolletage to get the most out of them.
Eye masks are a great new addition to the at-home face mask category. Perfect for traveling or a quick pick-me-up, eye masks provide formulations targeted for the delicate skin around the eyes. Whether you are looking to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, crow's feet, and dark circles or eliminate puffiness caused by a lack of sleep, an eye mask is quick, effective, and delivers immediate results.
How To Mask Properly
Like any skincare product, to get the most out of your mask, there’s a method. A freshly washed face before masking goes without saying. As to how often you should mask, some (such as sheet masks) can be used daily, others (with more active ingredients) only once or twice a week as a treatment. And there is more than one way to mask.
Using two face masks simultaneously can be a gamechanger for your skincare routine. By strategically applying different masks to different parts of your face to target specific concerns, you can create a custom treatment tailored for your skin. For example, apply a clay mask to your T-zone to control oil and minimize pores, and a firming or brightening mask to the rest of your face. Alternatively, start with a mask that is either exfoliating or detoxifying and then follow up with a hydrating or nourishing mask.
All Day and Overnight Masking
Looking for a serious boost of hydration or a major glow up? Leave your face mask on for longer–as in all day or overnight. While some masks are explicitly billed as leave-on formulas, any brightening, firming, and hydrating formulas that are blendable can be used (avoid colored, clay, and exfoliating masks with acids or active enzymes, as these are not meant to be left on the skin for an extended period of time) and look for ingredients like collagen-boosting Peptides, pollution-fighting Antioxidants, moisture-retaining Hyaluronic Acid, and complexion-correcting Niacinamide.
Here, some of our favorite face masks for every occasion
Best Hydrating Face Masks
Best Brightening Face Masks
Best Exfoliating Face Masks
Best Sheet Masks
Best Leave On Masks