Everything You Need to Know About Using Face Masks
Face masks can play an important supporting role when you’re dealing with dry skin, dehydrated skin, or oily skin and want to do everything possible to help. The question is: Should you use one? And, if so, at what point in your routine, and how, do you use the face mask? We’ve got the answers!
What Face Mask is Best for My Skin Type?
If you already have a great complexion, a face mask isn’t an essential part of your skin care routine; however, even if your facial skin generally looks fantastic, a face mask can still be useful for those times when skin looks and feels less than optimal.
Regardless of your skin type or concerns, the best face masks are loaded with beneficial ingredients (such as antioxidants, emollients, and humectants), come in opaque, air-restrictive packaging (to prolong stability), and avoid ingredients that are drying or irritating (including denatured alcohol, fragrance, and essential oils.)
Charcoal Masks and Clay Masks for Large, Clogged Pores
Both charcoal and clay have unique absorbent properties, and their gentle drawing action can help dislodge debris from congested pores. A well-formulated charcoal mask or clay mask will leave your skin shine-free, but not dried out. Oil-absorbing face masks can be extremely beneficial for excessively oily, clog-prone skin or a shiny T-zone (nose, forehead, and chin).
When shopping for charcoal or clay masks, read their labels closely. Because these masks can feel temporarily "tightening" in use, it's important to select one that includes emollients and soothing agents. As always, steer clear of common skin irritants, ranging from menthol to alcohol, eucalyptus, mint, and fragrance (both natural and synthetic fragrance is a problem for skin).
Hydrating Face Masks (AKA Overnight or Sleeping Masks)
The goal of a “sleep mask” is to lock in hydration and add anti-aging benefits (depending on the formula). Keeping the beneficial ingredients on skin longer than a traditional, rinse-off mask means they have more time to work, making them more effective.
If you have dry skin or oily, combination skin that's dehydrated, a hydrating face mask can help skin hold onto moisture longer. Depending on how dry your skin is, when using an overnight mask, you may find that you don't need to use your regular nighttime moisturizer, but those with very dry skin may still want to double up on both.
Brightening Masks for Uneven Skin Tone
Brightening face masks are intended to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone and bring radiance to a dull complexion. The best of them include concentrated combinations of effective brightening ingredients, such as arbutin, licorice, bearberry, vitamin C, tranexamic acid, and niacinamide.
Brightening masks are excellent for anyone who wants to improve the appearance of uneven skin tone and get a glowing complexion.
When and How to Use Face Masks
Here’s how and when to use a face mask, depending on your skin concerns and type of mask:
- Whether it’s a clay mask, cream mask, sheet mask, peel-off mask, or other type of face mask, always cleanse your skin first.
- If the face mask is supposed to be rinsed off, apply it after cleansing, but before the rest of your skin care routine.
- If the face mask is supposed to be left on overnight, apply it as the last step in your nighttime skin care routine.
- As mentioned above, most leave-on masks are hydrating, so you might be able to skip applying your regular nighttime moisturizer—but you’ll want to apply the mask and your face moisturizer if you have very dry skin.
References for this information:
Indian Journal of Dermatology, May-June 2016, pages 279–287
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2014, pages 355–360
Journal of Cosmetic Science, September-October 2011, pages 505–514
Applied Clay Science, Volume 36, 2007, pages 4–21.
About the Experts
Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:
The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!