Many of us regard the act of slathering our faces with creams, clays, honey—and what have you—as an indulgent skin care routine reserved for girls’ night, complete with chick flicks and pedicures. They’re fun to try, but are masks truly beneficial to your skin’s long-term health?
To be blunt, yes. Regular use of face masks that address your skin type and specific needs can impact your skin’s appearance for the better. Think of face masks like skin therapy; you don’t need to do them every day, but repeated weekly use can greatly improve or heal your concerns over time. Plus, face masks often make your daily moisturizer, cleanser, toner, and other treatments more effective.
That being said, not all masks are created equal. Here’s our guide to selecting a mask for a next-level glow.
So, What’s Your Skin Type?
Oily Skin: Overall, this skin type produces excess oil from overactive sebum glands. Skin develops a greasy sheen throughout the day and is oily to the touch only a few hours after washing. Clogged pores are a common struggle.
Combination Skin: This skin type is both dry and oily, with the T zone being oily and cheeks and chin dry. This skin type tends to struggle with addressing both dry, sensitive skin and excess oil production.
Acne-Prone Skin: This skin type has regular breakouts, whether it’s in the form of active pimples (inflamed) or closed comedones (clogged pores deep underneath the skin).
Sensitive Skin: This skin type is easily irritated by products with chemicals or harsh ingredients, becoming red, dry, and painful.
Mature Skin: This skin type is lacking in collagen and elasticity, appearing less vibrant.
Below you’ll find recommendations that are best for you. Use your masks one to two times a week, and leave them on your face for twenty minutes maximum or as directed by the label.
Oily / Combination / Acne-Prone Skin
- Try Enzyme and Clay Masks
If you have oily, combination, acne prone skin or the trifecta, you know how much of a struggle it is to keep your complexion clear and matte. Oiliness and clogged pores is your daily battle, which is why we recommend both enzyme and clay-based masks for optimal oil absorption and acne prevention.
Deep Pore Cleaning: Clay Masks
The natural clays powerfully draw out impurities without causing irritation from chemicals. Detoxifying masks bring clogged pores to the skin’s surface for extraction while simultaneously decreasing excess oil production. Regular use (one to two times a week) of clay masks can help prevent clogged pores. Look out for masks that contain kaolin, benonite, dead sea mud, and French, red, or Indian clays, as they are effective yet soothing.
Cell Renewal: Enzyme Masks
Those with oily skin also tend to deal with regular breakouts and congested pores, which is why it’s important to use an enzyme mask to exfoliate your skin. Enzyme masks remove dead skin cells by gently dissolving the glue that holds them onto your skin. By getting rid of the excess debris on your skin, your pores will become less clogged and reduce breakouts.
Pro Tip: Even oily and problematic skin needs moisture! Those with oily skin tend to skip moisturizing, so make sure you hydrate after using a mask so that your oil glands don’t overcompensate for the lack of hydration. We suggest using a facial oil (fight oil with oil—we promise it works) such as Herbivore Lapis Facial Oil or a hydrating nighttime serum such as Neil’s Yard Remedies Frankincense Intense serum.
- Try All-Natural Clay Masks and DIY Masks
If you have extremely sensitive skin, you’re very leery of putting anything on your skin. Oftentimes, even products labeled “sensitive” can cause a freak-out. Avoid any masks that have salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, alcohol, benzoyl peroxide, or anything with parabens, sulfates, or fragrance. Look for chemical-free clay masks and DIY face masks to get results without the pain. If your face is feeling particularly inflamed and tender, do the DIY mask instead of the clay because even the gentlest clay mask can be drying.
Easily Agitated: All-Natural Clay Masks
Keep your mask ingredients as pure and organic as possible. If you have sensitive skin that is easily agitated, we suggest using chemical free clay masks because they do not strip the skin of natural oils. Masks that include white clay, French green clay, French yellow clay, pink clay, and kaolin with added soothing ingredients such as rose hip, matcha tea, aloe vera, and chamomile are ideal for your skin type.
Painful or Tender: DIY Masks
Another great way to avoid the burn is to go all natural with your own face masks. When your skin is red and irritated, try a cooling plain yogurt mask with raw or manuka honey. The yogurt will not only soothe your skin, but it also has a whole host of B vitamins, calcium, lactic acid, and zinc that will give you a glowing complexion. Raw or manuka honey (no artificial sugars) is another great addition to your mask, as it has antibacterial properties that fight acne.
Dry / Dehydrated Skin
- Try Cream Masks and Gel Masks
If you have dry skin—even if you also struggle with acne—you know how hard it is to maintain moisture. Flakiness, cracked skin, and overall dry texture is your main concern, so finding a mask to deeply hydrate is key.
There is, however, a difference between dry and dehydrated skin. Dry skin lacks natural oils whereas dehydrated skin lacks water. Because water plumps skin, dehydrated skin often looks sunken in with fine lines and dark circles. It comes from not drinking enough water and using harsh chemical products that strip moisture. Dry skin means your face naturally doesn’t produce enough oil, resulting in flakiness and chapped skin. We suggest those with dry skin use cream masks and those with dehydrated skin use gel masks.
Dryness: Cream Masks
If your skin is lacking natural oil, you want a mask that will add non-comedogenic oils that mimic your natural sebum while also adding water to your skin. Look out for cream masks that include natural non-pore-clogging oils, such as plant-derived squalene, black currant seed, carrot seed, sunflower, argan, grapefruit, rose hip, bergamot, and almond. These oils regulate natural oil production by hydrating your skin and penetrating the surface to deliver key vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants. Humectants are a key ingredient for your mask. Humectants form hydrogen bonds with molecules of water, attracting water like a magnet to lock moisture onto the skin’s surface. Common humectants found in masks are hyaluronic acid and glycerin, as both continue to work long after the cream mask has been removed.
Dehydration: Gel Masks
Gel masks are experts at sending moisture straight into your dehydrated skin. Gel masks also contain humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin to retain water, helping to heal your skin long after you’ve washed it off. Aloe vera, cucumber, and algae are common gel mask ingredients that sooth and cool irritated, dehydrated skin.
Dull / Mature Skin
- Try Enzyme Masks and Vitamin-Rich Masks
If your skin is looking a little lackluster or you’re starting to deal with fine lines, chances are you want to rejuvenate your complexion. We recommend using an exfoliating enzyme mask and vitamin-rich masks. Dead skin cells can exacerbate premature lines, so use your enzyme mask once a week. Use your vitamin mask one to two times a week to regularly send nutrients to revive your skin.
Cell Renewal: Enzyme Masks
Like those with congested skin, you also want to remove the dead skin cells so you can let the new skin from underneath shine through. Enzyme masks speed up your skin cells’ turnover rate but don’t remove live tissue. Continued use of enzyme masks promotes your skin’s collagen production to give you a glowing complexion, which benefits the appearance of your skin long term.
Specific Concerns: Vitamin-Rich Masks
If you’re in need of brightening, look for masks that include vitamins A, C, E, and B5. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has been proven to improves skin elasticity, decrease wrinkles by stimulating collagen synthesis, boost the skin’s immune system, and repair damages caused by external elements. Vitamin E blocks free radicals to inhibit the aging process, heal brown spots, and soften rough skin. Vitamin A is often labeled as “retinol” which increases collagen production and skin cell turnover rate. Lastly, vitamin B5 improves skin’s elasticity because of its water-soluble properties, which help skin retain moisture.