As a general rule, it's less about the mask type and more about the active ingredients being used in them!
What your skin needs to have in abundance, every day, are three categories of ingredients, regardless of your age or skin type. These categories are antioxidants, skin-replenishing ingredients, and skin-restoring ingredients. Each group includes dozens of amazing ingredients that can provide amazing benefits. Shopping for products that contain a range of these ingredients is the only useful approach to improving your skin’s appearance, and in ways your skin will love.
Stepping into the mask section of Sephora or filtering through the massive selection online can be intimidating. So how do you know what to look for? Start by asking yourself what may be missing in your current regimen you could help support or supplement it with and go from there.
Clay Masks- Clay is best for those with thicker skin and a lot of oil! If you're experiencing extra shine as a result of excess sebum production, you'll want to look for masks with clay, which absorb oils and help detoxify pores. But that’s been said so often over and over again on the internet, so we’re not going to talk about what has already been said!
There are a lot of different clays you can choose from when you’re looking into choosing the right mask for you and it’s all about doing the research to find what’s right for you based on your skin sensitivity. Some of our favorites are rhassoul clay, rose clay (pink), and green (bentonite) clay.
Expert Tip: You can (and should) mix organic aloe vera into your mask before applying. Clay masks can severely dehydrate the skin, causing rebound oil production, which can result in more breakouts for people suffering from acne. Mixing aloe into your clay masks will help reduce inflammation and redness as well as kill bacteria. This also improves the texture of the mask and makes it much easier to remove.
Exfoliating Masks- Exfoliation masks work for every skin type, but it is best for those with combination/dry skin. Masks in this category can go from tackling aggressive skin concerns like hyperpigmentation with a high % of AHA’s and BHA’s, fine lines/wrinkles, dry skin, and less aggressive with enzymes (best option if you have sensitive skin). Exfoliating masks also have natural skin-brightening properties, which will give you that healthy, lit-from-within glow that you’ll see almost instantly.
Expert Tip: Aggressive exfoliating masks are also notorious for being drying, so do remember to load up on moisturizer afterward. If you have sensitive skin, try an enzyme mask. Additionally, the use of an exfoliating mask, given that it works to remove dead skin cells, puts skin in the best possible position to absorb treatments and moisture—so don’t let the window pass for your favorite serums!
Cream Masks- Normal to dry skin types can benefit from a cream mask as a quick pick me up, which is rich in oils that penetrate deeply and replenish dry cells. Masks that contain hyaluronic acid have the added benefit of attracting and binding moisture to plump up flat skin cells. But cream masks aren’t a necessary staple as most of these ingredients are found in your serums and moisturizers already!
Expert Tip: Most times cream masks contain heavy butters/oils like shea butter, coconut oil/butter, which can clog your skin and are harmful for those of us that are breakout-prone. Check out the ingredients to invest in the right cream mask for your skin-type!
Gel Masks- The soothing, cooling effect of a gel mask is great for dry and sensitive skin types that need hydration ahead of firming. Gel masks are infused with collagen and antioxidants that help the skin with recovery!
Expert Tip: It's soothing, hydrating, and cooling, making it great post-procedure or for post-sun exposure to cool down the skin.
Sheet Masks-For starters, sheet masks are easy to apply and can instantly turn you into a panda or princess in seconds (at least, until you take the mask off). The reason they can be as effective as they are is because you apply them on a cleansed face, they stay on your face longer than some steps (like cleansers/moisturizers), and they have a sheet that essentially soaks up the substance that you're applying on the face.
Expert Tip: Skip any kind of rinsing altogether and instead seal in the effects of the mask with your favorite moisturizer, which you should apply immediately after use.
Bubble Masks- Bubble masks usually have a gel texture that transforms into a bubbling foam once applied to the face. They are trend and it looks fun, but the foaming effect has no benefit for skin and the ingredients that make the mask foam can irritate skin.
Peel-off Masks-A good peel off mask gently removes a thin layer of dead skin cells and surface dirt from the pores, which leaves skin feeling smooth. Peel off masks don’t have the ability to penetrate pores and ‘pull’ blackheads and dirt out of them. To lessen blackheads and unclog pores it’s best to use a BHA exfoliant. Home-made peel off masks have also become popular, but some of them are actually harmful for skin, calling for glue and even superglue to be used as a base. Unsurprisingly this is damaging for skin and causes irritation. If you want to use a peel-off mask choose a gentle one that doesn’t contain high concentrations of polyvinyl alcohol, which can have a drying and irritating effect on skin.
Clay- Should only be used in clay masks, you should always pick the right type of clay for your skin if you have more normal skin or sensitive skin! If you see clay in an exfoliating or hydrating mask, this is defeating the purpose of that mask. They are conflicting to use together!
Charcoal- As long as you use it correctly, activated charcoal powders are a safe, affordable and effective way to eliminate toxins.Activated charcoal powder is proven to adsorb thousands of times its own mass in harmful substances, which makes it a popular ingredient, paired with clay that is a powerful duo!
Honey- Naturally antibacterial; so it's great for acne treatment and prevention, not to mention the hefty serving of skin-saving antioxidants. It is also extremely moisturizing and soothing, so it helps create a glow. Honey is mostly found in gel or cream masks as it’s meant to be more moisturizing! And yes, it does matter what kind of honey you use for your skin—namely it needs to be raw and unfiltered. Manuka Honey has the most antibacterial properties.
Hyaluronic Acid- HA is a carbohydrate molecule that is naturally occurring in our bodies. That’s right, it’s already in your skin! It is a humectant, which means it grabs moisture and holds it so skin can absorb it. This ingredient should always be in our moisturizers but you’ll find this in gel masks as they are meant to be super hydrating!
Oils- Face oils are full of beneficial antioxidants and help to retain moisture and elasticity to your skin. Oils can be found in almost every mask product in addition to a lot of our essential skincare products. Depending on your skin sensitivity most oils are comedogenic and clog pores, but depending on your skin tolerance most people can handle oils up to a comedogenic rating of 1, be sure to always test and check out the ingredient lists!
Enzymes- Enzymes work by breaking down the keratin protein to remove the dead skin cells, resulting in smoother skin and a more radiant complexion. They can also penetrate the skin to cleanse pores and improve skin texture and tone. They exfoliate ONLY dead cells, which is a big reason why enzymes are great for nearly all skin types. When using exfoliating masks, a lot of them have beneficial ingredients alongside them (humectants, antioxidants) but some also contain clay which we think is so counterintuitive!
AHA’s- AHAs work on skin’s surface, and are water soluble. They’re generally preferred for normal to dry, sun-damaged skin, due to their ability to enhance natural moisturizing factors within skin. They’ve also been proven effective in reducing the visible signs of sun damage.
BHA’s- BHA works on skin’s surfaceandinside the pore; it’s oil soluble, so it’s most often preferred for normal to oily skin prone to bumps, clogs, blemishes, and enlarged pores. BHA also has natural skin-calming properties, so it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin prone to redness and/or rosacea. This well-rounded, gentle ingredient is even suitable for skin prone to milia.
Algae- Algae are very simple, chlorophyll-containing organisms in a family that includes more than 20,000 different known species. In cosmetics, algae act as thickening agents, water-binding agents, and antioxidants. Some algae are also potential skin sensitizers. For example, the phycocyanin present in blue-green algae has been suspected of sensitization on the basis of patch tests. There's enough science here to say that algae, seaweed and kelp may provide some benefits but of course it depends on the specific type of extract, how it's processed, and how much is used. Be cautious when using algae in skincare products!
Squalane/Squalene- Used in skincare products as a highly-effective emollient and natural antioxidant. Historically, they've been used in the medical field to treat wounds and skin problems. They help to prevent sun damage, which can have a premature aging effect on the skin and serves as a moisturizer that increases the skin's hydration. Squalene is known to be comedogenic to those who are breakout-out prone, be sure to test out your skin sensitivity!
Turmeric Powder/Extract- It may help reduce acne and any resulting scars, the anti-inflammatory qualities can target your pores and calm the skin.
Green Tea Powder/Extract- The bitter, astringent taste in green tea comes from the tannins it contains. These compounds can shrink your pores and reduce your sebum production.
Sulfur- As a topical acne treatment, sulfur works similarly to benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. But unlike these other acne-fighting ingredients, sulfur tends to be gentler on your skin. Sulfur helps dry out the surface of your skin to help absorb excess oil (sebum) that may contribute to acne breakouts.
Vitamin C- Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals in the skin. Free radicals are atoms or molecules with an unpaired electron that can damage the skin and cause aging.
Retinol- A weaker, over the counter version of tretinoin, a prescription vitamin A derivative that is highly effective in reversing sun damage and signs of aging. Based on the chemistry of the ingredients, which cause a drying effect of the oil glands, even over-the-counter retinols can lead to redness and flaking, always start slow before using a product daily!
Tretinoin- Decreases fine lines, evens skin color, improves texture, tightens pores, and stimulates blood flow and collagen production.
The following ingredients in masks are safe to use everyday:
If you have very sensitive skin, you'll want to avoid strong actives like retinol, glycolic, and salicylic acid, which may aggravate the skin. Instead, look for masks with calming and soothing ingredients like aloe, oats, hyaluronic acid, and honey.
Peel-off masks can be especially harsh for sensitive-skin types, so stick to the lighter, whipped textures, and definitely search for a fragrance-free and alcohol-free option.
You can never start too early when it comes to anti-aging masks, so normal skin types may want to choose something hydrating and exfoliating! When it comes to exfoliating masks, those with enzymes are your safest and gentlest option. I like to think of enzymes as little 'Pac-Men' that eat away at dead skin. They are self-neutralizing and are only attracted to dead tissue, which make enzymatic masks easy and foolproof. The results: excess skin is gone, and a radiant glowing complexion is in full effect.
When it comes to gel masks, cream masks, sheet masks etc. those ingredients are normally already found in your regular skincare products. Unless you need it in a higher concentration, and it’s your main and only skin concern does it make sense!
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Enzymes are very effective for treating problematic breakouts and acne. Softening the skin surface and preparing the skin for extraction of open and closed comedones, pustules and sebaceous cysts.