Wintertime is the best time for a ‘me-time’ face mask session.
To serious skincare scholars (and you, dear GP reader, are most definitely hardcore beauty buffs), face masks are as essential as cleanser, and they’ve rightly earned a rep for delivering spectacular results, fast.
Whether you’re using a clay or sheet mask, looking to amp up your glow or take down a pimple, we’re here to help you put your best face forward.
First, do your homework
Ask yourself: what are hoping to achieve? If your skin is a little spotty or oily, look for masks with detoxifying ingredients like clay, charcoal, and salicylic acid (try The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque, $21.90, or Innisfree Super Volcanic Clay Mousse Mask, $32.
Anti-inflammatory ingredients, like niacinamide and aloe vera, can help soothe sensitive skin (like The Body Shop Aloe Calm Sheet Mask, $7), vitamin C can give dull skin a brightening boost (find it in This Works Morning Expert Vitamin C Power Mask, $77), and peptides and ceramides can help tighten slack skin (like Aceology Anti-Aging Gold Modelling Mask, $79 for 4).
And if your face is starting to feel thirsty, as is probably the case at this time of year, you might be tempted to pick up a ‘watery’ mask–don’t. Instead, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and nourishing oils, that come in an “emulsion or creamy formula, or even an overnight mask, as these are more effective for dry skin and the damaged moisture barrier that can happen during cold weather,” explains Innisfree facemask expert Hyejung Oh.
If your face is feeling prickly or puffy, place your mask in the fridge beforehand to help calm the skin (at all other times, store masks in a cool, dry place, and “keep sheet masks horizontal so the essence doesn’t shift to one side, and always gently rub the packet before opening so the essence spreads out evenly,” advises Oh).
Skip anything too fragrant if you have sensitive skin, and please, for heaven’s sake, do not experiment the day before a big ‘do. “Avoid foil, exfoliating or detox masks 24 hours before an event, unless you know the product and how your skin reacts to it, or just stick to an instant-glow mask or something you’ve used before,” warns Aceology skincare expert Caitlin Hodgson. Once you’ve picked your perfect match, it’s time to get your skin ready. One of the reasons we’re all obsessed with masks is that most of them offer rapid results, and that’s because “we’re taking the time to set up the conditions for optimum uptake of actives and ingredients, which we don’t usually do when we’re rushing through our daily skincare routine,” explains Hodgson. So start with fresh, smooth skin (that means cleanse and gently exfoliate), and then try this: “Press a warm, damp towel over your face to open up the pores–this will enhance absorption of the mask’s active ingredients and boost the benefits,” suggests Oh. Just make sure the cloth is not too hot, as this will only irritate the skin.
More is more – but only sometimes
Also not for the time poor: doing two face masks in a row, which is becoming more popular. If you want to give it a try, a good basic duo is a detoxifying or deep-cleansing mask first, followed with something hydrating, soothing or brightening.
But as with most things in life, too much of a good thing can lead to not-so-good things, namely, skin reactions. Hodgson suggests restricting general mask use to two to three times per week, max, to give skin the chance to breathe and actually benefit from each application, and using masks with high-performance or active ingredients no more than two times per week. (Besides, as Hodgson wisely notes, masking every day can take the novelty out of the process.) The only exception is “a light, hydrating mask, which can often be used daily to replace multiple skincare steps,” explains Oh.
And it goes without saying but always, always, follow instructions. If you think leaving a mask on longer than recommended will encourage more ingredient absorption, you would be wrong. Instructions are there for a reason, and leaving a mask on your mug longer than indicated can actually dehydrate and irritate skin. Which defeats the purpose of why you’re masking in the first place.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Gritty Pretty Magazine.