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Masks: Hype or Hero?

Among this year’s biggest skincare trends remains a type of treatment that’s been particularly popular in recent years: masks. From hydrating to oil control, whatever your skin concern, there’s a mask out there for you. But as with any hyped skin trend, there is some fine print you should be aware of before you count on a mask to save your skin. Read on for a few of my tips for finding the most effective formulas.

Look for Hydrating Leave-Ons

When judging the effectiveness of a hydrating mask, I usually look for a clue: does it tell you to leave it on or wash it off? When it comes to hydration, masks can certainly be helpful. However, if you’re washing off a hydrating mask at the end of 15-20 minutes, chances are you aren’t going to see the radical results you might be looking for. Washing your face after using a mask rinses away a lot of the hydrators you just applied. While some will have absorbed into the skin, the moisture can easily evaporate out of your skin after you cleanse unless you immediately apply a serum and moisturizer afterwards. If you’re looking for really quenching results, stick to a leave-on product like a sleeping mask or be sure to slather on some serum and face cream after you rinse.

Oily? Clay is the Real Deal

Clay has been used for centuries to balance oily skin and extract sebum from pores. The results from a clay mask can be great, especially if it also contains some resurfacing acids like lactic and glycolic. If you use a clay mask, be sure to follow immediately with a serum and moisturizer as clay can be quite drying. If you are prone to dryness, apply a clay mask only on oily areas like your T-zone. You should also rinse the mask off just before it becomes completely dry and brittle to avoid zapping your skin of moisture.

Look for Exfoliating Ingredients

As I mentioned, I’m a fan of masks that do double duty with exfoliating ingredients. Look for masks that call out “brightening” or “resurfacing” benefits. Then take a look at the ingredient panel and keep your eyes peeled for lactic acid, glycolic acid, or fruit enzymes. Masks usually contain a lower concentration of these ingredients than peels, but you should still exercise caution and do a patch test on your wrist if you’re trying it for the first time. You should only use brightening masks 1-2 times a week if you’re already using a chemical exfoliant like a peel, and if you experience any discomfort or reaction, discontinue use right away.

Understand your Sheet Masks

Of all the masks on the market, the ones I tend to be most skeptical of are sheet masks. On one hand, they can be absolutely wonderful tools for refreshing and hydrating your skin if you’re feeling tired or dehydrated. On the other hand, I see a lot of unbelievable claims on sheet masks. Most sheet masks are made from a cotton or hydrogel cloth that is soaked in a hydrating serum solution. And yet, I see plenty of sheet masks that claim pore tightening benefits, brightening benefits, even hangover-curing benefits. But when I take a peek at the ingredient listings, I see a virtually identical list from one mask to another. At around 6 bucks a mask, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Sheet masks absolutely have their place—I like to think of them as a big drink of water for your skin. Just keep in mind that if you’re expecting it to do anything other than hydrate, you might want to check your expectations.


Want my take on a mask you love? Let me know in the comments!

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