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How to Choose a Facial Mask

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 23, 2021

If you’re looking to introduce a new habit into your skincare routine, you could do worse than the classic facial mask. Facial masks may look silly, but the results can be worth it! They can produce beautiful results. Not all masks are created equal, though. 

How Do Face Masks Work?

If you’re looking to include facial masks in your skincare routine, you have a lot of choices. Exactly what's best for you depends on your skin and preferences — as well as your budget. Here's what you should know. Keep in mind that while masks can be a fun, relaxing treat, they're designed to be a temporary boost. If you have specific skin concerns, you might want to see a dermatologist.

Masks hold active ingredients or moisture next to your skin. This creates a film that exfoliates, dries, or hydrates your skin, depending on which type of product you choose. As a result, the main ingredient — such as Vitamin C, retinoids, or salicylic acid — gets deeper into your skin in a much shorter amount of time than with something like a serum or lotion.

How Do You Choose the Best Mask for Your Skin?

The type of face mask you choose should depend on your skincare goals, skin type, and product quality. Here are some tips for choosing the right facial mask for your skin:

Consider mask types. Face masks are one of the most popular ways to refresh the skin. You'll want to start by thinking about the type of mask you would prefer. Do you want one that is easy to use? Is the intensity of your results more important than convenience? There are several types of at-home masks to choose from:

  • Sheet masks. Well liked for their ease of use, sheet masks are often moisturizing and packed with antioxidants. To enjoy a cooling experience and boost the calming effects of your sheet mask, place it in the refrigerator. Sheet masks are usually simple to apply and easy to remove. 
  • Peel-off masks. Peel-off masks provide an intense clean with less mess than a traditional clay mask. Peel-off masks are applied to the skin, left for a period of time, then gently peeled off. Peel-off options have been shown to moisturize skin better than a traditional lotion. 
  • Clay masks. Masks made of clay, sulfur, or mud may offer plenty of skincare benefits. They are perfect for soaking up excess oil and dirt. These types of masks minimize impurities and exfoliate your skin. 
  • Hydrogels. Hydrogels are made of a thick gel that delivers intense ingredients. They are suitable for eye masks or other spot treatments because they can improve hydration, especially when combined with a collagen peptide.

Read the ingredients. The next step to picking the perfect facial mask is finding the best ingredients for your skin type. You should always look for products that are hypoallergenic, fragrance free, dye free, and paraben free. Once you've found a clean line of products, decide on your skincare goals, and choose a product that can help you reach them with the right ingredients:

  • Dry skin. If you get dry skin, the best ingredient to look for is hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid can moisturize and rejuvenate the skin.
  • Aging skin. If you’re noticing more fine lines and wrinkles, or even hyperpigmentation from the sun, look for a mask that contains Vitamin C. Vitamin C is well known for its ability to boost collagen and help protect against sun damage. Using a mask with Vitamin C as its active ingredient may help you get a youthful glow. 
  • Acne-prone skin. If you are looking to fight acne or blemishes, choose a mask that uses salicylic acid as an active ingredient. Salicylic acid soothes irritation and may block new acne from forming. This makes it perfect for masks to treat acne flare-ups. 
  • Redness-prone skin. Masks that have niacinamide may be your secret weapon when it comes to soothing rosacea or redness. Studies show that niacinamide is a good tool for minimizing redness and blotchiness along with fine lines and hyperpigmentation. 
  • Dark spots or pigmentation. With its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, kojic acid may help reduce the appearance of dark spots and pigmentation. If you’re looking to minimize sun damage or soothe hyperpigmentation, look for a mask that contains kojic acid or soy. 

Look for budget-friendly products. A wide range of masks are available over the counter to match budgets of every size. However, the priciest masks are not always the best option.

Instead of looking for the flashiest or most expensive mask, focus on your specific skincare needs. Even if you’ve heard others raving about a particular brand, check out the ingredients. The chances are that you can find a similar product for less money at your local drugstore.

Do a test run. Before you use any new products into your skincare routine, always use a patch test. You want to make sure that your skin doesn’t react adversely to your new mask.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy: “Kojic acid applications in cosmetic and pharmaceutical preparations.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Do Face Masks Actually Work or Are They Just a Fad?”

Experimental Dermatology: “Salicylic acid treats acne vulgaris by suppressing AMPK/SREBP1 pathway in sebocytes.” 

International Journal of Cosmetic Science: “Topical niacinamide reduces yellowing, wrinkling, red blotchiness, and hyperpigmented spots in aging facial skin.”

Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: “Skin care and rejuvenation by cosmeceutical facial mask.” 

Nutrients: “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health.”

Penn Medicine: “The Magical Mask: How Do Face Masks Even Work?”

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