Do Face Masks Actually Do Anything For Your Skin?

It is no surprise that face masks are among the most popular spa procedures. The tingling, the texture, the soothing smell, and the overall ahhhhh factor are major pluses. But are these just facial sensory frills, or can masks really do something good for your skin?

Here is my take: I think of them as the deadlift to my squat. A complementary move that offers more benefit when part of a bigger, more elaborate booty-building routine. In other words, masks may offer some advantage alone, but they’re more useful in the context of daily sunscreen, antixodiant, and retinol use. The synergistic effect of both together gives more radiance than either by itself.

To ensure that I wasn’t alone on this, I polled top dermatologists from across the country to get their take on the matter. Here is what they had to say:

Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Cornell Weill Hospital, New York City: “Masks are a great tool in the beauty arsenal—they give immediate gratification for a multitude of conditions including dryness, inflammation, redness, or even acne. Depending on what your skin type is, there is most likely a mask out there that can give you an instant boost.”

Her Must-Have Masks:

  • Mario Badescu Drying Mask, because it absorbs excess oil and soothes.
  • Fresh Black Tea Overnight Mask, which is perfect for combating fine lines while your skin cells regenerate during sleep.

Dr. Deirdre Hooper, Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology, Louisiana State University, New Orleans: “Face masks are occlusive—they blanket the skin and drive products in deeply. Masks can deliver higher concentrations of active ingredients to plump, hydrate, and balance the skin.”

Her Must-Have Masks:

  • Revision Black Mask is great for oily skin because it uses clay to soak up oil, and salicylic acid to exfoliate—but it doesn’t over-dry.
  • Avène Soothing Moisture Mask to hydrate dry skin. Hooper thinks it is great “pre-event!”

Dr. Annie Chiu, Attending Dermatologist, Cedar Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles: “I think masks are great for targeted skin problems, like dry or sensitive skin. In my practice we recommend soothing masks post light lasers and peels to decrease redness and speed healing.”

Her Must-Have Mask:

  • Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Masque to soothe sensitive, irritated, or post-procedure skin.

To simplify, here is a quick reference guide for mask ingredients to look for based on skin type/condition:

  • Acne: Salicylic acid
  • Dryness: Hyaluronic acid
  • Fine lines: Vitamin C or other antioxidants
  • Rosacea: Niacinamide
  • Dark spots: Soy, or licorice root extract

A couple last things to keep in mind. If DIY is your MO, remember these two important tips before you apply a mask:

  1. Make sure to wash the skin with a nourishing, pH-neutral, non-soap cleanser—the slate should be clean. Dove White BeautyBaris an easy and affordable choice.
  2. Use warm water to rinse, so pores open. This leaves a perfect canvas for the mask.

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