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Face Masks 101: How They Work And How to Use Them

Posted by Nikki Wisher on Mar 11th 2021

Face Masks 101: How They Work And How to Use Them

We all know the universal basics that everyone needs in their skincare routine: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. Maybe throw in some age-defying products too. Getting in the habit of using this lineup on a daily basis is a great way to keep your skin looking its best from day to day, but every so often, it needs a little something extra.

That’s what I like to call the “face mask itch” – that nagging urge to give your skin a real spa experience. If you choose the right masks and use them properly, they can be a perfect way to give your skin the healthy, revitalizing boost it needs.

Masks are a bit of a mystery to most folks, though. Do they really make that much of a difference, and how? What separates a great mask from a waste of time? Consider this to be the crash course you’ve been wanting.

What Makes Face Masks Different from Other Skincare Products?

Face masks are designed differently from other skincare products because they’re designed to soak into your skin for a certain period of time. They bring ingredients closer to the skin and by applying them in a full layer and letting them hang out on your skin for 20 minutes or so, you’re letting those ingredients sink into the deeper layers of your skin.

Essentially, think of it as something similar to soaking a dish in the sink when it has tough food remnants stuck to it. One thin swipe of water on the dish might not do the trick but soak it in water for a while and boom, that baked-on lasagna wipes off like fresh butter.

Do Face Masks Really Work?

Ah, the #1 question everyone asks about any skincare product: “Does this stuff actually work?” The truth for face masks is the same as it is for any other skincare product: there are many masks out there that are effective and beneficial, and there are some that are simply smoke and mirrors.

The key is to do a bit of research into the product you’re buying. Check out the ingredients list. Does it contain ingredients that are known to be effective, like hyaluronic acid or salicylic acid? Look for online reviews for the product as well to see what others’ experiences have been.

And of course, don’t forget the golden rule when it comes to cost: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Tips for Using Skincare Masks

Want to make the most out of your mask? Who doesn’t? Use these tips to make sure you’re getting the full effect.

Start Fresh

Before using any face mask, start by washing your hands. Then, wash your face with your cleanser. This makes sure there are fewer extra particles and debris blocking the mask from reaching your skin.

Be sure to use warm water when you wash your skin too. Your skin and your pores can tighten up if you use cold water, and this could limit your skin’s ability to drink in the mask’s ingredients.

Follow Directions

I know, it’s the lecture we all heard every day in elementary school, but following instructions is crucial for face masks. Each mask is designed to work in a specific way for your skin. For instance, some tell you to rinse your skin afterward, others tell you not to. Follow the directions closely to get the best result.

Longer Isn’t Better

It seems like flawless logic: “The bottle says to leave the mask on for 15 minutes, so if I leave it on for 30 minutes, my results will be twice as good!” Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s not typically how it works.

Some masks, especially sheet masks, can dry up after a period of time and start pulling moisture from your skin. Just stick to the recommended time for your mask, be patient by sticking with the routine, and let the mask do its work.

How to Choose a Great Mask

Looking for a face mask for your next spa night? How do you sift through all the options and choose the best one for your skin? You’ll eventually find your favorites through trial and error, but use these tips to start.

Identify the Goal

There are countless different types of masks out there – hydrating masks, blackhead removing masks, calming masks, cleansing masks, and so on. These products are all designed very differently, so think about what you want your mask to do and choose one that aligns with that goal. If you see products that are extremely vague, only saying things like “rejuvenates the skin” or other broad terms, those might not be the right choice.

Avoid Irritants

Every skincare product can contain irritants that inflame your skin, and face masks are no exception. To avoid looking like a lobster after your mask, especially if you have sensitive skin, look for masks that steer clear of common irritants. Look for terms like “fragrance-free,” “no dyes,” “paraben-free,” and “hypoallergenic.”

Buy with Your Conscience

We all want skincare that aligns with our goals and values, and it’s surprisingly easy to get quality products that do exactly this. Opt for cruelty-free face masks, for example, which aren’t tested on animals. You could also look for brands that emphasize sustainable practices.

My Top Mask Picks

As a self-admitted skincare addict, I’ve tried more masks than I can count. If you want something that’s tried and true, these are my top recommendations.

To Soothe: Credentials Azu-Zinc Soothing Masque

If your skin is irritated, inflamed, and all-around angry, the Azu-Zinc Soothing Masque can be a great way to cool it down. It even feels refreshing while it’s on, so it’s perfect for a summer spa night.

To Cleanse: PCA Skin Detoxifying Mask

Every so often, the house needs some deep spring cleaning that goes beyond your regular cleaning routine, and your skin is the same way. I like to use the PCA Skin Detoxifying Mask every couple of weeks to give my skin that deep, refreshing cleanse.

To De-Age: Babor HSR Lifting Foam Mask

You have a special event coming up and suddenly you’re acutely aware of every wrinkle that’s even thinking about forming on your skin. That’s when the Babor HSR Lifting Foam Mask can come in handy. It leaves my skin firmer, smoother, and more youthfully hydrated in a snap.

To Hydrate: SkinMedica TNS Hydrating Masque

My skin is on the drier side normally, so when winter hits, my face is a full-blown desert unless I change up my moisturizing routine. On top of switching to a more intense moisturizer, I toss the SkinMedica TNS Hydrating Masque into the mix. This mask specializes in deep hydration that actually lasts.

Indulging in Face Masks

Face masks are a great way to treat yourself to some pampering and treat your skin to some serious TLC. Now that you have all the tips of a pro, pick out a mask and enjoy!