If face masks weren’t already a staple in your weekly skincare regimen, I’m going to hazard a guess and say they are now. Usually deemed time consuming and somewhat of a luxury, masking has become synonymous with the self-care we’re so desperately retreating to in these trying times.
And why not? There’s a lot to love. According to John Lewis, over the past six weeks ‘multi-masking’, meaning the use of more than one mask at the same time on different areas of the face, has become a popular trend, with facial masks and hair treatments seeing an overall category uplift of +187 per cent. Aside from the welcome respite they provide, face masks are an effective way of delivering instantaneous nourishment and targeted ingredients to needy skin in a concentrated form, whether that be through sheets, clay or peel-off masks.
But, there is such a thing as being excessive, and if like me you’ve sought solace in a few too many masks throughout lockdown so far, only to find a compromised complexion, you may be guilty of ‘overmasking’.
“Overmasking is essentially over doing your skincare, whether that means using masks too often or using way too many products,” says aesthetic doctor, Dr Parisha Acharya. “As much as we think we are giving ourselves a self-care or pampering session, overuse can result in significant harm by damaging your skin’s barrier function leading to sensitivity and making you more vulnerable to inflammation and irritation. You can also strip the skin of its protective oils and commensal bacteria which are essential for maintaining the healthy function of your skin.”
How often should I use a face mask?
This is dependent on your skin type and the type of mask you are using. Sensitive skin types should limit mask use to once a week and ensure that the ingredients are suitable for their specific skin concerns. As for the type of mask you’re using, Parisha says, “hydrating masks can be used roughly twice a week but remember that we also want our skin to do its job in making natural moisturisation factors, so it is important not to overuse these types of masks. Exfoliating, brightening or anti-ageing masks should be used between once to twice a week”.
As with most things, consistency is key, so you should use the same mask over a six to 10 week period to reap the best results. Use a clean brush to apply the mask and avoid using your hands to prevent the transfer of oil and bacteria to the face. “Ensure that you supplement any mask with a good skincare regime to target and tackle your individual skin concern,” Parisha adds.
Start off by cleansing and gently exfoliating as usual. Then smooth on your sheet mask as instructed, or if using a mixture, apply the mask in a single layer with a clean brush, be careful not to overload your skin with too much product. Leave the mask on for the recommended amount of time, as leaving it on for longer may result in irritation.
Then, if removal of the mask requires rinsing, do so, otherwise use a soft muslin cloth and tepid water with circular motions to help with natural lymphatic drainage and then gently dry your skin, but be cautious as overzealous drying can damage the skin especially after using a powerful face mask.
Finally, complete the rest of your skincare routine as normal, such as following up with a serum or night cream. You may want to skip your retinol if your mask contained a strong active ingredient such as vitamin C or acids.
Face masks containing potent ingredients
Some of the best and most effective face masks contain potent skincare ingredients such as vitamin C, acids or retinol, and when using such masks it’s paramount to apply these as recommended. Parisha says, these masks should be used “one to two times a week maximum, only apply a single layer and leave the mask on for the recommended time.”
Multi-masking is a good way to ensure your skin receives the right ingredients in the correct areas, that may mean applying an oil controlling clay mask in your T-zone and a hydrating mask on your cheeks.
Ingredients to use on specific skin types
- Sensitive Skin: look for aloe vera, glycerin, hyaluronic acid and oat milk. Try the Medik8 Ultimate Recovery Bio-Cellulose Sheet Mask, £60, which is deeply soothing, detoxifies and helps to calm the skin.
- Dry Skin: look for hyaluronic acid, oat milk, ceramides and glycerin. The Beauty Pie Japanfusion™ Bio-Ceramide Moisture Mask, £12.30 (for members), is perfect for dry and sensitive types, and works to hydrate, plump and smooth skin in 10 minutes.
- Oily Skin: look for clay, sulphur, charcoal, BHA’s and AHA’s. Origins’ Clear Improvement® Active Charcoal Mask To Clear Pores, £22, contains active bamboo charcoal and white China clay to unclog pores and soak up toxins.
- Combination Skin: look for pumpkin, papaya and AHA’s. The Ordinary’s AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, £6.30, helps to exfoliate the top layer of the skin and clear pore congestion for a more radiant, even complexion.
- Pigmented skin: look for vitamin C, arbutin, tranexamic acid, niacinamide, glutathione and retinol. Dr David Jack’s Face Paint Yellow, £139, reduces the appearance of dark spots for a brighter and more even skin tone, and is also packed with high quality antioxidants to improve the skin’s defences.
- For Rosacea: look for Niacinamide and Aloe Vera. The Avène Antirougeurs Calm Soothing Mask, £17, is a no-brainer for its cooling and refreshing feel, which aids flushed, puffy and uncomfortable skin.
- For Anti-Ageing: look for retinol, hyaluronic acid and ceramides. Parisha recommends the Teoxane RHA Hydrogel Mask, £41.99, which contains masks for the face and neck, and help to intensely hydrate, plump and tone.
DIY at-home masks
Our favourite branded masks may win on the efficacy front, with their ability to offer better ingredient delivery mechanisms and overcome some of the difficulties with absorption, but DIY masks are prided on their inexpensive, accessible and customisable nature.
Chinese Medicine Practitioner at Escapada, Emilia Herting, says, “If you want to steer clear of these nasties, start being creative and make your own natural home made face masks using real skin food. The two oldest medical systems, Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, offer some wonderful ancient recipes for healthy, glowing skin. That way you know exactly what ingredients you’re putting on your face which means you can avoid unnecessary harmful substances and you can tailor the mask to the exact needs of your skin at that moment.”
These are the at-home masks you can try now….
Normal Skin: Honey-apricot mask
- Ingredients: ½ cup honey + 2 apricots, peeled and coarsely chopped.
- Instructions: Measure honey into a glass bowl. Add the apricots and mix together with a wooden spoon. Apply it to your face and neck and massage gently with fingertips. Leave on for 10 mins and rinse. Pat skin dry with a soft towel.
Dry Skin: Aloe vera-clay mask
- Ingredients: 6 tsp clay, 2 tsp aloe vera juice, 1 tsp of honey and a splash of spring water.
- Instructions: Mix all ingredients together and apply it to your face and neck and massage gently with fingertips. Leave on for 10-20 mins and rinse. Pat skin dry with a soft towel.
Oily Skin: Chamomile-chrysanthemum mask
- Ingredients: 1 tbs each of dried flowers (chamomile, dandelion, mint, buckwheat, chrysanthemum) + 5 tbs clay.
- Instructions: Use a blender, grind the herbs together into a powder. Add the clay and then add 5 tablespoons of hot water, a spoon at a time, until a paste-like consistency forms. Apply the mask and dry for 30 minutes. Rinse off with water and pat face dry with a towel.
Combination Skin: Raw honey mask
- Ingredients: 2 tablespoons of raw honey.
- Instructions: Add 2 teaspoons of hot water to 2 tablespoons of raw honey into a cup and massage gently. Leave the mask on for 3 minutes and then rinse this off with water. Pat dry with a towel.
Pigmented Skin: Tumeric-apple cider vinegar mask
- Ingredients: ½ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp organic apple cider vinegar, 1 tbs of organic raw honey, ½ tbs milk or yoghurt and 1 drop lemon essential oil or fresh lemon juice for additional skin brightening (optional).
- Instructions: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl to a smooth paste. Apply it to your face with fingertips. Leave on for 10-20 mins and rinse. Pat skin dry with a soft towel.
Rosacea Prone Skin: Oatmeal-yogurt mask
- Ingredients: 2 tsp oatmeal, 3 tsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tsp plain yogurt (Greek is best) and 1 tsp raw organic honey.
- Instructions: Mix all ingredients until combined. Brush evenly onto face; oatmeal tends to make this mask feel gloopy so don’t worry if it’s not smooth. Leave on for about 15 minutes, rinse with lukewarm water. Pat dry and follow with a mild moisturiser.
Acne prone: Tumeric-honey mask
- Ingredients: 4 tbs of clay, 1 tsp of ground turmeric, 1 tsp of honey (manuka is especially good to fight acne).
- Instructions: Mix all ingredients together and spread the mask on your face. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes until dry. Rinse off and pat dry.