Face It

Masks to the Rescue

by Fiona Clarke

It used to be that a facial mask was only available in the privacy of an exclusive spa. After cleansing, skin analysis, steaming, exfoliation, extraction and massage, the aesthetician would whip up a recipe suited to treat the client’s specific skin condition.

Noting the beneficial results, it’s no wonder that facial masks have gone mainstream, available at every cosmetic counter and drugstore. Depending on their ingredients, facial masks can tighten, tone, nourish, hydrate, calm and soothe the skin, draw out impurities from the pores, help clear up blemishes and give the skin a rejuvenated appearance.

Lev Glazman, a founder of the Fresh skin-care line, credits millennials on Instagram for the proliferation of face mask products. “When you look at what millennials love, they like to see something that happens quickly,” he said. “That’s what you can get with a mask: the instant effect.” Easily applied at home, a mask can heal, treat, repair and soothe one’s skin in just 15 minutes.

Immediate gratification is certainly part of the appeal, but so is the visual shock value. Popular Instagram hashtags like #facemask and #multimasking showcase applications that resemble tribal art or odes to horror movies.

Such popularity has spawned a truly diverse range of offerings: sheet masks, mud masks, overnight masks, bubbling masks, splash masks and more. Below, we’ve done our homework and put together a facial mask primer.

Splash Masks

The newest on the block, splash masks originated in Korea and play nicely with your in-shower lineup. Simply do your usual regimen, then splash on the mask and rinse off. On a trial run, the Blithe Soothing and Healing Green Tea Splash Mask offered a refreshing quality and, surprisingly, an exfoliating effect courtesy of its concentrated lactic acid content.

Bubbling Masks

These are novel for their texture – they actually froth – and claim oxygenating benefits. Some very bubbly formulas may even tickle when under your nose. While the effervescent Dr. Brandt Oxygen Flash Facial Recovery Mask won’t replace your morning run, it produces a noticeable brightening effect.

Sheet Masks

When Justin Bieber posted his sheet mask experience with Talika Bio Enzyme Hydrating Mask on Instagram, this beauty trend went pop. Slap on an individually packaged, serum-soaked sheet mask, frighten your significant other with Freddy Krueger scary faces and come away with a more glowing countenance.

Though the SK-II classic sheet mask is still a beauty editor favorite, more-daring souls will want to try the Tony Moly Intense Care Snail Hydro Gel Mask. It contains slimy snail secretions – yuck! – but offers nice skin softening and balancing benefits.

Mud and Clay Masks

This category has been around but keeps evolving with eye-catching new features. One recent arrival, Glam Glow’s Gravity Mud Firming Treatment, boasts glacial clay to sop up oil and boost tone. The nifty part? The mask turns from white to chrome after application.

Hydrating Masks

Often found as creams but also more recently in gel form like the pretty translucent pink of the Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Mask, hydrating masks are generally straightforward: they offer a boost of moisture for parched skin.

Exfoliating Masks

Though the idea of sloughing away sun damage sounds enticing, doctor’s suggest a more cautious approach to exfoliation. Something with a vitamin C base like Fresh’s Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask is a good choice. The gel-paste is a blend of oranges, lemons and clementines, so you’ll actually feel the pulp when applying it.

Sleeping Masks

If moisture is what you’re after, it’s usually best to leave the mask on longer. That’s where sleeping masks, which profess to revitalize complexions while you snooze, come in. The Dior Hydra Life Jelly Sleeping Mask produced admirable skin-plumping.

Tanning Masks

If you’re willing to put your pillowcases to the test, these overnight self-tanning formulas like the James Read Sleep Mask Tan Face promise gradual and believable results without staining bed linens.