If your only experience with facial masks is the drugstore peel-off variety you tried in high school that are a pain to remove (and downright hurt when they get caught in your hairline), then it’s time to upgrade, and try them again. Whether you want to detox, brighten, soothe or hydrate your skin, these masks will help you unveil the secret to healthier, more beautiful skin.
If you want to exfoliate and deep clean your face…use a bentonite clay mask.
We’ve all been there -- too much sunscreen, not enough exfoliation and just overall neglect can lead to clogged pores, blackheads, blemishes and other skin annoyances. While regular exfoliation is definitely essential, you can reset your skin in one fell swoop with a bentonite clay mask. Used in folk medicine since prehistoric times by people around the world -- Cleopatra used clay from the Nile river and the Arabian desert, and guests at Roman spas have been slathering it on for more than 4,000 years -- medicinal clay can draw out toxins, dirt, oil and other meanies from pores. Bentonite clay is made mainly of volcanic ash, and was named in 1898 by Wilbur C. Knight after the Cretaceous Benton Shalen near Rock River Wyoming; today, it’s sourced from there, as well as Italy and France. It’s super-absorbent properties make it a perfect purifying mask ingredient.
How to use it: Mix a spoonful or two of bentonite clay powder with apple cider vinegar until it forms a paste. Spread it all over your face and neck, being careful not to get it too close to your eyes. Let it dry for fifteen or twenty minutes, then remove with a warm washcloth. After I use this mask, my skin always feels baby soft, my pores look smaller and my face just feels so clean -- it’s amazing stuff.
Where to get it: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, $10
If you want to brighten and refresh your skin...use a sheet mask.
I’m addicted to this kind of mask more than any other, because it's easy to apply, not messy and can be toted on vacation or business trips. Sheet masks consist of paper that’s similar in consistency to a makeup remover wipe, which is dampened with liquid containing vitamins, collagen, minerals, moisturizers, serums and other ingredients. In general, it's very gentle on your skin, and can be used every day if you want to. Pro tip: keep sheep masks in the refrigerator for even more soothing, refreshing benefits.
How to use it: Clean your face thoroughly before applying a sheet mask. Remove it from the packaging (sheet masks are typically packaged in a foil pouch) and unfold it. You’ll see that there are cut-outs for your eyes, nose and mouth. Simply match up the cut-outs and place the mask on your face, making sure to press it all over so it fully applies and won’t fall off. The eye area is not fully cut-out, so if you want to, cover your eyes so eyelids get the benefit, too. Keep the mask on for 20 minutes. When you remove it, gently massage the rest of that magical liquid onto your face, or arms, legs, neck -- any place on your body, really. Each mask can only be used one time.
Where to get it: I really, really like this collection of sixteen different Korean sheet masks from Dermal, which contain everything from royal jelly and snail mucin to green tea and cucumber. They work out to be a little more than fifty cents a mask, which is an absolute steal, $9
If you want to absorb excess oil and fight acne...use a Dead Sea mud mask.
Activated charcoal is having a moment right now in dietary supplements and beauty products, including peel-off masks. However, there has been some chatter on the web about peel-off charcoal masks containing glue and unsafe chemicals, so I’m apt to recommend a Dead Sea mud mask instead, which has similar detox properties without the icky ingredients. It's sourced from Israel, and contains salts and minerals, so it's great if you have issues with oily skin or acne. If you have combination skin, just apply it to the problem areas.
How to use it: Cleanse your face thoroughly, then apply a thin layer of the mask, avoiding the eye and lip area. Leave it on for 10 minutes, then use warm water (and a dark washcloth!) to massage your face and remove the mask, and follow up with your moisturizer.
Where to get it: New York Biology Dead Sea Mud Mask, $11
If you want to hydrate and moisturize your skin overnight...use a water sleeping mask.
Until about a month ago when I started researching and switching over to Korean beauty products, I didn’t even know this kind of mask existed. Basically a lightweight gel, it’s an essential component in Korean skin care that is used to hydrate dry and fatigued skin. What I especially like about it is when I’m feeling a little lazy (or it’s just too late at night) to use a wash-off, peel-off or sheet mask, I can slather this on my face and hop right into bed.
How to use it: In the evening, cleanse and tone your face as you usually do. If you want to, apply any serum, essence or eye cream you typically use as well. Smooth a thin layer of the mask evenly on your face -- I apply about a dime-sized dollop, as you don’t want it to be too thick or you might get it on your pillow or bed sheets. Leave it on overnight, and rinse off the next morning.
Where to get it: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask, $22