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Worth the hype? What do facial masks do?

Sure, they’re fun to use—but they can also come with certain skincare benefits.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
young woman applying facial mask
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Jul 7, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Summary

From professional-grade masks at your dermatologist's office to DIY masks made in your kitchen, facial masks can give your skin a little boost. But have you ever wondered what regularly masking does to your skin? Or whether the face mask you’re using is right for you?

Here we’ll explain different types of facial masks and the various benefits they may offer to your skin based on their key ingredients. Let’s get into it!

The different types of masks and how they work 

The purpose of a facial mask is to keep potent ingredients in contact with your skin for a prolonged period of time. This extended contact improves the chances of penetration and absorption of desired ingredients. 

It’s important to choose the mask that offers the right benefits for your skin concerns and goals. Masks come in various forms, including sheet masks, clay masks, peel-off masks, and DIY masks. 

Below, our experts will unpack information on common types of facial masks.

Sheet masks

Sheet masks are a highly popular Korean skincare product, which can help you reach your skin goals based on the ingredients of the mask. For instance, some sheet masks may be made of a rich combination of ceramides and moisturizing compounds that are intended to hydrate and refresh your skin. 

Research suggests that they should be left on for no longer than 20 minutes.¹ If it’s your first time trying such a mask, make sure you test it out and only wear it for a few minutes first to see how well your skin tolerates the treatment.

Clay masks

If you’re looking for a mask that can potentially help revitalize your skin and help manage oily skin, you may want to consider a clay mask. These potent masks are filled with rich minerals designed to clean your pores and may help enhance collagen production.²

Clay masks are often made up of either lanolin or bentonite clay. Both may help absorb excess oil, and are generally suitable for both acne-prone skin and oily skin.

Peel-off masks

If you’re looking for a mask that doesn’t tend to create a mess, then you may want to try a peel-off mask. These masks are exfoliating because they attach to your skin and require you to peel them off when you’re done using them.

The benefits they offer are directly linked to the ingredients they’re made up of. For instance, some peel-off masks contain glycolic acid and salicylic acid, helping you unclog pores, while others may contain hyaluronic acid, known for its hydrating properties. 

DIY masks

Some of the basic ingredients in your kitchen such as milk, green tea, and aloe vera, can surprisingly help you create a mask on your own. You can use these ingredients on their own or mix them together based on the skin results you’re hoping to achieve. 

Milk

You can help make your skin look brighter by adding milk or yogurt to your DIY mask. Research shows that the topical application of milk and yogurt may help increase the moisture and elasticity of your skin, resulting in a brighter appearance.³ 

Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a powerful ingredient that is rich in vitamins A, C, and E, which are antioxidants. Aloe may also help soothe your skin because it has anti-inflammatory effects, and has been shown to increase collagen synthesis.⁴  So if you want to soothe your skin, creating a DIY mask with aloe in it is a good choice.

Green tea

Research suggests that green tea is beneficial for hyperpigmentation and has antioxidant properties.⁵ You can create a mask using green tea and add it to your skincare routine to improve your chances of achieving clear and radiant skin.

The benefits of facial masks

The effectiveness of a facial mask depends directly on the ingredients it contains. You can use masks to help treat a variety of skin conditions such as acne, hyperpigmentation, dryness, redness, and signs of premature aging. 

Fight acne

If you have acne, the right acne-fighting products can help you reach your skincare goals. A mask that contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or salicylic acid, for instance, can benefit acne-prone skin.

AHAs can help improve the appearance of your skin.⁶ Additionally, salicylic acid is a mainstay of acne treatment and can help combat acne vulgaris.⁷ One study showed that certain peel-off masks may be particularly helpful in combating acne.⁸

Fade hyperpigmentation

A systematic review study revealed the following ingredients may be effective at fading hyperpigmentation or dark marks on your skin:

  • Azelaic acid.

  • Niacinamide.

  • Green tea.

  • Ascorbic acid or vitamin C.

So if you want to help fade your hyperpigmentation, you should look for masks that contain these powerful ingredients.⁹

Hydrate skin

Research shows that applying hyaluronic acid on your skin provides excellent skin hydration. One particular study found that this ingredient improved skin smoothness and hydration by over 60%, and even improved the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.¹⁰

Clear redness

Facial masks containing niacinamide can help reduce skin redness. Research showed that applying 5% niacinamide offered a wide range of additional skin benefits, including reduced hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles.¹¹

Help reduce the signs of aging

When searching for a mask that can help address the signs of aging on your skin, consider ones that contain antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and resveratrol. Such antioxidants can help protect your skin and correct damage to it by helping neutralize skin-damaging free radicals.¹²

Can face masks harm your skin? 

Just like any other skincare product, it's crucial to look out for indications that a facial mask is causing skin irritation. As with any cosmetic or personal care item, if your skin reacts negatively while using or after removing the mask, you should discontinue its use. 

Choosing a face mask and routine that work for your skin 

Choosing the right face mask and establishing a suitable routine for your skin is a good way to help maintain a healthy, glowing complexion. You can begin by determining your skin type, whether it's oily, dry, combination, or sensitive, and then identify your primary skin concerns, such as acne, dryness, or aging.  

Once you know what your skin concerns and goals are, conduct thorough research on ingredients that effectively address your specific issues and look for masks containing these elements.

Consistency is key in skincare; establish a routine per the mask’s recommended frequency and follow the instructions carefully. Face masks should usually not be used more than once per week. Additionally, consider incorporating complementary products, such as a cleanser and moisturizer, to enhance your results.

Remember, never hesitate to consult a dermatology provider for personalized advice on choosing a face mask and developing a tailored skincare routine to ensure optimal skin health.

Find what works for your skin

While face masks can be a great addition to your routine occasionally, Curology offers personalized prescription products for daily use. We offer everyday essentials along with personalized treatment products to address your unique skin needs and goals. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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Take our quick skin quiz, and one of our licensed dermatology providers can create your personalized prescription formula with active ingredients designed to help you reach your skin goals. Sign up for a 30-day trial* and begin your personalized skincare journey today!

FAQs

What are the benefits of using a face mask?

Facial masks may provide various skin benefits. Based on its ingredients, a mask can help combat acne, fade hyperpigmentation, hydrate your skin, minimize redness, and address signs of aging.

How often should you use a face mask?

It depends on your skin type and your desired result. However, in general, apply a face mask once a week. You may want to use one before an important event for an extra glow. Always consult a dermatology provider if you’re unsure!

Can I use a face mask every day?

Using facial masks too frequently might lead to dryness or irritation, depending on the ingredients. It generally isn’t advised to apply face masks every day.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Zhou, L., et al. Investigation of actual exposure to facial sheet mask preceding its risk assessment. Sci Rep. (2022, January 24).

  2. Valenti, D.M.Z., et al. Effect of topical clay application on the synthesis of collagen in skin: an experimental study. Clin Exp Dermatol. (March 2012).

  3. Yeom, G., et al. Clinical efficacy of facial masks containing yoghurt and Opuntia humifusa Raf. (F-YOP). J Cosmet Sci. (September-October 2011).

  4. Surjushe, A., et al. Aloe vera: a short review. Indian J Dermatol. (2008, n.d.).

  5. Fowler Jr., J.F., et al. Innovations in natural ingredients and their use in skin care. J Drugs Dermatol. (June 2010).

  6. Tang, S.C. and Yang, J.H. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules. (2018, April 10).

  7. Lu, J., et al. Salicylic acid treats acne vulgaris by suppressing AMPK/SREBP1 pathway in sebocytes. Exp Dermatol. (July 2019).

  8. Fabbrocini, G., et al. A peel-off facial mask comprising myoinositol and trehalose-loaded liposomes improves adult female acne by reducing local hyperandrogenism and activating autophagy. J Cosmet Dermatol. (December 2017).

  9. Hollinger, J.C., et al. Are Natural Ingredients Effective in the Management of Hyperpigmentation? A Systematic Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (February 2018).

  10. Draelos, Z.D., et al. Efficacy Evaluation of a Topical Hyaluronic Acid Serum in Facial Photoaging. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). (August 2021).

  11. Bissett, D.L., et al. Niacinamide: A B vitamin that improves aging facial skin appearance. Dermatol Surg. (July 2005).

  12. Addor, F. a. S. Antioxidants in dermatology. Anais Brasileiros De Dermatologia. (June, 2017)

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

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