by Leah Argento
Since ancient times women have relied on facial masks to nourish & rejuvenate the skin. Masks are therapeutic problem-solvers that can quickly and visibly refine the complexion, plump and smooth fine lines and wrinkles, deep-pore cleanse, stimulate circulation and even skin tone. Most of these effects are temporary, making them perfect in the weeks prior to a big occasion.
Masks are ideal for combination skin because they add another dimension to your skin care routine and can help address a second skin concern. A great example of this is T-zone issues: If your skin is on the dry side or is mature yet you still suffer from T-zone oil, using a mask once or twice a week on your oily areas is a great way to address your problem without drying out the rest of your skin.
What are the Different Types of Masks?
Masks come in a variety of forms; some of the more common include:
- Cream masks. These can be applied cold or warm on clean, dry skin. These are typically tissued off or removed with a wash cloth or sponge.
- Exfoliating masks. According to Drs. Gina and Sid Dinesh, dermatologists in Beverly Hills, adding exfoliation to your skin care routine helps the natural shedding process and encourages healthier, smoother, more even-toned skin (source). Some of the big beauty benefits? Acne prevention, less visible pores, wrinkle smoothing, and it even helps with moisturizer penetration. Exfoliating masks can be cream based (containing hydroxy acids or enzymes or both), which you will either tissue off or role off (like a gommage). Or, they may include mechanical particles that you can see & feel, like jojoba beads, rice, etc.
- Peel-off masks. Most of them come in a gel form which if applied on the face will “set-up”, transforming into a rubbery substance which can easily be peeled off.
Leah’s Top 3
As a long-time facial mask lover I wanted to share my Top 3 go-to masks for beauty emergencies, special occasions or for those days when I simply feel like pampering my skin.
#1 – Glymed Plus Ultra-Hydrating Enzyme Masque ($43.50, Skin-one.com)
After using this mask, my face felt soft and smooth, as well as plumped & dewy. It’s packed with algae, retinyl palmitate, hyaluronic acid, and squalene. It also contains papaya and pineapple enzymes for mild exfoliation. Of all the natural ingredients we encounter, enzymes are amongst the few to show significant effects when applied topically to the skin: papain, for one, contains proteolytic (i.e., protein-digesting) enzymes that leave skin smoother and softer (The Complete Book of Enzyme Therapy). On the other hand, pineapple enzymes in particular have been shown to prevent tumor formation in rats (Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 2008), as well as to reduce the inflammation following cosmetic procedures.
The only downside? It’s a bit messy. I find its best to apply in morning, let sit for 10 – 15 minutes, and then rinse off when you hop in the shower. You’ll find some green goop in your shower for sure; rinse thoroughly!
#2 - Canyon Ranch RECOVERY Moisture Mask ($95.00, Amazon.com)
I discovered this mask in 2010 while reviewing it for a spa, and I fell in love! The formula feels and smells luxurious and transforms your skin inside and out with an exclusive formulation.
Patented Pro-NAD® (bio-active vitamin B3) has been clinically proven to repair and resist skin damage and stimulate the production of healthy cells. It used to be marketed under the name Niadyne, but Canyon Ranch has since absorbed the name. For those who read the FutureDerm blog regularly, you will be happy to know that it is the same active ingredient – nicotinic acid – used in the NIA 24 line (source). The acidic form has been shown to improve penetration into the skin, which is a great thing, considering that niacinamide has been shown to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, redness, and skin sallowness. (Read more: Product Review: NIA 24 Skincare)
#3 – Boscia Luminizing Black Mask ($34.00, Amazon.com)
- Vitamin C (as Ascorbyl Glucoside) which brightens and minimizes hyperpigmentation. Helps prevent free-radical damage and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. (Read more: Spotlight On: Ascorbyl Glucoside)
- Calcium Montmorillonite Clay, a clay containing 67 minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, silica and manganese. It absorbs excess oil from the skin and helps exfoliate dead skin cells. These minerals also provide antioxidant benefits.
- Witch Hazel, an anti-inflammatory and natural antiseptic that helps to kill blemish-causing bacteria. Restores skin suppleness, tighten pores, prevent whiteheads and blackheads, and provides a tensing effect.
What About Do-It-Yourself Masks?
Do we recommend? No. Here’s why: Ingredients! Homemade masks simply can’t mimick the results of a commercial product because they do not contain high concentrations of result-oriented goodies that deliver immediate and long-term results, such as hydroxy acids and retinol. Not to mention carriers that help the skin absorb active ingredients and optimized pH levels.
Further, commercial product manufacturers conduct research to create synergistic combinations of ingredients that work (optimally) together to produce the results you and I are looking for. As Nicki pointed out in her July 23rd post …”it’s more than ingredients, it’s other ingredients, pH, delivery systems…” So before you bother with that homemade mask, think about what it’s really (not) doing for your skin, and invest your dollars in something that will make a difference.
Do you need to use a mask? No. But, if you have a special event or are simply having a “bad skin day” and need some pizzazz in your step, a mask will do the trick everytime. Be sure to tell us about your favorite beauty mask!