Facial masks are like IV treatments of vitamins: Short-term, super high doses of beneficial ingredients, all delivered into the skin using a fast-penetrating mechanism. Except, instead of needles in the case of IV treatments, facial masks use penetration-enhancing formulas, such as lightweight oils, alcohols, or glycols.
But like an IV treatment of vitamins, facial masks can infuse life back into you — and more specifically, to your skin.
What are the Different Types of Facial Masks?
- 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.
- Sheet masks. These masks are made of fiber, pulp, hydro-gel, or biocellulose. [Read More: Should You Add a Sheet Mask to Your Regimen?] Of these types of masks, biocellulose are the most adhesive and have been shown to deliver ingredients deeply within the skin.
How Facial Masks Work
There are several factors that will increase the penetration of key ingredients into the skin: solvent, charged particles called ions, supersaturated solutions, liposomes, vesicles, smaller size of particles in general, and application of techniques like ultrasound (Current Drug Delivery, 2005). For best efficacy, when dealing with masks, look for all of the anti-aging ingredients you normally do (e.g., retinoids, AHAs, antioxidants, B vitamins, peptides), plus either ingredient penetration enhancers, like glycols, and/or microncapsulation and liposomal delivery systems.
Benefits to Facial Masks
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.
Safety of Facial Masks
And if you are concerned about the safety of penetration enhancers like glycols, rest assured: Glycols are safe in the concentrations they are used in skin care and cosmetics. The internet rumor started about five years ago, when people misinterpreted the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), thinking that glycols can cause liver and kidney damage and act as a skin irritant. Considering that over 4000 beauty products in the U.S. alone contain propylene glycol, this was a big deal, to say the least. However, MSDS sheets refer to 100% concentrations of a substance. In the small concentrations used in skin care cosmetics, glycols are not a concern. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, propylene glycol is classified as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), and proclaims, “Studies have not shown these chemicals [propylene or the other glycols as used in cosmetics] to be carcinogens”. [Read more: Is Propylene Glycol Safe in Beauty Products?]
My Favorite Facial Masks
My favorite sheet mask is Bel Mondo Beauty Anti-Aging Facial Sheet Mask ($45.00 for four, Belmondobeauty.com). First of all, this mask is made of biocellulose, so it binds tightly to the skin, without getting any air pockets and missing portions of your skin. It also enables you to walk around and go about your business while wearing it. Secondly, the Bel Mondo Beauty Anti-Aging Facial Sheet Mask has a superior assortment of ingredients to other masks I’ve tried, including hydrating sodium hyaluronate and olive oil, skin-firming Skinasensyl, palmitoyl tri-peptide and palmitoyl hexapepide, skin-refining Syn-Tacks, and antioxidant vitamin E. It makes a profound difference in your skin every time you use it! I definitely recommend it as a special spa-like treatment for the skin; I love using mine in the bath after a long day!
If you want an infusion of the most proven ingredients into your skin, a great way to get these benefits is with a mask! My personal favorite are sheet masks, which provide a seal between your skin and the environment, and adhere the ingredients closest to your skin.