There are a lot of masks out there – which one should you use to boost your skincare routine into hyperdrive? Let me help!
What is a mask?
A mask is a treatment that you put on your face for an extended period of time (between 10 minutes and 10 hours). You’re not meant to be seen in public while it’s on. The effects of a good mask will last around 1-3 days.
There are a bunch of different types of masks, good for different purposes. There’s a bit of crossover, especially if you’re mixing the mask yourself, but these are the basic categories:
Clay masks have clay as their main ingredient, and are helpful for sucking oil out of your pores, along with any random gunk in the oil. There are a range of clays with slightly different textures, but since all sorts of ingredients (oils, humectants like honey, etc.) can be mixed into a clay mask, it’s hard to say what effect a particular clay mask will have without trying it (though we can safely say that none of them will detox your body).
Kaolin clays are less absorbent than bentonite, so kaolin-based masks (usually white or pink in colour) are generally better for dry and sensitive skin, while bentonite masks (usually green in colour) are recommended for oily skin (I’m using handwavy language on purpose, because there is a LOT of variation – look up reviews of that specific mask before you buy).
How to use: You can apply a clay mask with your fingers (my preferred method) or a brush (feels posher, but requires more clean-up). Wait 5-30 min depending on your skin’s tolerance, then wash off (you may need to use a cloth to soak it off – I find that sticking my face under the shower head for 5 seconds helps tremendously). You don’t need to wait for it to dry before removing, but letting it dry will result in more oil absorption (but also more irritation potential).
Examples: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay is pure powdered calcium bentonite clay that you can mix into a mask yourself. If you mix it with an acidic substance, you’ll end up with a more skin-friendly pH and a very absorbent mask (here are some recipes for mixing bentonite with non-stinky citric acid and for mixing with slightly stinky ACV). You can make it less absorbent by adding humectants and oils. I’ve also got The Cosmetic Kitchen Raw Chocolate Clay Mask, which consists of pre-mixed Australian pink clay and raw cacao powder (antioxidant).
If you don’t want to go through the fuss of mixing, Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque is a popular option which contains both kaolin and bentonite, but I find that the anti-acne sulfur in it smells very unpleasant (lots of other people disagree). Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil Absorbing Mask* is another example, but I found it quite itchy. Moreish Emergence Clay Mask* is a premade kaolin clay mask that’s super gentle, with lots of humectants and oils thrown in.
Hydrating masks are a pretty broad category – there are oil-based masks which soften your skin, there are humectant-based masks which help water bind and absorb. I’m lumping them together because most oil-based masks have some humectants in them. These masks aim to leave your skin smooth and plump.