The Best Type of Face Mask for Every Skin Type

Once considered an occasional indulgence, masks have now become an essential step in our skin-care routine. “Facial masks have a very long history,” says Dendy Engelman, M.D., board-certified dermatologic surgeon at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery. “In certain ways, we’ve come a long way from the facial masks of our ancestors, but the end goals have remained unchanged. Masks are used to protect and improve skin.”

You probably remember using good ol’ Queen Helene’s Mint Julep Mask to get rid of pesky pimples back in your teen days.
 

 

A photo posted by Peachie (@peachie_jean) on

But today’s masks are totally next-level: Cotton sheets, hydrogel formulas, peel-offs, sleeping masks, and single-serving exfoliating pods haven’t just changed the way we think of masks—they also have multi-uses for treating just about every skin-care trouble.

With so many different ones flooding the market, how do you decide which is best for you? “It's really about the formulation, and [it's] very important to follow directions for use in order to get the most out of the mask you use,” says Doris Day, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and author of Forget the Facelift.

Here, we break down how the most popular types of masks work and which skin types they’re perfect for, making your next trip to Sephora a whole lot easier.

Best for Normal and Dry Skin: Hydrogel Masks
Korean cosmetic companies have introduced us to these highly innovative masks that come in gel “sheets” that conform to the shape of your face. Because they have a thin gel form, Engelman says they lock in moisture better than cotton. If you’ve got dry skin, you’ll want to avoid any ultra-drying mud or clay masks, even if you have acne. Look instead for a hydrogel mask with hyaluronic acid to help boost hydration and add bounce to your skin.

Product Picks:
Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Water-Full Hydrogel Mask ($9, sephora.com)
The hyaluronic acid helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

SkinCeuticals’s Biocellulose Restorative Mask ($120 for six, skinceuticals.com)
Engelman recommends this one because the cooling fibers in the mask help soothe redness and restore brightness to stressed skin.

Best for Normal and Oily Skin: Rubber/Peel-Off Masks
Rubber masks, also known as modeling masks, have a thick consistency and texture. To apply a rubber mask, add water to the mask container, stir around the mixture, and then spread it onto your face like putty, says Engelman. Allow it to dry and peel it off after letting it harden for a few minutes. The one downside: This type of mask can become messy.

Product Pick:
The Lindsay Modeling Rubber Mask ($11 for two, glowrecipe.com)
These masks are made with alginate, which is found in kelp extract and comes in powder form. It turns into a gel-like texture when mixed with water, and helps remove impurities and dead skin cells while nourishing and brightening the skin.

Best for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin: Clay Masks
They help balance out the oils in your skin by regulating excess sebum and tightening pores. They also help smooth and soften the surface of your skin, which make them ideal for oily, congested skin. “Acneic skin is tricky as it overreacts to many things, so avoid oil-stripping ingredients as well as pore-clogging balms,” says Engelman. “Look for a mask containing clay for clarifying and lactic or citric acid.”

Product Picks:
First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Purifying Mask with Red Clay ($30, sephora.com)
This clay mask helps treat redness and congestive pigmentation where old pimples formed and helps improve the texture of the skin.

CosMedix Clear Clarifying Mask ($42, cosmedix.com)
It contains tea tree oil, which is known to clear sinus congestion and offers aromatherapy benefits.

The Earth Pore Cleansing Clay Mask ($48, available from our e-tailer Rodale's, shop.womenshealthmag.com)
French green clay gently helps lift dirt and blackheads of pores and also absorbs shine. 

Best for Anti-Aging: Water Sleeping Masks
These masks are exactly what they sound like: You slather them on your face at night before going to bed so that when you wake up, your skin is moisturized and refreshed. Sleeping masks are perfect if you’ve got anti-aging concerns because most restorative work on your skin happens overnight. “When the body is in a deep, restful sleep, the skin’s metabolism increases and cell turnover and renewal escalates,” says Engelman.

Product Pick:
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask ($23, target.com)
The ionized mineral water and ceramides moisturize stressed, parched skin. The calming scents of orange flower, rose, and sandalwood help you relax and get your body ready for bed, while apricot and chestnut extracts brighten your skin overnight.

Best for Dark Spots: Exfoliating Masks
A mask with exfoliating properties helps slough off the top layer of dead skin cells. These masks are usually applied like a cleanser and often contain microbeads. To use, gently massage it on your face for a few minutes, leave on for the recommended time, then rinse with warm water. “I generally like rinse-off masks for hyperpigmentation because it’s harder to control,” says Engelman. “Look for masks with lactic acid to help lighten the appearance of irregular pigmentation or uneven skin tone.”

Product Pick:
Natura Bisse Glyco Extreme Peel ($250, naturabisse.com)
We know, we know, this one's a splurge. But Engelman recommends it for reducing the appearance of old acne scars. The triple enzymatic exfoliation system helps to rejuvenate the skin and give it a dewy effect.

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