How do face masks help your skin? What are their functions?

Face masks treat your particular skin type or condition. If you’re dry or dehydrated, the facial mask should hydrate your skin. If your skin is red or inflamed, the mask should calm and soothe. If your skin is oily and congested, the facial mask can help draw out impurities from the skin.

They stay generally stay on your skin for 10-15 minutes and contain ingredients like clay, black moor mud, aloe vera, seaweed, algae, essential oils, massage oils, herbs and vitamins. After the mask has done its work, you removes it and apply toner, serum, moisturizer, eye cream, lip balm and if it’s day-time, sunscreen.

There are a few different types of masks.

Clay masks help draw oil and dirt to the surface of the skin. They contain clay, kaolin or bentonite for their tightening and sebum-absorbing effects. Cream masks or gel masks are formulated to hydrate and nourish the skin.

Pore Reduction

Check labels for charcoal. Charcoal masks reduce pores by drawing out impurities from the skin caused by the pollutants of daily life, like makeup and dirt. Popular charcoal masks include:

  • Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask ($26). More than 70,000 people have voiced their approval for this Sephora cult favorite. Devotees recommend using a hot towel to open pores, then applying the mask for a 10-minute stint.
  • Tony Moly Bubble Mask Sheet ($6.50). In a crazy act of chemistry, charcoal reacts with the air to burst into tiny foaming bubbles, extracting sebum in a fun, totally Snapchat-worthy way. Wait 10 minutes for maximum bubble face and then massage the bubbles into your skin and rinse.
  • Boscia Charcoal Pore Pudding Intensive Wash-Off Treatment ($38). Boscia’s mask uses two types of charcoal: black activated bamboo charcoal and Binchotan White Charcoal Powder. They’re layered in the jar, and mixed together upon application to eliminate blackheads and shrink pores. Think of it as your art project for the evening.

Fight Acne

Go for mud and clay masks that naturally draw out sebum. These are usually applied to the face for around 15 minutes, and thoroughly rinsed. Popular mud masks include:

  • Glamglow Supermud Clearing Treatment ($69). Another cult favorite, this mud mask has a whole bunch of purifying active ingredients, from exfoliating AHA and BHA acids and charcoal to extracting clay and antioxidant-rich eucalyptus.
  • I. Pekar Thermal Mud ($98). This mask is based in Hungarian thermal water—prized for its skin-nourishing qualities, immortalized in countless Szechenyi Baths Instagrams. The result is a potent mudpack that leaves skin noticeably firmer, but with a slight sulfuric smell.
  • Patchology’s Smartmud No Mess Mud Masques: Detox ($30 for 4 masks). This is a true skin care rarity: a mud mask in sheet form. Activated charcoal and volcanic ash from South Korea’s Jeju Island is embedded into the sheet mask, pulling impurities out of pores as the mask is removed. All the benefits of a mud mask, zero chance of clogging your bathroom sink!

Soothe Dry Skin

Go for hyaluronic acid. It’s the active ingredient in many hydrating masks, which can also be spotted by their fruity ingredients. These products are normally applied and left to absorb into the skin without rinsing, and are key for reviving your glow after a flight.

  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($19.99). Antioxidant-rich olive extract and hyaluronic acid work together to hydrate via day or night use. It’s also noncomedogenic, making it ideal for moisturizing fussy skin.
  • Glamglow Glowstarter Mega Illuminating Moisturizer ($49.99). Here, hyaluronic acid is helped out by moisturizing lipids like jojoba oil and fruit extracts. Layer a small amount under your BB cream for an all-day glow.
  • SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Masque ($54). Apply a thin layer of the mask before bed and let it stand on your face for about 10 minutes. Then massage excess product into the skin and let it absorb overnight.

Smooth Fine Lines

Look for masks with antioxidants, prized for their ability to fight free radicals (aka cells damaged by pollutants). There’s a whole range of antioxidants, most of which will be labeled as such, but common ones in skin care include tea leaves and vitamin C. Here are some of the best masks in the antiaging game:

  • Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask ($92). A Kombucha-like black tea ferment is the primary ingredient in this mask, which is applied to the skin and washed off after a five- to 10-minute period.
  • Tony Moly’s Tea Tree Face Mask Sheet ($7.50 for a 2-pack). The sheet masks are powered by green tea leaf extract and other natural ingredients like thyme and jasmine. Each sheet mask is left applied to the face for 20 to 30 minutes—once you remove it, massage the remaining serum into your skin and let it absorb.
  • Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Advanced Brightening Sleeping Facial ($48). Already antioxidant-rich vitamin C is transformed for this mask into fat soluble “Super C” with 10 times higher vitamin C absorption. Plus, two types of rose compounds promote even skin tone with a deliciously floral scent.

Treat Sunburn

Oatmeal and witch hazel are great ways to soothe sunburned or inflamed skin. In other words, hydration is the major key to success. And because hydration comes from natural (not synthetic) ingredients, these masks are safe to use on inflammation multiple days in a row.

  • First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask ($22). A mask with two types of oats—colloidal oatmeal and avena sativa oat bran—is doubly able to soothe skin. This mask also has active ingredients that promote hydration (fruit extracts) and fight aging (antioxidants like licorice root and white tea). Apply the mask in a thick layer and wash it off after 10 minutes.
  • Leaders Daily Wonders: Too Much Fun in the Sun? ($4). This mask is packed with the fruity ingredients Gohara says are key to hydration. The sheet mask is soaked in witch hazel, a popular anti-inflammatory product, as well as the uber-hydrating fruity ingredients such as leaf and floral extracts. Plus, the name is almost too adorable.
  • Dr Jart+ Water Replenishment Cotton Sheet Mask ($7.50). Witch hazel extract soothes sunburn, while extracts from chamomile flower and cactus provide a boost of hydration. The sheet mask allows every drop to be massaged into the skin for max nourishment.

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