Using masks in skincare is nothing new. Women have been using them for decades, perhaps even generations; it’s been said that Cleopatra used a charcoal face mask of her own design in Ancient Egypt. In modern times, face masks have become a cornerstone of many a skin care routine, men’s included.
The fact that men seem to have just recently discovered masks is not important. What you need to know however, is that if you’re not masking yet, you should start. To the uninitiated, masks seem advanced, but in fact, they’re the opposite. They’re easy to use, effective, and able to address whatever skin issue you have (thanks to the thousands of varieties available). They’re also perfect for lazy people and thus, ideal for men.
Think of masking this way: if your daily skincare routine is a multi-vitamin, a mask is an additional supplement. It’s not going to take the place of a well-rounded routine that gets your skin working at an optimal level, but it gives you an extra boost on top of it. They’re designed to target certain issues with specific ingredients and while you don’t use them every day like a moisturizer, masking a few times a week can make a big difference.
Integrating a mask into your skincare routine can deliver big results with minimal effort and who doesn’t want that? But before you start, think about what you’re hoping to achieve from using a mask. That will guide you to which kind to start using. Most masks fall into five categories and which one you choose will make all the difference. If you’re new to masking, here’s what you need to know.
In the world of masking, clay masks are classic. When you think about someone at a spa with mud smeared all over their face, that’s clay. Clay helps draw out impurities from deep inside pores as it dries. They’re ideally suited for people with oily or blemish-prone skin because of this deep detoxing effect. The clay absorbs excess oil and impurities from the surface of the skin and gives you a clean you just can’t get from just a face wash. Clay masks are easy to use: smear an even layer over your face, avoiding the eyes and mouth, and wait ‘till it’s fully dry. Then rinse it off with warm water and finish with a moisturizer.
Peel-off masks are slightly controversial in the world of masking. They’re popular because they’re basically like glue for dirt. As the tacky liquid dries on your skin, it attaches itself to the dirt and buildup in your pores. When you peel it off, like a band-aid, it takes the dirt with it. A peel-off mask can be an effective way to get rid of blackheads, pimples, and deep set-in dirt that even a clay mask can’t get rid of while providing an exfoliating factor at the same time. But using them comes with a risk, according to some, the stickiness can damage your protective skin barrier if it’s left to dry for too long. Be sure to read the instructions and don’t leave it on for longer than directed.
As for exfoliation, you should be doing it regularly. After skin cells die, they remain on the surface of our skin, making our skin look dull and dry. They can also clog our pores which can lead to blackheads and pimples. Exfoliating helps get rid of them and leaves a brighter, cleaner, more even complexion. Most of us should be exfoliating once or twice a week and a mask is a good way to do it. These masks use chemical exfoliants like glycolic, lactic and other acids to help break down the bonds that keep dead skin cells on our face. Unlike scrubs, which require us to do the exfoliating ourselves with our hands, chemical exfoliants do the work for us. These masks can be irritating, especially for those with sensitive skin, so always try a new one on a smaller spot before smearing all over your face. And always make sure to follow the directions and don’t leave it on too long.
Sheet masks are the social media stars of the masking world and we have Korean beauty to thank. Ever since the K-Beauty explosion, sheet masks have dominated the conversation because they are just so damn fun (and great for selfies). They’re also the best multi-takers, since they’re easy to use and come in a crazy number of varieties. The idea is simple: they’re a face-shaped piece of paper (sometimes other materials) with eye and mouth holes cut out. The mask is soaked in a serum depending on what skin concern its addressing (like hyaluronic acid for hydration or vitamin C for brightness). You press the mask to your face and leave it on for around 20 minutes, in which time the concentrated serum leeches from the mask and penetrates your skin. These masks are typically good for only one use, but there is no limit to how often you can use a sheet mask, since they’re usually gentle and hydrating.
Not all masks are meant to remove dirt and grime. Hydrating masks are ideal for giving an extra shot of hydration to your skin, which most of us can use even if we’re using a daily moisturizer. These masks are concentrated with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe, and cucumber, and help soothe irritation, reduce redness, and curb dryness. They’re particularly useful in the winter months, when our skin is drier thanks to cold air and indoor heating. Unlike clay or exfoliating masks, they can be used more often, every day if you want, and are sometimes even designed to be worn overnight for extra penetration.