Beauty Q&A, How-To/DIY, Skincare

Do Face Masks Actually Work?

Masks are quickly becoming one of my favorite skincare treatments.

I’m not sure if my new attitude is a product of my environment–masks are insanely popular in Asia–or if I’m just putting more emphasis on self care, but in any case, my mask base is growing quickly.

I recently splurged purchased the ultra popular brand Peter Thomas Roth at Sephora; but I didn’t just buy 1 mask.. I bought the entire mask vault. It contains 6 masks:

  • 24k Gold Mask
  • Blue Marine Algae Mask
  • Irish Moor Mud Mask
  • Pumpkin Enzyme Mask
  • Cucumber Gel Mask
  • Rose Stem Cell Mask

What more could you want, right? They’re all beautiful.. but do they work?

Actually, that’s a great question, isn’t it? How the heck can anyone figure out which masks are good and which are trash?

To be honest, I feel the same way about facials at spas; How can you be sure of what you’re paying for? Is it really worth it?

Masks, by category, are not something that customers tend to be very loyal to, so manufacturers are more likely to mark masks way up and probably skip a few steps in the science and formulation department along the way. Scary, right?

For me that just means I can put blind trust in the manufacturer; I really need to do my own homework. It’s a lot of work, but hey, that’s skincare!

Also, that’s what I’m here for. Hopefully I can start to take a little bit of work out the equation, by introducing what I’ve learned along the way. I’ll dive even deeper into tips and tricks with each blog about the 6 different PTR masks and their efficacy.

Step 1: Define the Goal

What are you trying to accomplish with your mask? Each mask can only do so much in and of itself–it’s just a single treatment after all, and skincare is the culmination of hard work and good habits over time.

Determine what you are trying to accomplish with the mask, so that you can mask sure that your goal is reasonable (attainable). Here–for the record–is what you really can expect: Mask results are immediate, but temporary (except perhaps in the case of bee venom masks, which have shown some long-term effects potentially due to the fact that venom stings slightly, bringing additional blood to the area immediately, resulting in longer-term benefits).

If you have a big event coming up (like, say, the Victoria’s Secret show) then it makes sense to use masks in the days weeks leading up to the event. Otherwise, it’s a better to create a daily regimen, because again, skincare is the culmination of dedication and hard work over time.

 

Step 2: Choose the Type of Mask

Masks can range a lot in what they do and how they’re made. The general categories are:

  • Sheet Masks
  • Creams
  • Exfoliants (chemical and physical)
  • Peel-offs

Some masks will fit your lifestyle or preference more than others. For example, creams are great for those with dry or aging skin. Sheet masks come in many shapes, materials and forms (literally) and might not be the most comfortable choice. Exfoliants can be overly irritating to those with sensitive skin.

 

Step 3: Check the Ingredients

But the choices don’t stop there. When you’re looking at a mask, you want to choose one with known (read: well-researched, effective) ingredients for whichever skincare category you’re shopping in. That means:

  • For anti-aging masks, look for: Retinoids, vitamin C, AHAs, B vitamins, peptides and antioxidants
  • For acne-fighting and pore-reducing masks, look for: kaolin, sulfur, AHAs

In addition to the key ingredients, a good mask needs penetrators to help those key ingredients get deep into the skin. The penetrator typically used is propylene glycol or another form of glycol, and for more “natural” masks the penetration enhancers might be jojoba oil or squalane.

Other penetration enhancers include charged particles called ions, supersaturated solutions, liposomes, vesicles, smaller size of particles in general, and application of techniques like ultrasound (Current Drug Delivery, 2005) (source).

 

Step 4: Do Your Part–Wait it Out

The best formulated mask in the world still won’t work if used improperly. A good rule of thumb is to wear the mask for 20 minutes (unless it’s a glycolic acid or AHA mask, in which case you should follow the directions) before washing off or removing. Using the mask any longer than 20 minutes won’t provide any additional benefits.

 

Takeaways: How to Choose and Use Face Masks

You might be asking yourself (as I did), so what’s the point? If the results are temporary and one has to do so much work to determine if the mask will be effective or not, why uses masks at all?

Again, masks are a great way to prepare for an upcoming event because they make visible, targeted improvement to the skin with results that last for several days to weeks.

If you’re as into self-care as I am, masks might make their way into your nightly routine, so that your skin is always looking fresh, plump and visibly improved. Just don’t overdo it with the AHAs–chemical and physical exfoliants should never be used lightly (or rather, should be used very lightly).

That’s all the general tips and tricks I have for today, but don’t think all the mask info stops there: there’s a lot more on the way. I thought this would be a good intro to this week’s reviews and a simple guide for those interested. Feel free to ask questions below!

 

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3 Comments

  • I used to buy and love Queen Helene mint mask! It cost about 3 dollars and worked wonders.My skin felt like silk afterwards. I do not know where it went but it went.
    I just wonder about the high prices for so many items that I find similar results with items 1/4 the price of Sephora or Nordstrom.
    My favorite mascara I buy at Walgreen’s and it stays on all day and all night and doesn’t clump. It is Maybelline something.
    My favorite lipstick is Cover Girl Parisian Pink.
    My favorite eye lash filler upper: WINK.
    I still use Noxzema to wash my face.
    Call me crazy or just old.
    I simply think that every skin is so unique and responds differently to so many different items.
    I find that I like ULTA products better than Sephora.
    I do know, however, that your blogs do get me thinking and wondering
    xxoo

    Reply
    • Hey, if it works for you, more power to you! Some products really are tried and true.

      From my perspective.. it’s all pretty complicated.

      There’s a lot of debate on whether everything you put on your skin matters–to the point where some scientists think it’s ok to put lead in lipstick. It is true that near the size of 500 daltons, molecules are sitting on top, not passing through skin anyway, but I still don’t feel comfortable with it. A lot of drugstore products have cheaper materials that make me wonder.. is it really worth it?

      I always stay away from the very, very cheap products. Anything $10+ I’ll give a shot. I do hate spending $90 on an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid). It really, really hurts.

      All I can really say is that high-end and low-end skincare and makeup are not the same, but the huge difference in price is almost never justified by the difference in quality. Price vs quality tend to move exponentially, not linearly.

      Reply
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