How to Choose the Right Mask For You

How to Choose the Right Mask For You

Applying a mask shouldn't be something that you put off until the weekend. In fact, most masks are meant to be used every day. Most experts consider them to be an integral part of their daily routine. But there's an art to choosing the right mask for you; one that's going to take care of your age spots, or clear up your acne, or rehydrate your dry, tired skin.

"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." Thankfully, the science behind skincare has advanced a great deal in recent years incorporating both traditional knowledge and advanced cellular biology and biochemistry.

There truly is a mask for every face. Not only that, but many masks are now multifaceted with the ability to treat just about every skin care trouble. Choosing the one for you is "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.

 We'll help you figure out your fit.

Oily Skin

 If you're looking to eliminate excess oil, a clay mask is your choice. It's designed to deeply clean by drawing oils to the surface of the skin as it dries and it helps to minimize pores. It can also aid in the treatment of blemishes and acne breakouts. You'll want to watch out that you don't overdry your skin in the process, or it will throw your skin's natural balance off center. When that happens, your pores will actually produce more oil to overcompensate. Look for masks that contain an added moisturizer.

Using a gel-based face mask can be a good way to hydrate oily-prone skin, since they typically contain fewer oils. Gel masks are also good at soothing sensitive skin, making them a good antidote for sunburn. 

Acne-Prone Skin

If your skin is really prone to bad breakouts you'll want to be extra watchful of your ingredients. "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."

 Peel-off masks are also great for ridding the skin of blackheads and unclogging your pores. They often contain salicylic acid, which helps to clear up acne. 

Dry Skin

 Avoid anything meant to dry or soak up oil, even if you're acne-prone, so stay away from mud or clay masks. Try a hydrogel mask. They come in gel sheets that are light and thin enough to conform to the contours of your face. According to Engelman, they lock in moisture better than cotton. Look for ingredients that hydrate. Finding one that includes hyaluronic acid (HA) will really help to boost hydration and add bounce to your skin, since HA is known to hold 1,000 times its weight in water!

Cream masks are typically full of moisturizers and oils to really help replenish moisture and plump up dry skin because they're full of emollients. These are also great for anti-aging, as they also typically carry anti-aging, antioxidant ingredients. 


Sleeping masks are perfect for anti-aging concerns. So much of the body's restorative work happens to your skin while you sleep. Cell turnover and renewal peaks during your deepest stages of Zzz's. Sleeping masks are just that: a mask you apply before going to bed. When you wake up , your skin is moisturized and refreshed. These also provide a huge hydration boost.

Another way to help your skin regenerate is to use a thermal mask. Warming your tissue helps to speed the turnover process along, leaving you looking fresher and younger. Thermal masks warm up gently after you apply them to the skin, working to get the skin breathing. They also give your pores a good, deep cleansing, too.

If you're looking to even your skin tone and treat dark spots, reach for an exfoliating mask. They help to slough off the top layer of dead skin cells. Finding one with lactic acid will help to lighten the appearance of irregular pigmentation or uneven skin tone.

There are a world of masks out there with combinations of benefits:

Sensitive skin, sensitive skin that's acne-prone, dry sensitive skin, etc. The list goes on and on!

All-Around Good

A good, all-around peel-off mask incorporates many of the above benefits and can be useful for most skin types. These masks will help to unclog pores and absorb environmental pollutants, oil, and dirt from the skin. Charcoal is also especially good for people with acne and blackheads, as it can help reduce excess oil, notes Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.

Calysta Labs Clarifying Charcoal Peel-Off Mask is one such product. Ingredients include those meant to clarify, powerful antioxidants, and hydrating specialists: salicylic acid, polyvinyl alcohol, organic aloe leaf juice, glycerin, olive fruit oil, emulsifying wax, jojoba seed oil, DMAE, Hyaluronic acid, Green Tea Leaf extract, vitamin C, Provitamin B5, vitamin B3, organic white willow bark extract, pomegranate seed extract, vitamin E, sunflower seeds extract, menthol, lavender and Xanthan gum.