While there’s a lot to love about winter, it can also be pretty harsh. There’s the gloomy sky, the biting chill, and influx of unsightly snow boots, but perhaps the cruelest byproduct of the season is how thirsty and dull it makes our skin. No matter how much moisturizer we lather on, our skin still feels parched. That’s because we often need something that will penetrate our skin more deeply to effectively heal, hydrate, and restore that luminous glow we so desire. Enter: the hydrating face mask.
To discover the best products to suit different skin types and lifestyles, we called on dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD. Before we hear her insights about the different types of face masks, how to use them, and which ones she recommends, it’s best to know what to look out for. As she clarifies, a feeling of tightness is basically your skin asking you for a surge of hydration, while more serious signs include redness, acne, flaking, cracks, fine lines, and rough patches. If these sound familiar, learn how to rebuild your skin’s natural moisture barrier with Dr. Engelman’s hydrating mask tips below.
“Hydrating sheet masks contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which binds more water molecules to restore moisture to the skin,” Dr. Engelman tells us. Paper masks tend to be thin and thus don’t actually contain enough moisture to effectively hydrate your skin (even if the label says it will). For this reason, she advises going with a hydrating mask made with biocellulose or hydrogel. Hydrogel masks don’t dry as quickly and therefore can stay on your face longer, acting as an occlusive mechanism to force product penetration. In other words, the mask’s ingredients will stay on the skin longer without drying out once the actual sheet dries out.
Overnight masks, on the other hand, are the holy grail for people with dry skin, Dr. Engelman explains. This is because they work while you’re asleep, which is when the body’s hydration rebalances. “When the body is in a deep, restful sleep, the skin’s metabolism increases and cell turnover and renewal escalates,” she adds. This means skin is able to recover moisture while excess water in the body is processed for removal. Skin can lose water while you sleep, and serums and creams can create a permeable seal on top of your skin so that whatever you have underneath it can penetrate more deeply.
If you’re looking to target fine lines and wrinkles—or want to be proactive in developing an anti-aging regimen—it’s best to use treatments that are more targeted to your specific concern rather than just going for a general hydrating mask, Dr. Engelman explains. That being said, more targeted hydrating treatments can still come in the form of sheet masks, overnight masks, or rinse-off masks; you just need to look out for their specific ingredients and objectives. “If you keep up with a hydrating mask or treatment daily, you won’t need anything too potent,” she adds. “For instance, I like to mix and match my hydrating treatments to include an in-shower mask, rinse-off hydrating mask, sheet mask, overnight mask.”