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Face Masks: Benefits, Types and How Often You Should Use One

Written by: Jack Levinson



Time to read 8 min

It's a favorite relaxation ritual of many: a nighttime face mask, often accompanied by a cup of tea and a relaxing TV show. These have become a kind of shorthand for self-care, whether as a once-in-a-blue-moon indulgence or as part of your everyday skin care routine. No one is doubting the calming benefits of a face mask, or of taking some much needed personal time in general. But does wearing a face mask really do anything to treat key skin concerns and conditions? 

The answer is not a simple yes or no. Rather, the type of facial mask you choose to use, the ingredients your masks contain, and how often you use one are crucial factors in whether or not they really have an impact. 

This article will provide a guide to face masks, with information about the various benefits of your face mask, choosing the right mask to suit your skin needs, and how often you should use one.

Do face masks actually work?

Face masks purport to solve a huge variety of skin issues, from helping reduce signs of aging to improving the appearance of pores to removing dead skin cells and more. So how effective are they, really?

The short answer is yes, face masks can truly provide benefits when used properly. The longer answer expands upon this: in order to get the most from your mask, you need to choose the right one for you, and you need to know how often to use it.

In choosing a mask, it's important to know what your specific needs are, as well as if your skincare rituals will accommodate this choice.

face mask

What do face masks do?

Face masks are similar to other skin care products in many ways, treating similar conditions and providing comparable rewards. The primary difference is the delivery method: while most skin care products are designed to be rinsed off immediately or rubbed in to the point of invisibility, masks are typically intended to be applied in generous amounts, often to the entire face, and left to sit for an extended period of time. 

This wait time is an important part of the masking process. Face masks are occlusive, which technically means they "block" your face, creating a physical layer of beneficial ingredients that stay on the skin for a long time. As a skin care vehicle, this makes masks especially potent. (For this reason, not all products are intended to be used daily. Be sure to learn proper use before you embark on your skin care regimen.)

Benefits of masking

Face masks can serve many different functions, with most products targeting a particular area of need. Some are intended to be used regularly, while others are designed for only occasional use. (For this reason, it's imperative to look at the instructions on the package before use.)

Masks are able to:

  • Enhance skin feel and texture
  • Soothe acne-prone skin
  • Reduce signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines
  • Dissolve dead skin cells and clear congested pores
  • Moisturize and hydrate your skin
  • Restore skin elasticity

The list could go on and on. For more information about the specific targeted uses of masks and which ones might be most useful for you, read on. 

face mask

Types of face masks

An enormous variety of face masks can be found on the market, not only in terms of benefits but also in terms of ingredients, recommended use, and even the manner in which you put it on your face. There are mass-produced face masks and DIY face masks, cream-based masks and gel masks, clay and mud masks, and more. A mask may take the form of hydrating sheet masks that you lie flat on your face and exfoliating masks that you apply with your fingers and peel off. 

When seeking a face mask, it's generally best to start with the skin care need you're looking to address, rather than singling out an ingredient in advance. By focusing on your area of concern, you'll direct yourself toward the ingredients that will be most useful. A charcoal mask, for example, is a great choice for a cleansing mask, as charcoal has been shown to help the skin detox. 

The best face mask for your skin type

Starting with your skin type can be a good way of determining which face masks will suit you best. There are plenty of excellent masks for every type of skin, and many also tackle key skin concerns that may be more specific. 

Choosing a product according to your skin type will help ensure that whatever you use won't irritate your skin. This is important to keep in mind, because masks are designed to stay on your face a long time. 

Dry skin

Those with dry and dehydrated skin should seek out hydrating products. Oftentimes these are cream-based, with a feeling similar to moisturizer. These work to revive dry skin cells, restoring moisture and nutrients back into the skin. 

face mask

Oily skin

Those with oily skin will most appreciate a gel-based mask. The best way to describe the feel of gel is that it is similar to jelly, which a more lightweight quality than the feel of a cream-based mask. Many gel masks include astringent ingredients, such as berry extracts, which work to minimize oil and tighten the appearance of pores. You can apply your favorite gel-based mask by massaging it into your face in large amounts, allowing it to sit for around twenty to thirty minutes to allow it to absorb. 

A clay mask is another good choice for those with oily skin, especially those who are hoping to treat acne. Clay and mud have been shown to be excellent ingredients for extracting oil buildup from the skin – so effective, in fact, that users are often warned not to let their masks sit for too long. Indeed, clay and mud masks are best used sparingly, since they are so effective. Be sure to follow the instructions if you choose to use face masks like this.

Combination skin

Those with combination skin have a variety of options – it depends on what you'd most like to treat. Those who wish to moisturize and hydrate can look to cream masks, while those who primarily seek exfoliation can look into peel products. If you have combination skin, you have room to experiment. Masks can be used sparingly at first to figure out how effective they are for your skin.

Sensitive skin

If your skin is especially sensitive, you may be able to make use of moisturizing products (especially cream-based and gel-based ones), but it may be best of all to start with natural products, as these are likely to be the gentlest on your skin. Those that exfoliate – especially with microbeads and other acids to dissolve dead skin – can inflame or irritate the skin. Some masks aren't for everyone, and if you have sensitive skin, caution is an excellent choice.

Normal skin

If you have normal skin, you have the luxury of a good deal of choice, with the opportunity to be more adventurous than some others get to be. For example, you can try using warming products. These masks contain active spices like cinnamon and paprika that increase blood flow to the skin. 

face mask

The best type of face mask for your age

Your skin type may not be related to your age, but there are certain concerns that people begin to face over time, thanks to more time exposed to the sun, lower amounts of natural collagen and elastin, and more. Because of this, as you get older, anti-aging masks are best designed to treat the common symptoms of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin. 

How often should you use a face mask?

How often a face mask should be used depends on its key ingredients as well as your skin type. First thing's first: take a look at the instructions on the package. That's the best way to learn how often to use your product of choice. After that, proceed with caution: see how one round goes to evaluate how soon you should use it again. There are many products that are only intended to be used once or twice a week, not nightly. 

How to apply a face mask

Masking may seem simple, but your face mask application technique is an important part of the process. Here's a little Face Mask 101 for those who want to make sure they're getting the most from their products. 

Apply mask evenly

In most cases, you can use a generous amount of your product, applying it directly with clean hands. 

Remember to include your neck and décolleté

Your neck and décolleté (the area at the top of your chest, below your collarbones) are known for aging much earlier than the face due to lowering skin elasticity. Staying vigilant about applying products to these areas will help fortify and renew them in the long run.

face mask

Leave on for 5-10 minutes

A face mask may take several minutes to absorb into the skin, and some products will take even longer than five or 10 minutes. Relax and unwind as you allow your nutrients to sink in.

Remove gently with a damp cloth

To remove the mask from your face, use a damp washcloth to wipe away your product. It's especially important to go slowly and carefully if you are using a product that hardens on your face, as this will be more difficult to remove.  

Once you are done, rinse your face with warm water, and voila! You're likely to be feeling fresher already.


Face masks are great options for those who are looking for targeted results delivered with concentrated ingredients. What's important is that you use the ones that address your specific concerns. Consider what you most want from a face mask and choose the right products to suit your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do face masks actually help your skin?

When used correctly, face masks can have excellent benefits, improving the appearance of your skin and reducing signs of stress and aging. This means picking the right mask for your needs, designing the appropriate mask routine, and following the application instructions to the letter. 

What are the benefits of face masks?

Face masks offer a range of benefits including hydration, exfoliation, redness relief, acne healing, and more. If you have a skin care concern, chances are there's a product on the market that can help you.

Is it good to use a face mask every day? 

Typically, no. Since masking products are used in such large quantities and stay on your skin for so long, in most cases, you will not be advised to apply one every day, but rather once or twice a week. 

Written by:


Jack Levinson

Jack Levinson is a writer born and raised in Los Angeles. He received his bachelor’s degree from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. When not writing, his interests include the arts, cooking, and exploring the California coast.

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Reviewed by:


Sanober Pezad Doctor, MD

Dr. Sanober Doctor is a dual-board certified dermatologist, & a leading expert in Integrative and holistic Dermatology. She is a proactive, compassionate medical practitioner with a thorough understanding of mind-body-spiritual wellness.

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