Improve your complexion in just a few minutes.

By Jennifer Aldrich
September 01, 2020
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This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

Ever since I was little girl, I loved playing around with makeup. My older sister would let me play with some of her products, and even indulge me by swiping some glittery eyeshadow on my lids and sparkly lipstick on my pout. It took me years, but I finally realized the secret to a gorgeous complexion isn't makeup (though I still love it, don't get me wrong), but rather through a good skincare routine. I've been giving my face some TLC for years now, but things really intensified when the pandemic started. (A shout out to staying at home and not wearing makeup, plus my unfortunate maskne situation.) Recently, I've been playing around with face masks—yes, not only the cloth ones we should all be wearing but also ones that are meant to improve your complexion.

Woman applying a creamy face mask to her skin
Credit: RealPeopleGroup/Getty Images

What Is the Purpose of Face Masks?

Face masks are designed to give your skin an intense amount of product. "They are well-loved by multi-taskers and those who love efficiency because they deliver ingredients in a heavy, concentrated dose to add a quick boost to the skin," explains Sydney Givens, PA-C and founder of Skincare by Sydney. (However, she notes that though sheet masks are convenient, they're not as effective as other options.) She says face masks are best for addressing a specific issue (for example, if you have dry skin, you'll want a surge of moisture) and, depending on the mask, can be applied anywhere from a couple of times per week to every day. Givens loves the fact that there are a variety of masks for different skin types, plus, "The best thing about masks is that you really can't mess it up!"

How Do I Incorporate Face Masks Into My Skincare Routine?

The first thing Givens tells anyone when it comes to face masks is to listen to your skin. "I really try to drive this point home to all of my patients," she says. "Even if you would consider yourself to have oily or breakout-prone skin, sometimes adding in new products for anti-aging or breakouts to your routine can cause dryness. Always listen to what your skin is telling you," she adds.

When using a new mask, Givens recommends using it at night. "I tell my patients to think of night time as their treatment time," she explains. Here's what she prefers: First, cleanse your skin to get rid of makeup, dirt, and any other impurities. Then, apply your mask. After you've removed it or have let it absorb, finish off with the rest of your skincare routine. For example, Givens follows up a mask with toner, eye cream, retinoid, and moisturizer. (Givens always applies a good facial sunscreen to protect her skin.) Here are five options that help different skin issues to try out yourself.

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la roche posay mask
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best for Dry Skin

Givens recommends this option for anyone craving hydration. It features hyaluronic acid to lock-in moisture and leaves the skin smooth and hydrated. It's lightweight and safe for sensitive skin.

Buy It: La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Hyaluronic Acid Face Mask ($20, Amazon)

neutrogena face mask
Credit: Courtesy of Target

Best for Oily Skin

Banish breakouts with this affordable, two-in-one option. "I love this one because you can use it as a mask or a benzoyl peroxide face wash," Givens explains. "Simply apply in the shower, leave for about five minutes while washing your hair and body, and voila!"

Buy It: Neutrogena Clear Pore Facial Cleanser and Mask ($7, Target)

drunk elephant baby face
Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

Best for Anti-Aging

Yes, this one has a considerable price tag, but it's worth every penny. I've been using this for months, and it's transformed my skin. The powerful mix of an AHA/BHA blend exfoliates dead skin and reveals your softest, smoothest skin. (There's a reason it's called the baby facial.) You only use a small pump once per week (or less often, if you like), so it lasts for months.

Buy It: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial ($80, Sephora)

skinceuticals face mask
Credit: Courtesy of DermStore

Best to Get Rid of Redness

For rosy or sensitive skin, Givens like this option. It's made with soothing botanicals to soothe, dipeptides to calm, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate. It's safe for all skin types and is free of sulfates, phthalates, and parabens.

Buy It: SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Mask ($59, DermStore)

dermologica face mask
Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

Best for Brightening

Beauty and fashion director Erica Metzger loves this moisturizing mask. "It's very gentle and leaves my skin super soft and exfoliated," she says. The bamboo spheres slough away dead skin while the hyaluronic acid and antioxidants boost and brighten.

Buy It: Dermalogica Hydro Masque Exfoliant ($60, Ulta)

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