How Does a Facial Mask Work?

by Melissa J. Bell

No matter how enthusiastically the beauty guru in your social group raves about her latest skincare find, no one facial mask will work for everyone. On the contrary, a mask formulated for a different skin type with opposite improvement goals from your own will likely just exacerbate your problems -- and potentially create more.

Dry Skin

Hydrating masks for dry skin types contain moisturizing elements like glycerin, dimethicone, hyaluronic acid and various waxy lipid ceramides. You may also see sunflower seed oil, shea butter, yogurt, cacao seed butter, bamboo sap, coconut oil or jojoba listed in the ingredients. These emollients create a layer of protection over the outermost layer of skin, both attracting and trapping water molecules beneath it to prevent moisture loss.

Oily Skin

Oily skin types, on the other hand, need a mask that will remove moisture, both to control oil production and make often-enlarged pores look smaller with less oil in them. Charcoal and kaolin clay in masks absorb and swell with moisture, drawing oil out of your pores along with dirt and impurities.

Dull Skin

For dull skin, a buildup of dead skin cells or an uneven skin tone may be the culprit. An exfoliating mask with enzymes like lactic acid or papaya breaks down the bonds between cells and helps peel the dead skin away. Brightening masks with antioxidants like vitamin C, licorice, kombucha, lychee, mulberry root extract and blackberry put a stop to melanin production and help fade dark spots and discoloration.

Sensitive Skin

Skin prone to irritation requires a gentle calming mask with ingredients like niacinamide, which enhances the skin barrier so that redness and blushing is less likely to show. Ingredients like chamomile, feverfew and bisabolol inhibit the enzymes responsible for skin inflammation.

Acne-Prone Skin

Although someone with acne may use several different masks to reduce oil, fade dark spots and battle inflammation, she can also benefit from masks that deep clean and help fight infection. Clay masks that contain keratin-dissolving salicylic acid act as extreme pore cleansers and exfoliants, while moisturizing antibacterial masks with honey hinder microbe growth.

Mature Skin

Anti-aging firming masks typically contain antioxidants, which help prevent sun-related skin damage like puffiness and loss of skin elasticity by creating a barrier of protection against free radicals. They also often contain collagen boosters that encourage new cell growth and moisture absorption, making skin look plumper and younger.

About the Author

A writer with a Bachelor of Science in English and secondary education, but also an interest in all things beautiful, Melissa J. Bell has handed out beauty and fashion advice since she could talk -- and for the last six years, write for online publications like Daily Glow and SheBudgets.