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Face Masks: The One-Night Stands Of Skin Care

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    Masks are my skin-care savior. A short mask session is like hitting Ctrl + Z on all manner of skin sins. They promise to transform texture, draw out impurities in pores, brighten skin tone, provide a hit of hydration, reduce signs of aging, and deliver nutrition deep into the dermis. Whatever the claim, masks are generally intensive treatments that translate into instant (sometimes mic-dropping) gratification.

    Sheet masks are by far the most popular type in South Korea. Not only are they convenient and full of beneficial nutrients, but they can be a non-committal, relatively inexpensive foray into trying a new brand or ingredient. I often (fondly) think of them as the one-night-stands of skin care.

    In a few short years, sheet masks have evolved from cotton to hydrogel to basically any compound that can manifest itself in sheet form. Case in point: This rice-paper mask is made of spring-roll wrappers. And, this seaweed mask is, for real, made of seaweed.

    In Korea, the “put a mask on it” mantra has spawned multiple categories, including wash-off, peel-off, modeling, bubble, ampoule, and sleeping masks. It’s common to layer different treatments in a sort of mask cocktail to address specific needs (e.g., a clay mask to purify paired with a hydrogel sheet mask to rehydrate the often drying results of clay).

    Things can get Seven Kingdoms-confusing with the overwhelming number of masks claiming to be one-shot wonders. So I’ve compiled a list of superstars to give you the lay of the land and save you from picking up a dud. Read on to discover some of the coolest masks you aren't using yet, but definitely should be.

    You've never seen beauty quite like this before. Check out our Beauty Innovator Awards for the smartest, funkiest, most fresh to death products of the year.


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    Clay Mask
    We always have a clay mask on rotation. Why? Because clay (like kaolin, bentonite, or volcanic ash) soothes, absorbs oil, and even exfoliates, which makes it a superhero for congested skin. We love this one from Innisfree that instantly de-greases and mattifies skin.

    Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, $15, available at Innisfree.

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    Splash Mask
    This gem lives up to its splashy name. After cleansing your face, simply mix it with some water, and splash (or, pat) it onto your face. It's great for the on-the-go beauty fan and will get you out the door faster than any other mask on the list — guaranteed.

    Blithe Patting Splash Mask in Soothing Green Tea, $45, available at Glow Recipe.


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    Foaming Mask
    Foaming masks are the latest craze to add to the Korean mask fervor. These clay masks from Dr. Jart+ are meant to transform into foaming cleansers upon contact with water. In my experience, there was very little foaming action, but as clay masks, they purify and exfoliate skin like a dream.

    The smart pastel packaging alone is enough to make me swoon. The minimalist tube helps keep the smooth clay formula from drying out. Best of all, the trio can be used simultaneously to answer to the needs of different areas of the face. For example, my forehead needs all the moisturizing help it can get from the pink formula, which uses a combination of white and red clay. The oilier areas definitely benefited from the green formula, which uses green French clay, known for superior absorbency and removing oil, toxins, and impurities from the skin. And the white formula is the gentlest, and great for sensitive or dry, parched skin (a.k.a., my cheeks).

    Best of all, the formulas leave skin feeling velvety smooth instead of the usual tight, uncomfortable sensation characteristic to clay masks.

    Dr. Jart+ Dermaclear Trans-Foam Clay, $35, available at Sephora.

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    Exfoliating & Soothing Mask
    For those who tend to go overboard on physical scrubs, this three-part treatment from Reme+G is the way to go. The first step features a giant cotton swab soaked in alpha-hydroxy acids for targeted exfoliation, which we like sweeping over our problem areas (like around the nose and chin). Follow up with the brightening serum and the moisturizing mask to lock in all that goodness (sans rinsing), and you're good to go.

    Reme+G Aqua Home Peeling 3-Step Kit, $6, available at Glow Recipe.

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    Tightening Mask
    When I squeezed out this tube of “pack” (Konglish for mask), I wondered what about the slightly over-fragranced, clear blob was “monster.” Ten minutes later, my reflection answered the question. I’m pretty sure this is what Charlize Theron was wearing on her face in Monster.

    As this mask dries, it hardens into a film that tightens the skin. It pulls skin in all directions, resulting in one shockingly ugly reflection. This happens because of its second ingredient, sodium polystyrene sulfonate. The squeezing action is meant to tighten pores and increase circulation, and when you wash it off, excess dirt, oil, and dead skin make an exit, too. The mask also contains portulaca extract, which is a well-known anti-inflammatory agent and a great source of vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.

    The cocoon this mask forms over skin starts cracking when completely dry, which is another level of weird. Thankfully, this means it’s time to wash off the crust, revealing velvety-soft skin.