Face Masks: Are You Doing Them Right?

emPhotographed by Amelia Alpaugh.
No matter how many I already have in my product stockpile, I will never turn down a face mask. Seriously. There is nothing more blissful to me than unwinding at the end of the day with some cheap wine and a healthy helping of smashed-up strawberries on my face. Store bought, DIY, hydrating, cleansing — no matter the mask, my love knows no bounds. But, these treatments are actually great for more than relaxation. They're, of course, beneficial for your skin. The question remains, however: Are we using them the right way?
"Face masks can be a great form of self-pampering and reducing stress, and [they have a big] impact on our skin," dermatologist Dr. Amy Wechsler says. "How often you use depends on your individual needs and the type of mask you're using." There are a wide variety of masks, including chemical peels, DIY fruit versions, charcoal, and mud masks. Whichever one you choose depends wholly on your skin-care needs.
So, how to decide? Picking the one that's best for you is actually pretty simple since you're likely already using products that have similar skin-saving properties. "If you have dry skin, you'll want a mask that gently exfoliates and also hydrates, like a moisturizing honey mask," Wechsler advises. "Honey acts as a natural humectant, helping to restore moisture to the skin." If you want a serious pore plunger, look for something with activated charcoal. Is anti-aging more your speed? Reach for a peel. Confused about it all? Wechsler says you should make an appointment with your dermatologist if you really want specifics on what your mask can do for you.
Once you find a mask you love, it can be really tempting to use it daily. Not a good idea, says Wechsler. "Some DIY hydrating masks can be used as often as two to three times per week," she says. "Be careful, though, because using masks too frequently can lead to a skin sensitivity." And, while it may be tempting to give in and have a full-blown pamper day, Wechsler says you should definitely avoid doing more than one mask in a day.
The most important thing she stresses is keeping an eye on your product's shelf life. "It really depends on the ingredients," Wechsler says. "If you have made the mask yourself, it will likely only last a few days. If it's store bought, you're looking at a few months." She warns against using expired products — since masks tend to have a high ratio of active ingredients, your face mask may cause your skin to have an adverse reaction.
Don't just leave your masks on the shelf until its time to pamper, though. The good derm says they can and should be used in conjunction with the rest of your skin-care regimen. "I like to incorporate face masks into my evening routine," Wechsler says. "They help to unwind and to relieve any stress of the day. Just make sure to allow one to two hours before bed so that your pores and skin can recover before you fall asleep. " She also reminds us to moisturize post-mask, so our faces stay hydrated.
Got all that? Now you're set to slip into face-mask bliss — just don't forget the wine.

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