Mornings at my apartment go a little something like this: The first alarm goes off at 6 a.m. Then the others follow at five-minute intervals, until I roll out of my bed at 7 on the dot to the sounds of The Breakfast Club (the NYC-based radio show, not the '80s teen movie). If my roommate doesn't beat me in the race to our shared bathroom, I'll shower and cowash my hair — which is a whole big thing, and leaves no space for me to do my makeup (or iron my clothes, or eat breakfast...).
So when I noticed that some of my favorite influencers and beauty editors were incorporating masks into their bright-and-early skin-care routines, I was a little confused. Who has time for that, I wondered, when they're contouring and commuting? According to dermatologist Gervaise Gerstner, MD, however, it actually makes perfect sense.
"A morning mask is great to do pre-makeup to give your skin the base hydration it needs," Dr. Gerstner says. "It's just like using a primer to give hydration and prep skin. It can also temporarily give the skin a tightness and make pores appear smaller." But even though you can see the benefits, that doesn't mean that early-day masking is any better than doing it after work. "You certainly feel more refreshed, but there’s not necessarily any difference in terms of timing," says dermatologist and Specific Beauty Skincare founder Heather Woolery-Lloyd, MD.
No matter what time of day it is, be sure to pick the right hero ingredients for your concern: "Charcoal is always good for oily or acne-prone skin, because it has astringent properties and may help with reducing excess oil," Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says. "For dry skin, find a mask that contains antioxidants and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and moisturize the skin. And for sensitive skin, find a mask that has soothing benefits like aloe that won’t irritate."
The final verdict is that if you've got some extra time on your hands before your commute, adding a mask to your a.m. routine is great. But if you can barely find the time to wash your face to begin with, don't stress: Your sheet-mask selfie can wait another 12 hours. Ahead, our favorite picks that just might be worth getting to work 20 minutes late...
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The cult-favorite brand's one-minute treatment has all the makings of a "real" mask: bentonite and kaolin clay to clear your pores, witch hazel for toning, and aloe vera and licorice root to brighten. The main difference with this new launch is that the ultraviolet-colored formula oxidizes on your face and bubbles — instead of hardening — before you rinse it off.
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"Antioxidants like vitamin C and green tea are helpful at the beginning of the day, because they brighten," Dr. Woolery-Lloyd notes. Vitamin C is actually the key ingredient in this product by Lixir, which also helps build up the skin's natural defense against UV damage. (No, that doesn't mean you can skip sunscreen.)
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The peppermint-leaf water packed into this sheet mask will feel so soothing right before your 45-minute train delay. Plus, you can save some time by skipping your usual serum, as the remaining essence is meant to be rubbed into your skin after you take the mask off before you apply your moisturizer and sunscreen.
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Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says that masking is more of a supplement to your existing routine, depending on your particular need. But you'll want to integrate Starskin's instant-results pads into that routine as much as possible, since they're heavy on ingredients that soothe and brighten, like matricaria flower extract.