Masks are like facials-in-a-flash can act like first aid for faces – if you choose carefully and don’t use them too often. (Once a week is maximum – and only if you feel your skin needs it.)
Always apply facial masks to cleansed skin, and only leave on for as long as the instructions recommend. ‘Mask ingredients are more concentrated than those in lotions or cleansers, so they produce more noticeable benefits,’ observes Aida Thibiant, whose European Day Spa in Beverly Hills attracts famous faces like Rachel Hunter and Bette Midler.

The perfect fix for…

Oily skin, or skin that’s broken out

Key words in the name: Deep Cleansing, Clarifying, Mud, Clay.

Ingredients to look for: kaolin (oil-absorbing clay), aluminium magnesium silicate (talc), bentonite (white clay), witch hazel or zinc oxide (antiseptics), eucalyptus (draws out impurities).

How to use them: most oily skin masks start off as a thick paste and then dry on the skin to a hard crust. Apply, avoiding eye area. A clean, hot washcloth is best for removing all traces – the skin feels temporarily tightened.

How they work: these clean the skin and absorb excess oil, so cutting down shine. Antiseptic ingredients inhibit the growth of bacteria, while clays cause the skin to perspire, bringing out impurities with the sweat.

Dry skin that’s rough, flaky and feels tight

Key words in the name: Moisturising, Hydrating.

Ingredients to look for: buttermilk, milk protein, vegetable proteins, collagen, vitamin B Panthenol, amino acids, water, oil, lanolin, hyaluronic acid, urea, algae.

How to use them: apply, and tissue off after the recommended time. Masks for dry skin shouldn’t set hard.

How they work: by delivering a concentrated mix of moisturising ingredients to parched surface cells, the mask temporarily reduces the appearance of fine, dry lines.

Dull skin that looks tired, greyish, lacks translucency

Key words in the name: Perfecting, Botanical, Replenishing.

Ingredients to look for: menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus. N.B. avoid masks containing AHAs unless you know for sure your skin can cope with them without triggering sensitivity.

How to use them: smooth on; if the mask is a cream, tissue or wipe off. Some of them are peel-off formulations: once the mask has set, pull downwards (gently), starting from the forehead.

How they work: plant ingredients slough off dead surface cells and dirt partly responsible for the dull look, and stimulate the skin, giving a (pleasantly) tingly feeling.

Blotchy skin (i.e. sensitive)

These masks are appropriate for any skin type suffering tightness or red patches.

Key words in the name: Gentle, Soothing, Relaxing.

Ingredients to look for: kaolin, caffeine, azulene, chamomile, aloe, grapefruit seed extract, honey (all soothing).

How to use them: smooth onto skin; wipe away with tissues or a hot washcloth.

How they work: caffeine and grapefruit seed extract reduce redness. Chamomile extract and aloe tackle inflammation (which is why they’re often found in after-sun treatments), and have a cooling effect on the skin.

Making the most of your mask

  • Cleanse first: using a mask on a dirty face is like putting polish on a dirty floor.
  • Read instructions carefully: for best results, pay close attention to suggested masking time and proper removal technique.
  • Be generous: most masks work best when laid on thick.
  • Avoid the eye area: nearly every mask advises you to apply it well away from sensitive under-eye skin.
  • Put your feet up so that oxygen is redirected from lower body to your head, oxygenating facial skin to facilitate the mask’s actions.
  • Moisturise immediately: now that you’ve removed dead skin cells and unclogged pores, your moisturiser will penetrate more deeply, for maximum results. Women with dry skin may want to seek out one of the newer cream masks, which can be left on the skin to sink in. Lingering traces of the mask can simply be smoothed in like a moisturiser.