Do Face Masks Help Tighten Skin?

Genetics, aging and photodamage degrade the collagen and elastin in your skin, two proteins responsible for giving your skin its elasticity. Aging also slows down new collagen and elastin production, causing sagging skin, wrinkles, and fine lines.

Face masks can help tighten your skin and enable you to appear younger by rejuvenating loose or aging skin. However, choosing the best kind of face mask depends on your skin type and the right combination of ingredients proven to be effective at encouraging collagen production and tightening the skin.

The weird and wonderful world of face masks has blossomed in recent years.

Where once people stuck to creams and clays, they're now venturing into enzymes, charcoal, and sheet masks.

Face masks are one of the little pleasures in life — like buying sparkly cocktails or unzipping your high waist jeans once you get home. But do face masks even do anything? We know that they feel great and give you some hardcore luxurious feelings. I mean, think of the usual tradition that involves a face mask.

Not many of us slap it on as we're rushing around, trying to get out the door. It's a pampering kind of experience. Usually, candles are involved, or a glass of wine. You're generally in your most favourite sweatpants, and plans were probably (excitedly) cancelled, meaning you have nothing to do all evening but sloth around and finish all the frozen food in your freezer.

What Are Masks?

Face masks are great additions to any skincare routine to target specific skincare concerns. Masks can help hydrate skin, remove excess oils and help improve the appearance of pores—while providing a relaxing, spa-like experience at home.

How Do Masks Work?

Face masks are occlusive—meaning they blanket the skin, delivering benefit ingredients to improve the appearance and or quality of the skin. Always apply a face mask to clean, dry skin, so you're not layering a face mask over dirt and bacteria.

Wash face, moisturize face, apply makeup. Skincare is simple, right?

There's nothing wrong with a basic skincare routine, especially if it's working. But if you're one of the millions of Americans plagued by skin conditions from acne to redness, you may be looking for a skincare boost. And unfortunately, professional skin care procedures, such as facials, can be pricey.

This is where face masks come in, offering intense skin treatment for a fraction of the cost.

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The "magic" behind face masks is simple, explains Dr. Ditre. "The ingredients from a face mask are kept longer in contact with your skin because of the occlusion phenomenon of the mask on your skin."

The mask traps the moisture or ingredient in the skin and creates a film that helps to either hydrate, moisturize, dry or exfoliate the skin depending on the ingredients used and its purpose. Therefore, face masks allow ingredients to penetrate better into your skin in a short amount of time. Whether it's salicylic acid for acne, vitamin C for fine lines or retinoid for brightening dark spots, a face mask can offer a more concentrated dose and more intense version of its ingredients than other forms of applications.

How to Get Tighter Skin

Facial masks and other cosmetic products combat loose skin by using anti-aging ingredients to increase skin elasticity and protect the skin from further damage. Effective ingredients are those demonstrated to:

  • Stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin
  • Hydrate your skin to keep it from drying and forming wrinkles
  • Exfoliate dirt and debris from your skin to help other ingredients better penetrate the surface 
  • Protect your skin from overexposure to the sun

Face masks are designed to be used intermittently to give your skin an instant boost. Depending on what your skin needs, there is a mask that can do one (or a combination) of the following:

  • Hydrate and moisturize dry skin
  • Refine large pores
  • Improve skin texture
  • Absorb excess oil and dirt
  • Decongest clogged pores
  • Minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Enhance elasticity
  • Improve the look of breakouts
  • Brighten dark spots

Face masks are cosmetic products that tighten loose skin by encouraging collagen production and hydrating the skin. When formulated with ingredients proven to have anti-aging properties, face masks are a viable option for increasing skin elasticity.

Numerous skin tightening mask options are available depending on your specific skin type. Peel-off and sheet masks are intended for any kind of skin. Cream masks are effective for those with normal to dry skin. Gel masks are appropriate for dry, swollen or sensitive skin and clay or charcoal masks are best suited to individuals with oily, combination or acne-prone skin.

DIY face masks can be made by combining ingredients believed to have antioxidative and skin tightening effects, but the efficacy of homemade solutions is questionable. Viable alternatives to skin tightening masks are OTC or prescription topicals, cosmetic procedures or surgery.

What's The Short Answer?

In a nutshell, it all depends on which face mask you use and what you're trying to achieve. No face mask will work miracles. But together with a good skincare regime, they can improve your skin's texture and appearance.

"Face masks can be an effective way to deliver an intensive burst of nourishing and therapeutic skin care ingredients in a highly concentrated form," explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Nikhil Dhingra of Spring Street Dermatology in New York.

They work by covering the face with your chosen formula for a set period, usually 10-20 minutes. This gives the ingredients more time to penetrate the surface of the skin and take effect.

While they can be a quick fix for inflammation and dry patches, their benefits are temporary, meaning you should use them alongside other effective skincare products.

And Dr. Dhingra adds, "Doing a mask for the sake of doing something for your skin can be risky and lead to a surprising number of issues, including dryness, irritation, redness, and breakouts."

Choosing a Face Mask and Routine

Whether you scour social media or search the aisles of the drug store, trying to find a suitable face mask can be overwhelming. There are thousands of options out there, and just because your favourite Instagram model uses one mask doesn't mean it'll work for you.

Start with what kind of mask you'd like, such as:

  • Overnight masks that are hydrating and may contain hyaluronic acid, which is ideal for mature or dehydrated skin
  • Clay, sulphur or mud masks, which can soak up oil and have a slight exfoliating effect
  • Sheet masks containing antioxidants, which are hydrating and, if you store them in the fridge, anti-inflammatory

You'll have to wear it for anywhere from 10 minutes to the entire night, so make sure you choose a mask that comforts your skin.

Now, you can move onto the exciting part: the targeted skin benefits. Are you looking for a moisturizing mask during the dry months of winter? Are you hoping to prevent signs of aging? Or maybe you're trying to tackle that T-zone that is prone to breakouts.

The benefit of a face mask depends on its ingredients. Some common skin issues and the ingredients that may address them include:

  • Acne: salicylic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids
  • Fine lines and wrinkles: antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and resveratrol; ferulic acid or retinoids such as retinol and retinaldehyde; and humectants such as hyaluronic acid
  • Redness (rosacea): niacinamide
  • Dark spots and pigmentation: kojic acid, retinoids, and vitamin C

Once you find a mask that works for you, work it into your skincare routine, says Dr. Ditre. "Masks should be applied after serum but before moisturizer, or for nighttime masks, instead of your nighttime moisturizer."

Though it may be tempting, don't overuse face masks. They should only be used about once a week at the most to prevent irritation.

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Added ingredients to be aware of

While face masks contain a lot of beneficial ingredients, some additions can irritate.

To avoid a red or dry look, check the ingredients list for anything that could react badly with your skin.

These include:

  • fragrances
  • alcohol
  • parabens
  • dyes
  • essential oils

People with sensitive skin or easily irritated conditions like psoriasis need to be extra careful when using face masks.

Dr Cheung advises against overuse of drying ingredients and strong exfoliants, such as salicylic acid or retinoids if you fit that bill.

Any face-mask user should also look into any over-the-counter or prescription medications they're taking to see whether the side effects include skin alterations.

For example, long-term corticosteroid use can result in thin skin. Certain antibiotics and antihistamines can increase skin's sensitivity to sunlight. These effects, coupled with a powerful face mask, may damage the skin rather than help it.

If You're Diying At Home, You Have A Few Other Things To Consider

You may have been scared away from using DIY skincare techniques, but making a safe and effective face mask at home is possible.

Just don't forget to apply a small amount of the ingredients behind your ear first to test for unwanted reactions.

Ingredients to use

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For exfoliation and brightening effects, look to lactic acid found in milk and yogurt.

Aloe vera, along with fruit like papaya, can also help brighten the skin.

If you're looking to calm an inflamed complexion, try turmeric. And dryness can be remedied with natural ingredients like honey and avocado.

Ingredients to avoid

While it's a good idea to do your homework before slathering your face in anything from the cupboard, some ingredients are always best to avoid.

Steer clear of anything acidic —things like apple cider vinegar, lemon, and lime juice can lead to irritation and even burns.

Putting egg whites on your face is also a bad idea that could lead to a nasty infection, especially if you have an open wound.

The high alkaline level of baking soda can also be harsh on the skin.

What Are The Benefits?

The benefits of a face mask depending on the ingredients they provide. Masks can deliver higher concentrations of ingredients to plump, hydrate, and balance the skin. For example, masks containing hyaluronic acid have the added benefit of attracting and binding moisture, while a clay mask can help tighten and clarify skin.

Gel face masks may be infused with polyhydroxy acids, marine extracts and antioxidants that rehydrate and help the skin recover. Exfoliating masks may contain hydroxy acids to help slough off dulling dead skin cells and cleanse pores. Read the ingredient labels and choose the best mask for your skin type and skin concern.

To Help Maximize Your Results

So you've found your dream formula and know how often to apply it.

To achieve your skincare goals, you'll need to make the most of those ingredients.

Here are a few simple tips and tricks.

Always Cleanse Before And Moisturize After

Thoroughly cleanse skin before applying any face mask.

Use a hydrating cleanser with a neutral pH and gently rinse with warm water, so your pores open up, ready for the mask.

Dr. Dhingra advises that after you've taken off the face mask, use a thick, oil-free moisturizer and hyaluronic acid serum to minimize any potential irritation and seal in the active ingredients.

Use Consistently And Layer As Needed

Using a face mask once, and once only, won't do you much good. But regular use can help you achieve your goals.

Use the same mask for at least 6 to 8 weeks before making your mind up.

And if you have multiple skin concerns, you can save time by multi-masking.

For example, you may find your chin and cheeks need an exfoliating type, while your T-zone requires some oil control.

Don't Leave It On For Too Long

It's easy to think that the longer a face mask is left on, the more effective it becomes.

But resist the temptation to leave any mask on for longer than instructed.

A formula designed to stay on for 10 minutes that isn't removed for an hour could end up feeling and looking irritated.

Remember That Price Doesn't Indicate The Quality

The most expensive face mask isn't necessarily the best.

Some masks won't work for your skin, and that likely has little to do with their price and a lot to do with their formulation.

Find the best formula within your budget by looking for well-researched ingredients and reading reviews from others with your skin type.

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