Too much of anything is good for nothing. This is true for face masks as well. All of us love to pamper our skin with face masks. Be it a DIY mask or the latest sheet mask you picked up at the store; each has specific skin benefits to offer. But do you have any idea how often you should use these masks? We have discussed that and a lot more in this article. Scroll down to find out.
What's the short answer?
Put: It depends. It comes down to your skin type, your individual skin needs, and the kind of mask you're using.
Some masks are best used once per week, while others can be used more frequently, up to 3 times per week. The easiest thing to do is read the instructions on the label or packaging that comes with your face mask. The directions should explain how often you can use the face mask, given its formula and the strength of its ingredients.
What Is a Face Mask?
Just like your serums, face oils, and moisturizers, face masks are loaded with active ingredients to treat and prevent skin concerns. Facial masks are often used for:
Face masks also come in different types to suit your preferences — charcoal, clay, gel, and volcanic ash are just some of the common ones you see on the market. These can be in the form of wash-off masks, leave-on masks, sheet masks, or peel-off masks.
What Does A Face Mask Do To Your Skin?
What your face mask does to your skin depends on the type of mask or the formula you are using.
When it comes to face masks, there are infinite varieties to choose from. Not all have the same formulation and ingredients. The way a collagen-boosting show works on your face is different from the way a mud mask would work. Irrespective of the type of mask you choose or the formula you pick, your face mask can do the following things to your skin:
- Improves skin texture
- Refines skin pores
- It makes your skin soft and smooth by removing dead cells
- Keeps your skin hydrated
- Removes excess dirt, oil, and impurities
- It makes your skin radiant
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles
- Unclogs the skin pores
- Improves the elasticity of your skin
- Reduces acne
- Reduces eye puffiness
Using a face mask regularly has its benefits. But wait, what does "regularly" mean? Is it every alternate day or once a week? What should be the frequency?
How Often Should You Apply a Face Mask?
People have been using face masks as part of their skincare regimen for millennia. Cleopatra was said to have used clay, dead sea mud and egg whites as facial masks in ancient Egypt and other cultures, followed by natural facial and skin care practices. Regardless of the ingredients used, all recognized the importance of caring for the skin.
If you're out shopping for a face mask, you'll find a large variety to choose from. There are so many on the market that you may not know which one to buy or how often to use it. The answer? It depends on several factors:
- Your skin type
- Your age
- The time of year
- The weather
- If you have oily skin
Factors to Consider
Besides looking at the facial mask formulation and the skin concerns it addresses, other factors such as your skin type and the environment can impact how frequently you should face-mask.
Depending on your skin type, how often you should use a particular facial mask may vary accordingly. For example, if you have dry skin, you may be able to get away using a hydrating overnight mask every night.
On the other hand, if you have acne-prone or oily skin, it may be unwise to use the same type of mask more than three times a week. This is because some overnight masks contain occlusives which can clog your pores and worsen your breakouts.
Oily skin is more prone to breakouts and acne than dry skin, and a mask that unclogs the pores and removes trapped oil and dirt is best. Clay masks work well to draw out the oil, but they should only be worn for 15 minutes and no more than three times a week. They're more effective if you don't let them dry completely. Look for face masks that feature hyaluronic acid or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA).
If your skin is sensitive or dry
If your skin is already sensitive or dry, you need to watch for facial masks that could stress your skin. A hydrating mask is best and should include hyaluronic acid and ceramides. It might also have aloe, olive oil and witch hazel oil for extra moisture. One that has oatmeal may help to de-stress sensitive skin. Applying a face mask more than once a week can dry out your skin even more.
If your skin is mature
Mature skin begins to lose elasticity and can look dull. A facial mask that hydrates and evens skin tone is helpful. Look for shows that feature antioxidants to fight free radicals and collagen to improve elasticity. Shea butter and argan oil can add moisture and help diminish fine lines. Niacinamide is an essential anti-aging ingredient and is made up of vitamin B3 (niacin) and amino acids. An exfoliating mask that includes AHA can help remove dead skin cells that make skin look dull. If you use an anti-aging mask, apply it no more than twice a week.
Consider the season and weather.
Skin tends to be dryer in the winter than in the summer. When it's cold outside, your cheeks can become red and chapped, and they need more attention. You can safely use a moisturizing mask several times a week in the winter. On the other hand, your skin may need more oil control in the heat of summer. If you have acne, symptoms may become more apparent. A mask that cleanses and refreshes – one with clay or perhaps seaweed – may help. In the summer, you probably will want to use a facial mask only once a week.
Has the weather been turning cold and dry lately? Or maybe the recent wildfires have been causing your skin to act up due to worsening air pollution. As such, the environment is a significant consideration when deciding how often you should mask and which types of facial masks to use.
For instance, in the winter, you may consider using a hydrating mask more frequently. You can also add an overnight mask on top of your usual creams and moisturizers to provide your skin with a much-needed hydration boost.
When it comes to rising pollution levels, it may be a good idea to use a charcoal or clay mask more often to detox your skin. Of course, always be conservative and listen to your skin before upping the frequency.
What Type of Face Mask is it?
There are a lot of different formulations of face masks, and they all have other properties.
Cream masks are similar in consistency to lotions. They're generally packed with moisturizers and are very light on cleansers. They're some of the best for daily use and can be left on for an extended period without irritating the skin. Some are even meant for overnight use. Creams are safest for frequent use, but they don't do a lot unless you're looking for a few specific results, like moisturizing and softening dry skin.
Gel masks are thicker, with the consistency of jam. They tend to be stickier, like honey, often because they have love as an ingredient. These tend to have astringents in them, which can help draw oils away from the skin and clear out pores. This makes them better at cleansing your skin without harsh and irritating agents, but they can't be left in or overused because of it. Overuse can lead to dry skin and might even promote wrinkles.
Clay masks are their category simply because there are so many different kinds of clay. They're generally thicker than other kinds of masks and are packed with nutrients and minerals. Clay is a powerful ingredient for exfoliating, removing oils, and clearing pores. Clay masks are often a once-a-week sort of treatment, though again, this can vary based on other factors, like your skin type.
Mud masks are similar in some ways to clay masks, but they act differently. Mud masks are generally meant to infuse the skin with nutrients and moisture rather than strip away oils. They're often used as part of a two-step process of cleansing and restoration. Mud masks are often used for healing as well, making them great for acne.
Exfoliating masks are masks that are filled with harsh cleansers, compared to other kinds of masks. They're astringent, they're irritating, and they can even burn your skin if left in place too long. Whenever you see a "mask fail" video online, chances are it's an exfoliating mask left on too long, going the skin red and irritated beneath. They're excellent for cleansing and can be very beneficial for those with oily and acne-prone skin, but they're not so great for dry skin, and they shouldn't be used too often.
Warming masks are a unique kind of mask infused with spices like paprika, cayenne, or cinnamon. These spices, when applied to the skin in a mask, stimulate the skin. In small doses, this increases blood flow to your skin, encouraging healing and plumping up the skin through a very light inflammation effect. When used for too long or too often, they can irritate the skin and even cause chemical burns, though most commercial masks have other ingredients to help minimize the chances of that happening.
Charcoal masks are masks that specifically use activated charcoal to cleanse the skin. Activated charcoal is a powerful absorbent agent, which means it can strip away all of the oils on your face and wash it of anything nasty in your pores. It's also quite likely to dry out your skin if you're not careful, and you need to moisturize and restore your skin after using them.
So, How Often Should You Use a Face Mask?
The type of mask formulation and the skin concerns it targets will affect how often you should use a particular face mask per week.
Recommended Frequency: 1 to 2 times a week
Besides loading up on your retinol in the form of moisturizers and serums, anti-aging masks are also a great way to get your vitamin A fix while pampering your skin. To up the efficacy of your anti-aging masks, look out for other skin-firming ingredients such as:
- Antioxidants like vitamin E and carotenoids
One thing to note is that some anti-aging masks may contain exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) to speed up the skin renewal process. That's why we recommend you use an anti-aging mask once or twice a week to ward off signs of aging without risking skin sensitivity.
Recommended Frequency: 1 to 2 times a week
Brightening masks are lovely for lightening hyperpigmentation and perking up dull skin for a more radiant complexion. Some powerful skin-brighteners are:
- Fruit enzymes like papaya or pineapple extracts
- Ginseng extract
- Licorice root extract
- Vitamin C
Based on the list above, we see that some of the substances used in brightening masks are also active ingredients. Hence it's best to use them only once or twice a week to prevent over-sensitizing your skin.
Tip: Choose a brightening mask that also contains calming or hydrating ingredients like chamomile extract, glycerin, or hyaluronic acid to minimize redness and sensitivity.
Recommended Frequency: 1 to 2 times a week
Charcoal masks contain activated charcoal, which absorbs excess oil and draws out impurities from the skin. This makes them an ideal pick if you have oily skin and blackheads or reside in a polluted area.
However, since charcoal masks can be drying on the skin, we recommend using them once a week first and see how your skin responds before increasing them to two times per week.
Recommended Frequency: 1 to 2 times a week
Clay face masks are a favourite when it comes to skin detox. A 2010 study published in the Journal of International Geology Review highlighted that clay minerals possess powerful adsorption properties. This means that they can "remove oils, secretions, toxins, and contaminants from the skin" to heal blemishes.
While clay masks are ideal zit-busting skin rescuers, too much of it could also lead to skin dryness. As such, clay masks should only be used once a week for dry or sensitive skin. You may choose to use a clay mask twice a week for oilier skin types if your skin agrees with it.
Tip: Use clay masks as a spot treatment by applying the facial mask to your problem areas. Wash it off after 10 minutes and see your breakouts appear less prominent and angry-looking.
Recommended Frequency: 1 to 3 times a week
We all know that exfoliation is an essential step for a glowing complexion. To make sure you get your weekly dose of exfoliation, exfoliating masks are a great alternative to face scrubs and chemical exfoliants.
Since exfoliating masks often contain active ingredients like AHAs, salicylic acid, fruit enzymes, or physical beads to help you slough off dead skin cells, it's best only to use them one to three times a week. For more details, check out our guide on how often you should exfoliate your skin.
Recommended Frequency: 2 to 3 times a week or more
As its name suggests, overnight masks are not your usual kind of wash-off masks. Instead, this type of facial mask is meant to be applied and left on overnight so that the mask can work its magic while you sleep.
Since most overnight masks contain humectants and occlusives, these hydrating and moisturizing masks can be used two to three times a week for most skin types. If you have dry skin, consider increasing the frequency to more than three times a week or use it daily.
Signs you should switch up your use.
If you don't see significant results from your face mask use, try increasing your usage by one more time per week.
For hydrating, gentle formulas, such as cream and gel masks, you can experiment using the face mask daily. If you're using an exfoliating or purifying formula and you're starting to see raw skin or light irritation, it might be best to decrease your frequency to once per week or once every few weeks.
Signs you should stop using the mask altogether.
If your face mask is causing severe irritation, acne flare-ups, or any allergic reaction, stop using it immediately.
If you can, consult a dermatologist or other healthcare provider to see what your best move is. They might prescribe a topical or oral medication to curb the irritation. In some cases, inflammation and other irritation might clear up without treatment.
Your Skin Is the Best Judge
When it comes to how often you should use a face mask, the bottom line boils down to three main factors: the mask formulation, your skin type, and the environment. When you consider all these factors, it's easy to use a suitable face mask at the right frequency to help you get clear, healthy skin.
While the above guidelines provide a recommended usage frequency for each mask formulation, know that the ultimate determining factor is still your skin's needs. Listen to what your skin is telling you, as it's still the best judge on whether you should reach for a charcoal mask, an overnight mask, or something different. Most importantly, take a conservative approach when using masks with active ingredients, such as anti-aging, brightening, and exfoliating masks.
You can find face masks for every skin type, and every skin need. Because so many different formulas and uses exist, there's no one answer for how often or how long you should wear a face mask.
Always consult the label or packaging for best use, and if you're ever concerned, ask a dermatologist for their advice.