Face masks feel fabulously retro to me. Painting my face with creamy, gloopy deliciousness evokes childhood and teen memories of when I used to pester my mum to keep me in ample stock of those single use sachets of pastel or chocolate coloured (and scented) cheap-as-chips face masks from the local chemist.
It’s an affair that begun when I was probably too young. I vividly recall ‘doing’ masks, while wearing a feather boa and toy plastic high heels with my neighbours at a very young age and feeling like some sort of princess/barbie/movie star. Now, what feels like a millions lifetimes since then, its still a hugely satisfying way to spend 15 minutes, even though it doesn’t make me feel quite as chic as it did back then. Especially when I have to answer the door to some disgruntled postman.
Back in the day, my primary concern was the colour of the mask, and I mainly opted for the pink versions.
Now I use masks as a reset before adjusting my regime in reaction to a particular skin concern. But it’s still as delightful bonus if the mask is some glorious camomile lotion or Pepto Bismol shade of girly.
The instructions often say to use face masks ‘once a week’ and I do often use a lovely mask to give my skin a mid week boost or treatment while I watch Eastenders like the rockstar I am.
However, I also use several simultaneously, often on the same day and sometimes at the same time – matching certain areas of the face to the most appropriate match from the mask list. They’re certainly a quick and convenient perk-me-up to use in the morning or as a pre-party prep.
As I’m both a somewhat unrestrained person by nature and utterly consumed by my desire to outsmart my annoying, temperamental skin, I have to execute more restraint than is remotely sane, to stop myself from performing masking morning, noon and night.
I’m not just committing the overkill that’s synonymous with me, by double and triple dosing on masks. It’s actually crucial for me to hydrate as well as exfoliate, clarify or brighten and vice versa. If I forgo either the exfoliating or brightening or the moisturising mask when I do a mask and my skin suffers. If I don’t exfoliate or peel first, then the moisturising properties won’t penetrate the top layer of skin and if I don’t moisturise after I use a peel, or clarifying or mud/clay mask then my skin will become dehydrated and dry.
Masks aren’t must haves and I’m not saying anyone needs one. It’s not like cleanser. I think they’re really nice before a big event and they really work well in the very short term, even though they aren’t going to do anything long term. Just be aware of that before you splash out. If you’re only going to buy one or two skincare goodies then your cash would be better spent on serum, liquid exfoliant, oil, cleanser or moisturiser.
If you like the sound of some instant gratification and you have an extra 10 minutes of a morning or evening then here are my favourites.
THE HYDRATING, MOISTURISING, PLUMPING MASKS
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Instant Oatmeal Mask, £19
I met this unassuming product after the unrivalled Queen of Makeup (and pretty much, everything else) Lisa Eldridge mentioned it her “favourite masks” video. I didn’t expect to love it like I do, but at around £20, it didn’t seem too expensive to trial it. As with most times I copy Lisa Eldridge, I am so glad I did!
This exponentially outperforms almost ever other hydrating mask I’ve tried. Even Paula’s Choice gives it 5 stars and she’s the most militant, hard to please skincare expert in the world, so I am confident there’s nothing that could cause any problems for anyone on the ingredients list.
When a fleeting liaison or longterm love affair with a harsh product or two have left my skin feeling raw, sore, red or sensitive, or my skin has been dried out by seemingly any crisis or extreme weather condition, environmental factor or quarterly seasonal transition meltdown, I remediate that with this gorgeous soothing, healing, repairing smoothing, cocooning, heaven-sent moisturising mask.
This natural mask truly has superior moisturising qualities and soothing capabilities than anything I’ve ever topically applied.
The brand FAB is beautiful and aims to treat skins many troublesome conditions gently and as naturally as possible. They totally delivery relief with this oatmeal mask. It feels like you’re smearing porridge on your face, which is an acquired taste at the best of times, but there’s no skin woe that can’t be helped by this.
Even on a good skin day, this is so plumping and beautifying and will make you’re makeup look gorgeous, because it has furnished you with such a smooth and lovely canvas.
Post exfoliation of any kind, applying this is non negotiable in my world. It’s one of the most useful and well lover of any product I’ve ever used.
Liz Earle Nourishing Treatment Mask, £17.50
I discovered this by accident, while raiding my mums obscene Liz Earle collection for her brightening mask that I knew really worked. I couldn’t find the brightening mask but did uncover this and since I had nothing better, gave it a go. It genuinely looked like I’d had a mini facial afterwards and as a result I never retuned the tube to its rightful owner. Which is surely glowing testimony enough to merit its inclusion here even if I can’t pinpoint exactly why I always return to it. It’s just a nice, easy, quick way of giving my skin some much needed hydration.
Clarins Hydraquench Cream Mask, £34
I don’t use this as a rescue treatment for my skin for any reason, instead opting for a generous layer of this when it my face just needs a tiny little boost.
It is a thick, creamy mask that turns watery-lotion-like and disappears deceivingly fast. It’s invisible within a minute or two so is perfect for days when you’re puttering in your garden, running errands, or might just need to answer the door.
It’s smells very Clarins too me – fresh and floral. It has a hint of clay in it so although hydrating, calming, and soothing to the skin, it’s not ideal if you’re super dry because the clay will dry you slightly, but the good news is that it can be used on everyone except for the very dry. The clay with help oily people and the humectants will help dehydrated or moderately dry people.
I love it because it feels so low maintenance, requiring no attention other than sweeping it on. A little bit goes a long way and it lasts forever. If it didn’t, I’d have repurchased ages ago because it’s a real mainstay in my collection for relatively balanced days.
Ark Hydrating Injection Masque, £35
Another Susie Amy enabled purchase! She said it was brilliant for flights and since her advice is among the most reliable of any beauty lovers, I got myself hooked up with some of this and I’m so thrilled with it.
It’s perfect for flights and holidays because it will counteract the damaging effects of flying and of sun, sea, sand and sangria. It’s filled with vitamins to boost Collagen, smoothness, to prevent UVA damage and fade past sun damage and pigmentation, hylaronic acid to hydrate and cooling properties to ease irritation. It actually feels a bit like suped up aloe Vera gel.
And like magical aloe gel, it goes on clear so it works its magic invisibly. If it wasn’t for the lovely results and the faintly gorgeous scent, it wouldn’t leave a trace.
The scent is like a herbal, floral cocktail and I love it tremendously.
Plus, it now just reminds me of summer holidays so much that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pack a suitcase without it again.
For alternate uses I’ve written about this before here My Five Favourite Overnight/Sleep (or Flight) Masks
Sisley Black Rose Mask, £99
Sisley, although almost inconsiderably and eye-wateringly costly, is so consistently fantastic that I always take their marvellousness for granted. Like the dreadful mum of the school school sports star who considers a string of first places and handful of medals every competition a certainty and stops celebrating the brilliance of the individual acts of brilliance.
I always expect Sisley to be wonderful and I’m never disappointed. Their price means I sometimes don’t give them the credit they deserve, instead I think, “well it damned well should be good for the price!”. And I kind of do believe that but I also believe often their prices are justified, where other, even more expensive brands, often aren’t.
Anyway, as you’ve probably gathered, Sisley is my spirit animal and this product may as well be made of rainbows and unicorn tears, it’s so magical and radiance boosting.
It’s actually made, unsurprisingly, of roses and all sort of gorgeousness. It smells beautifully rich and rose-like, has a luxurious creamy texture and is so relied upon that it rarely leaves the side of my bathtub; it’s my salvation in times of crisis, moments of happiness, special occasions or when I don’t feel well.
This covetable mask is so popular with celebrities, top makeup artists, skincare experts and beauty editors,that it feels hackneyed to list it here, but I can’t ignore it because it has charmed me no end, and I think I’ll forever hold it in the deepest of affection. I suffer from fear-of-running-out as soon as stocks reach 50% of the tube – and that sensation goes hand in hand with ‘fear-of-forking-out’ for a new one.
I need to quote Sali Hughes (because nobody describes this product better than her) from her brilliant bestselling book, Pretty Iconic,
“This is the mask used by supermodels after six weeks of sleepless and over-made-up skin. It’s the mask reserved by makeup artists for only the best magazine covers and their gold-band clientele. It’s the mask I give to women at their lowest ebb, when divorce, bereavement or illness has ravaged the body, mind and soul. Rich, luxurious, gentle and soothing, a 10-minute session with Black Rose Cream Mask is like your most well-off girlfriend taking you for a four-hour lunch and three bottles from the lower half of the wine list.”
Now, if that doesn’t make you want to slather on this dreamy concoction, I don’t know what will!
THE CLARIFYING , BRIGHTENING, EXFOLIATING MASKS
I went through an extended phase of collecting enough clay masks to fill a cement mixer. Most of them were substandard and gave me about as much radiance of a clay plant pot.
I’m not sure why I kept up the mud masking charade for so long but I’m a creature of habit and that seems to be a particularly prevalent aspect of my character when concerning bad habits.
Anyway, I eventually worked out that I was blitzing my skin with over-zealous attacks and stripping products. Obviously stripping skin doesn’t work or we’d have no more acne epidemics, since acid mantle stripping products like Clearisil and oil reducing cleansers, toners and masks continue to fly off of shelves. Shouldn’t more sales of alcohol laden, stripping products mean less acne, not more than ever before?
Though dubious of most clarifying masks, I’m nothing if not annoyingly persistent so my discontent with my muds and clays propelled me to find something better for brightening and resurfacing the skin.
I continue to veer away from the nastier, more alcoholic incarnations of clays, and take grave exception to loathsome, abrasive, sharp, granular scrubs. I would no longer knowingly take part in the intolerable act of giving my skin a thousand micro tears in the name of skin “care”. More like ‘skin-violence’ than skincare! Skin murder, even! (Bit OTT…)
Anyway in the name of… hmm, ‘research’,
I continue to put reputable brightening masks through their paces and have found some do a perfectly serviceable job.
Here are the best of the bunch…
Bliss Oxygen Instant Energising Foaming Mask, £42
This is such a joyful mask if you believe there to be such a thing. It is a wonderful experience to use it because it’s so immediately refreshing and energising. Energising really is the perfect word to describe this Bliss babe of a mask.
I’m a little perplexed as to the chemical logistics of this orange frothy jelly but essentially it fizzes on your skin like a self-frothing cappuccino for your face. Usually I harp on about avoiding anything remotely foaming (because foams are generally sulphates that do nothing other than to dry your face out) but this is the exception to my rule because it’s a well conceived delight!
Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not convinced its instant fizzy, sizzling, tickling foam brings anything to the party other than the novelty factor, but I’ll still take it any day of the week because it’s brilliant and refreshing and cheerful and…. it’s just everything I could want to brighten up my face literally and figuratively.
This mask is full of antioxidants and vitamin C and as is seemingly a prerequisite for vitamin c products, it also smells deliciously orangey.
It’s a quick fix, and won’t last longer than a couple of hours, but it is perfect if you want to brighten up your face for a party or just for an appointment. I’m not exaggerating when I say that in the five mins it takes before you rinse this off, it does something miraculously rejuvenating to your face. I have converted every man, woman and child I’ve ever forced this upon. One of the men seems to slap it in his eyes and the child rubs it all over her legs and arms, but they’ve been recruited nonetheless.
Because I have too much time on my hands and too few responsibilities for someone my age, I keep mine in the fridge for ultimate refreshment and then I use it in the mornings to calm my puffy face and take away that enviable death-bed look…
A ‘Holy Grail’ Mask for sure. (Apologies for the nauseating YouTube term).
Glamglow Tinglefoliate Mask, £39
I’m not a fan of harsh facial exfoliators because they can end up causing nasty little micro-tears in your face that leaves it susceptible to inflammation and infection in the form of spots. The closest I get to a scrubby mask is while I’m trying to massage this maddeningly stubborn hardened clay one off my face. It doesn’t have chunks or beads or anything – though it does have some weird eucalyptus type leaves that kind of scratch if you don’t remove them first – but the mud seems to cling dementedly to my face!
This is hardcore and they say to expect “tingle”. For me it’s more of an intense burn but it’s a mercifully short-term affair and I like the results enough to put up with it.
Clay is a texture I almost always steer clear of because it’s horrifically drying, and even though this is a little drying and I have to apply something very moisturising next, it is also exceptional.
The combination of muds and clays means that it’s deep-cleansing, clarifying, resurfacing, smoothing, and absorbs excess sebum like nothing else. It’s always oddly satisfying to view the oily patches that take longest to dry! Sometimes I even apply this only on the congested areas of my face and use a different mask on the other parts of my face.
I’ve reviewed this previously here : My Favourite Exfoliating (Acid) Products for Every Skin Type
There are currently seven in the Glamglow range, each of them more Instagram-worthy than the next (think metallic silver for a start!) but this is the only one I really love. I’m a bit underwhelmed by the others but they’re all very popular online so if you’re tempted to try some but don’t want to commit to the full sizes you can buy cheaper sample pots of Glamglow masks in Boots, so you can try before you commit to the full priced versions.
Oskia Renaissance Mask, £49.50
Oskia makes seriously gorgeous products.
This comes in the most tactile jar that everyone seems to pick up and ask, “what’s this?”.
What is it? It’s another one to add to the list of beautiful masks.
This smells the same as their amazing Renaissance Cleansing Gel that I wrote about HeRE LINK. It’s like washing your face with the worlds most delicious, decadent, posh, melted Turkish Delight. This is a practice that’s much more pleasurable than it should be or sounds.
Massage the peachy cream in until it goes white and within fifteen minutes, your skin is subject to a triumvirate of quality active ingredients and a potent cocktail of acid exfoliants that resurfaces, sloughs and peels away dead skin cells and leaves your skin soft, polished, bright and clear.
It’s expensive but it’s extraordinarily good, if a touch brutal for the uninitiated peeler. It can leave me a little red, but nothing one of the moisturising masks above can’t remedy!
This comes from the same class of luxury as the Sisley Black Rose, and the two go together perfectly.
Keihls Turmeric Cranberry Energising Radiance Mask, £29
First things first; Turmeric. This is currently a very trendy ingredient in skincare, particularly in the homemade DIY sphere. Every time I go onto Instagram I see someone incorporate turmeric into a mask and rave about its virtues. I was inspired to try some myself and wouldn’t recommend it unless you want to look like an oompah loompa! It’s stains you the worst colour – and it stinks!
Generally, I would rather embrace some feminine, lovely smell or ingredient that’s rose based and soothing and avoid something that smells like it should go into a savoury food dish.
You don’t have to be trepidatious when it comes to this Kielhs version of a turmeric mask though. It’s a more refined formulation than you’ll ever manage at home and although it’s packed with anti-oxidant, anti-septic, sebum-controlling turmeric extract, it’s also mixed with kaolin clay which dampens down the colour and the staining potential.
The turmeric scent is much more subtle but it’s definitely present. You’ll only notice it for a minute before it dissipates.
It dries fast and washes off with ease. The cranberry seeds are entirely pointless and do precisely ZERO exfoliation… a failure in design that I’m actually happy with, since I don’t like scraping my face kernels.
It’s one of the least drying clay masks I’ve tried and it truly does leave you looking as bright as a button.
P.S. Anyone know where the hell that saying even came from? Buttons are hardly the brightest of adornments…
Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque, £39.50
This is another masque from the aforementioned Lisa Eldridge “favourite masks” video and it’s another one I would never have tried if I hadn’t heard her recommend it.
The Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque practices what it preaches. It’s like you’ve given your skin a dose of 5 green juices and a handful of berroccas. It even feels as though it is faintly fizzing away in a Berrocca fashion when it is first applied.
It smells a little like banana and chemicals, which makes it feel like you’re applying some medicinal ointment. It turns orange as it dries and isn’t a spectator kind of mask because it looks a bit gross, but after twenty minutes or so, rinse it off to reveal glossy, radiant, revitalised, perky skin that’s almost too good to spoil with makeup!
Ren Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask, £34
Again, I’ve described this lovingly before in full technicolour detail here My Favourite Exfoliating (Acid) Products for Every Skin Type
However, I can’t leave it out of a list of brightening masks because this really, really brightening. It’s like liquid sunshine for a drab face because the natural fruit acids and exfoliant within peel away dead skin and shows the the new virgin skin below in just ten minutes.
It’s also not drying so doesn’t need the same level of attention to be devoted to hydrating the skin after I’ve used this. You can use it and go.
I love this fruity, juicy, honey-textured mask so much that it’s invariably the one I’ll recommend to anyone who is new to acid exfoliating or a skincare regime in general.
One of the original brightening masks and as is so often the case in life… it’s still the best. A little rendezvous with this baby and you’ll have skin the texture of the finest duchess satin.
Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant, £41
Okay, so this is getting embarrassing and I’m like a broken record, but this is the third and final one from the twice before mentioned Lisa Eldridge video. Don’t judge me… it’s testament to her knowledge, rather than my devotion to her! I’ve also written about it here My Favourite Exfoliating (Acid) Products for Every Skin Type
This is a creamy, gentle, super effective, non-abrasive exfoliation treatment designed to thoroughly remove dulling surface debris without any scrubby particles. It can dramatically improving skin texture, by using Alpha hydroxy Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Papain, Bromelaon and natural fruit enzymes to detach and digest dead skin cells, accelerate exfoliation and help to stimulate skin renewal.
Lavender, aloe vera and coneflower helps reduce inflammation, sensitivity and soothe skin and counterbalances the most aggressive effects of the surface cell digestion that’s going on. It also contains some humectants to draw out water and sooth any dryness.
It contains the best exfoliating acids for both oily and dry skins so is the perfect mix for anyone.
I keep it on for about 20 minutes and then always follow with something soothing and hydrating like the Sisley Black Rose or the First Aid Beauty Oatmeal because my skin feels super exfoliated but quite parched after a session with this.
It can get kind of itchy as it gets to work but rinses of easily to reveal smooth, flake free new, skin.
My Top Tip…
My top tip is to get one from each section above (hydrating and brightening) and then use them one after the other for the best results. Always use the exfoliating or brightening one first then the moisturising one. The only exception is the Bliss Oxygen Energising Mask that more than stands on its own two feet.
If you have any favourites that I haven’t mentioned, send me a message to let me know. Sharing is caring, guys!
Buy these products here:
Liz Earle Nourishing Intensive Treatment Mask: https://m.johnlewis.com/liz-earle-intensive-nourishing-treatment-mask-50ml-with-muslin-cloth
Glamglow Tinglefoliate Youthmud Treatment: https://m.lookfantastic.com/glamglow-youthmud-tinglexfoliate-treatment
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Oatmeal Mask: http://m.feelunique.com/p/First-Aid-Beauty-Ultra-Repair-Oatmeal-Mask-56.7g?url=First-Aid-Beauty-Ultra-Repair-Oatmeal-Mask
Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask: https://www.spacenk.com/uk/en_GB/skincare/moisturisers/day-anytime/black-rose-cream-mask-MUK200008162.html
Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energising Foaming Mask: http://www.marksandspencer.com/triple-oxygen-instant-energizing-foaming-mask-100ml
Clarins Hydraquench Cream Mask: https://www.clarins.co.uk/hydraquench-cream-mask-specially-designed-for-dehydrated-skin/C010202010.html
Kiehls Turmeric and Cranberry Seed Energising Radiance Mask: http://www.kiehls.co.uk/skin-care/category/facial-masks/turmeric-cranberry-seed-energizing-radiance-masque/KHL3265.html
Dermatological Multivitamin Power Recovery Mask: https://m.lookfantastic.com/dermalogica-multivitamin-power-recovery-masque-75ml/10365252.html
Ren Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask: https://www.cultbeauty.co.uk/ren-glycol-lactic-radiance-renewal-mask.html
Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant: https://m.lookfantastic.com/dermalogica-gentle-cream-exfoliant-75ml/10365454.html