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A facial mask is a preparation applied to the skin to draw out impurities, refine and hydrate or lighten pigmentation. It often contains minerals, vitamins, and botanical extracts and should be used weekly after cleansing and exfoliating.

Different masks are used for the various skin types.

Know your skin type – masks

Combination/Normal skin. For Combination/Normal skin types there are hundreds of masks on the market. These can vary between firming masks that dry on the skin to cream masks that stay wet to plump up the surface and improve dehydration

Dry skin. A moisture-rich cream mask has great benefits for dry skins. It nourishes and revitalises the skin.

Oily skin. For oily, acne prone skins an anti-bacterial mask should be used. Drawing and purifying masks, such as clay masks, can also be of benefit to this skin type

Sensitive skin. Sensitive skin can use either a drying or cream mask depending on the oil flow, but ensure that it doesn’t contain synthetic fragrances or dyes, and it specifically designed for a sensitive skin.

Mature skin. A moisture-rich emollient cream mask has enormous benefits for dry and sun damaged skins. They revitalise the skin leaving it looking fresh, soft and smooth.

Masks should be applied to a clean, exfoliated skin and be left on for 10 to 15 minutes. For dry skins, some cream masks can be left on overnight to enhance the effect. For the drier or mature skins, look for masks that contain botanicals such as grapeseed oil, squalane (olive extract) and yeast extracts to minimise fine lines. Most cream masks have powerful antioxidants and contain emollients, such as shea or cocoa butter, almond, olive, or jojoba oil, aloe vera, vitamin E and essential oils. These natural ingredients can help soothe the skin and restore the natural moisture balance. Moisturising masks can also have a mild firming effect on skin because the increased moisture levels help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles caused by dehydration. The cream or moisture rich masks should be avoided if you have oily skin as they can over nourish and clog the pores.

For the oilier skin types with breakouts look for a mask with cod liver oil to stimulate healing and soothe the skin. Thyme oil and zinc oxide have an anti-bacterial effect and can help to prevent further breakouts. A clay or mud mask may be beneficial; this is painted on and will dry on your skin. As it dries, it absorbs excess oil, firms the skin, and temporarily makes your pores appear smaller.

Another type of drying mask is the Refining mask. Refining masks with fruit extracts can be very useful for oily, unbalanced skins or a combination skin needing a pick me up. These masks refine the pores and even out the texture of the skin. Some botanical extracts used in fruit masks are: Cucumber extract – to help strengthen the skin’s acid mantle, peach extract – this has a keratolytic action, removing dead skin cells. Both the clay and refining mask should be avoided if you have dry or sensitive skin.

Expert opinions on masks

Paula Begoun – – Review on facial masks

“If there is one truly optional step in skincare, masks are it. Whatever miraculous properties are attributed to masks, no research supports the often dubious assertions of benefit attributed to the special muds, minerals, vitamins or plant life these products typically contain. These exotic components range from seaweeds to volcanic earth, unusual muds, enzymes, and just about anything else you can think of. Cellulite is smoothed, wrinkles are eliminated and acne is cured – all with the application of a facial mask… Despite the litany of bogus claims, I do believe they still can have benefits for some skin types. As long as you keep your expectations realistic, masks, however optional, do have their place and purpose in the world of skin care.”