There's more than one way to mask. Here's an expert guide on which one is better for your skin.
woman wearing sheet mask
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Sheet masks have gotten quite a lot of time in the skincare spotlight. At this point, there's a mask solution for practically every skin concern: Want to tackle fine lines and wrinkles? There's a mask for that. Need to calm redness and other irritations? Grab a mask. Sheet masks are designed to offer a convenient delivery system for your skincare treatments. Depending on what the product is made of, sandwiching the ingredients between the mask and your skin, warms them up using your own body heat, ultimately helping them absorb into your skin better. "Sheet masks in general are designed to create a barrier to intensively infuse the skin with hydrating and anti-aging ingredients," explains Dr. Howard Sobel, New York City-based dermatologist and founder of Sobel Skin.

As anyone who's ever shopped for a mask knows, there are options available that intend to deliver a number of skin solves, from combating fine lines and wrinkles and fighting acne to brightening skin and replenishing collagen. That fact alone can make finding the right mask for you tricky. Things can get even more confusing when you're comparing masks that are traditionally soaked in a serum to dry versions that eliminate the goop and slippage by packing the active ingredients into a non-wet gel. Both versions will stick to your skin, but is one more effective than the other? We went straight to the experts for the answer.

How They're Made

Dry sheet masks use a waterless, emollient, moisturizing formula and a dry-printing technology to stamp a solid oil or active ingredient mixture onto a fabric sheet. A traditional wet mask, on the other hand, is soaked in product, giving the effect of dipping a piece of fabric into the liquid ingredients and then placing it onto your skin. These typically require rubbing any extra product into your skin once you take the mask off. You'll also find hydrogel wet masks, which are essentially like a hybrid of the two. Think of Jell-o, where the ingredients are mixed completely, then cooled into a gel. One problem is that these mask may consist of more gel than actual product, which is why Ellen Marmur, dermatologist and founder of Marmur Metamorphosis Skincare, recommends looking for those with "full thickness matrix technology," a formulation that originated in South Korea and offers, she says, the most advanced results.

Wet vs. Dry

Marmur believes that ingredients typically used in sheet masks-including glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloe, niacinamide, and green tea extract, which all help increase moisture and calm the skin-are better delivered through wet masks. "Those with dehydrated skin might find that dry sheet mask formulas lack the moisturization they need. Those with sensitive skin should also be careful, as some dry masks can cause redness and irritation. And heavier formulas might not be ideal for those with oily or acne prone skin," Sobel adds.

The key to efficacy with any type of mask is having clean, dry skin beforehand. Sobel recommends gently exfoliating before applying for optimal results. The longer something is in contact with the skin the more effective it is likely to be on the outermost layer, according to Sobel. "Since masks are made to sit on the skin for an estimated 10 to 20 minutes per use, they are designed to deliver ingredients like hyaluronic acid or peptides more effectively into the skin." After applying a sheet mask, massage the left-over product into your skin and neck. Sobel also notes that leaving a dry sheet masks on longer than recommended, can dry out and irritate the skin, which is the exact opposite of its intended purpose. Also, if you use your sheet mask in the morning, make sure to always follow it with an SPF.

Wet Mask to Try

If you're battling dry skin, try Innisfree My Real Squeeze Manuka Honey Mask. Eucalyptus fibers are soaked in manuka honey to help replenish moisture back into really dehydrated skin. It's also under $2, so you can mask every day if you want. Should dull, tired skin be more of a concern, pick up GlamGlow Glowlace Radiance Boosting Hydration Sheet Mask. This one comes in two pieces so that you can properly fit it to your face. It's pumped with caffeine, green tea, and hyaluronic acid to help re-energize tired skin-and it's finished in a lace print in case you need to grab your takeout while masking.

To fight puffiness, we like MMRevive Face Mask. Adaptogens like ginseng flecks, fight inflammation and help your body adapt to environmental stress. There's also antioxidant that help heal and repair skin from free-radical damage-and botanicals that calm and speed up healing of bruised or irritated skin. And if you've spent too many hours in the sun, reach for Joanna Vargas Twilight Face Mask. Epidermal growth factors, arbutin, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid help heal and soothe sun-scorched skin.

Dry Masks to Try

We like Charlotte Tilbury Instant Magic Dry Sheet Mask for dry skin. Shea and mango seed butters, combined with olive oil and niacinamide, really help nourish and restore moisture. Plus, this dry format can be used up to three times before tossing. A trifecta of Kakadu Plum extract, Balloon Vine extract, and essential fatty acids in Miss de Gaspe Beaute Brighten & Beam Brightening & Revitalizing Dry Mask give skin a high dose of Vitamin C. You'll notice a brighter, calmer complexion after use. And should you want a mask that delivers bright, dewy skin, try Ulta Beauty Instaglow Dry Sheet Mask. The shea butter, peptides, and oils on this dry mask melt into a balm that make skin look and feel like you've just had a professional facial.


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