What To Look For When Choosing A Face Mask

Published on March 20, 2020. Updated May 19, 2020

Face masks are a great way to target a skin concern or help boost a specific skin type, but how do you choose which one? There are a number of different factors you should think about before you hit “add to cart”. To help you determine which mask is right for you, there are six different factors you should consider when making your decision.

Skin Type

The first thing you want to consider when trying to pick a face mask is your skin type. Too shiny? Check out The 5 Best Face Masks for Oily Skin. Parched skin? Take a look at The 5 Best Face Masks for Dry Skin. Breaking out? We’ve got you covered with The 5 Best Face Masks for Acne-Prone Skin. Seeing signs of aging? Grab one of The 5 Best Face Masks for Mature Skin! It doesn’t matter what type of skin you have, just ensure you choose an appropriate mask, otherwise, you might end up giving your skin a treatment that it doesn’t need.

It’s also really important to know whether your skin is sensitive, as this should affect what mask you choose. If you do, look for a clean beauty brand or a mask that specifically says it’s formulated for sensitive skin using gentle and soothing ingredients. It’s also a good idea to limit masking to once per week, even though some packaging may say to use it twice.

Active Ingredient

An active ingredient is one that is addressing the skin concern it’s meant to target. According to Emily Newsom, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, and SELF Magazine, “An active ingredient has been proven in a lab by research to change the skin in some way; it’s an ingredient that has data behind it.” In contrast, inactive ingredients don’t specifically do one job, but they are often critical in helping deliver the active ingredient to your skin. There are many active ingredients, but here are a few, along with the skin issues they target.

  • Signs of aging: zinc oxide, ceramides, titanium dioxide, lactic, acid, collagen, avobenzone, oxybenzone, vitamins A, C, and E
  • Dryness: hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, jojoba oil, aloe vera, glycolic acid
  • Pigmentation: kojic acid, AHAs, BHA, peptides, hydroquinone, vitamin C
  • Acne: retinol, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid, sulphur
  • Psoriasis: tea tree oil, vitamin A/retinoids, vitamin D, salicylic acid, urea, lactic acid, anthralin, zinc, tacrolimus, pimecrolimus
  • Eczema: steroids, niacinamide, tacrolimus, hyaluronic acid, pimecrolimus


This may seem obvious, but you should be looking at a mask that you can comfortably afford on a regular basis. Face masks work best when they’re part of your regular beauty routine, not when they’re only used twice a year when your skin is really bad. So while La Mer’s The Lifting the Firming Mask may be tempting, you’re likely only buying this luxury mask once in your lifetime, if that. Before you impulse buy the trendiest mask, figure out your budget and stick to it so that your skin can reap the benefits of masking long-term.

Leave-On, Peel-Off, Overnight, or Sheet?

Masks come in many shapes and forms – leave-on (often for 10-30 minutes), peel-off (like the Boscia Luminizing Black Charcoal Mask), overnight, and one-time-use sheet masks! There are sub-categories within each of these. For example, clay masks, which are great for deep pore cleansing. There are always exceptions to this, but generally, peel-off masks are best for removing blackheads; overnight masks are best for hydration; and sheet masks are perfect if you’re looking for a serum treatment.

There are some drawbacks of different mask types though. If you’re using an overnight mask frequently, you should be changing and washing your pillowcase regularly. Sheet masks are one-time-use, which can make them expensive and unless compostable, aren’t an eco-friendly choice. These are just a couple of the drawbacks of particular mask types, so decide what’s important to you and factor that into your purchase.

Season or Climate

I can almost guarantee that your skin doesn’t need the same mask in summertime as it does in winter, especially if you live somewhere with significant temperature differences between seasons. In colder temperatures, you may want an ultra-hydrating mask to replenish moisture while in summer, you may need a mask that helps with oil control. Your skin type takes precedence when choosing a mask, but your skin type may change slightly depending on the season, so don’t forget to take that into consideration!

A great mask for skin in the cold dry winter is the Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask – and yes, it happens to be a clean beauty brand. Another option is the Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Hydrating Mask, which is a moisture-rich mask that you put on before bed, leaving skin hydrated for up to 72 hours after.

In the summer, when skin may be feeling a little bit more sweaty and oily than usual, the Pai Copaiba Deep Cleanse AHA Mask is a favorite. It gently cleanses, drawing out impurities without stripping skin, something that’s particularly important if you don’t normally have oily or acne-prone skin.

Are Clean Ingredients Important to You?

Whether you care about ingredients being “clean” versus “dirty” is something you should consider before choosing a mask. In fact, it’s a question you should ask yourself about your overall skincare and beauty products as a whole! Personally, I love a good clean beauty mask and feel good knowing that I’m using a product with non-toxic, organic ingredients that hasn’t been tested on animals. If this is important to you, or you’re curious about it, why not try a mask that’s more “green”? Some of my favorite brands are Pai, Cocoon Apocothary, Indie Lee, Apoterra, and Harlow Skincare. If clean beauty isn’t for you, that’s okay too! It’s just one consideration when you’re choosing a face mask.

The Absolute Best Face Masks For Every Skin Type

Face Masks

The Absolute Best Face Masks For Every Skin Type

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