Additional research by Kelly Ang
Every skincare junkie worth his/her salt would use a mask at least once a week to keep the skin in a tip-top condition.
In fact, even celebrities that are known for their glass skin, such as Park Shin-hye and Song Hye-kyo, have both revealed to Daily Vanity that their secret to beautiful complexion is to use a mask every day. (If you want to know if this skincare tip works, read all about the experience of a DV writer who has been using a sheet mask every day.)
So while we’re probably convinced that we should use a mask regularly, we may still have a lot of questions on our mind:
- Which type of masks should you use? From sheet masks to night cream masks to those fancy LED masks – what’s really what?
- What’s the best way to use it? Is there a “correct way” to use masks, even for something that looks as simple as a sheet mask?
- What are the best facial masks in the market to buy? Find out which ones caught our eyes and won our hearts!
We break these questions down for you so you’ll feel like a facial mask expert in no time.
Different types of facial masks, how to use them, and the best ones to buy
1. Sheet masks
What are they?
Sheet masks are probably the first masks you tried in your life. They are ubiquitous, readily available in many different types and price points, and make your sleepover parties Instagrammable immediately! They have been around for years, but these sheets of soaked up goodness are straight up becoming staples in many beauty enthusiasts’ skincare routines.
Usually made of fabric-like material, with holes for the eyes and mouth, a sheet mask is supposed to lay nicely across your face while it delivers its cocktail of goodness straight to your skin. The mask itself works as an occlusive, sealing its active ingredients into your skin with its physical barrier. Typically, masks are left on for 15-20 minutes, and when you remove it after, you’ll find your skin saturated with hydration.
Types of sheet masks
The most distinctive difference among masks is probably the materials that make up the sheets. Sheet masks are typically made of a few types of materials:
- Cotton: This is probably the most common type of material used in mask, this is a fail-safe option that’s comfortable to wear.
- Microfibre: You may mistake this for cotton but it usually feels more sturdy yet softer, so it’s able to stay more snugly on the skin.
- Bio-cellulose: This is often seen as an upgrade from cotton and microfibre because it adheres better to the skin and helps to skincare ingredients penetrate better and the moisture in the mask to be less susceptible to evaporation so everything goes into your skin.
- Foil: This probably looks the most luxurious but beyond the good looks, the foil material retains the serums in the mask so you can get the most out of it.
How often can you use sheet masks?
If you’re wondering if you should use them everyday, the short answer is: it depends.
Most sheet masks are simply soaked with beauty serums for hydration or brightening and generally safe to be used every day, just like your regular serums.
However, take note of masks that are tagged as “anti-ageing” or “exfoliating” because they may be infused with acids, which may be too strong for daily use.
Who should use a sheet mask?
The good news is that there seems to be a sheet mask for every type of skin concern out there! Whether you’re looking for one with anti-ageing properties, or to calm acne, brighten your skin tone or for general hydration – you’ll probably find one without too much frantic searching.
Best sheet masks to try
For Beloved One Melasleep Brightening Lumi’s Key Bio-Cellulose Mask
Taiwanese beauty brands are very advanced in their sheet mask technology, and For Beloved One is probably one of the brands that affirms this impression, thanks to their superior bio-cellulose mask technology.
This one by For Beloved One helps to brighten skin, reduce the appearance of blemishes, and prevent wrinkles.
Retails for S$110 (for a pack of seven) at Sephora.
Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Sheet Mask
The Korean brand’s Midnight Blue Calming Cream is among one of its bestsellers, thanks to how it helps soothe irritated and sensitive skin. Now imagine the goodness of the holy grail in mask form, and you get the Midnight Blue Calming Sheet Mask.
Apart from the same soothing benefits, it also helps to cleanse pores, prevent blackheads, and lower skin’s temperature.
Retails for US$30 at Wishtrend.
Holika Holika Skin Rescuer Mask Sheet – Vita C
This ultra-fine sheet mask is infused with vitamin C to help deliver brightening results to the skin. Use this regularly to revitalise skin that looks dull and tired.
Retails for S$7 for one sheet at Lookfantastic.
2. Clay masks
What are they?
You’ll be surprised by this interesting fact: clay masks have been in existence since Ancient Egypt; Cleopatra was known to use mud from River Nile on her face twice weekly to preserve her famed beauty.
This beauty “hack” has since been followed by women of all generations.
Clay is known to have immense detoxifying effects, so while we may not have mud from the River Nile to aid us in this – and we certainly don’t recommend mud from the Singapore River! – there are a wide variety of clay masks to choose from, made by reputable brands.
Types of clay masks
- Bentonite clay and French green clay: These two types of clay are excellent for very oily skin due to their strong sebum absorbency. Look out for these two ingredients if you’re struggling with oily or acne-prone skin.
- Sea clay: Most renowned for its cleansing properties, this is the ingredient to go for if you want to keep your pores clean and refined.
- Brazilian clay: This is moderate in its absorption strength and is usually suitable for all skin types.
- Kaolin clay: This is a gentle variation of clay that is typically recommended for those with sensitive skin.
How often can you use clay masks?
Clay masks should be used no more than once a week to prevent your face from drying out.
Who should use this?
While there is a clay mask for everyone, those with more sensitive and dry skin should use these with caution. Typically, those with oily and acne-prone skin will find that clay masking will benefit them the most. If you have combination skin, consider using clay masks as part of your multi-masking routine by applying it only on your T-zone where it’s more oily.
Best clay masks to try
Mitsuko Deep Moisturizing Face Mask
Made with Mitsuko’s signature Raw Leatherwood Honey, an ingredient that helps to intensely moisturise skin, this mask is also enriched with avocado oil, watermelon extract, and apple extract to increase skin’s metabolism and deliver antioxidants to the skin.
This clay mask features the French green clay, which is known for its superior ability to detox skin and absorb impurities.
Retails for S$59.90 at the Mitsuko website.
Sand & Sky Australian Pink Clay
One of the most popular clay masks in the market, this helps with skin detoxification while deeply cleansing it. Of course, its beautiful colour makes it super Instagrammable too!
Leave it on for just 10 minutes and you’ll find your skin purified and pores tightened with each use.
Retails for S$69.90 at Sephora.
AHAVA Mineral Mud Clearing Facial Treatment Mask (Single use)
This mask is rich in Dead Sea Mud, which is known for its ability to draw out debris and excess oil, as well as nourish skin with a host of minerals.
The brand has this same formula in a jar format that is very popular but if you’d like to use it during sleepovers, staycations or when you travel overseas, then the single-use version is going to be a lot more convenient. You can also consider getting the single-use mask to try and see if you like the formula before investing in the full-sized jar too.
Retails for S$4.50 at Lookfantastic. At the time of writing, the retailer is offering an extra 10% off when you use the promo code 618SALE10.
Pixi Glow Mud Mask
This mineral-rich treatment helps draw out impurities, combat blemishes, while energising your complexion.
Made with Kaolin, sea salt, ginseng, and aloe vera, this is a gentle mask that revives your skin in 15 minutes.
Retails for S$31.50 at Lookfantastic. This is probably the lowest price you can find that ships to Singapore (shipping is free). At the time of writing the retailer is offering 25% off on Pixi products when you use the the promo code 618SALE25.
Read more: Best clay masks that won’t dry up your skin
3. Peel-off masks
What are they?
There’s something extremely satisfying about peeling a mask off and having your face feel squeaky clean after. Seeing the dirt and dead skin cells come right off in your hands is magic! And who’s never admired those cleaned out pores right after? (Or you might be in the camp who’s super scared of peel of masks thanks to this one lady’s horrifying experience of ripping out her eyebrows while removing hers…
But don’t worry, adhering to the recommended time of no more than 20 minutes and peeling the mask off gently – else washing off what won’t peel off easily – will keep your eyebrows intact.)
Types of peel-off masks
While you may be a little confused by the huge number of peel-off masks available in the market, the majority of these masks provide the same core benefits: cleaning out pores to achieve radiant and clear skin.
How often can you use peel-off masks?
Peel-off masks typically offer a very visual effect that is very satisfying, but you may want to refrain from using it too often.
Some beauty experts caution against these oh-so-satisfying masks for precisely the same reason as why you love them: the repeated peeling off can cause sagging, as tugging at your skin to remove the mask may cause a loss in elasticity.
This is why it is recommended that you only use peel-off masks once a week or only when you need it. You should also avoid peel off masks if you’ve got a sunburn, just had a facial wax or your eyebrows threaded.
Who should use this?
Those with oily or blackhead-prone skin will benefit the most from peel-off masks. If you have easily irritated skin or suffer from conditions like eczema or rosacea, or have bad acne, you may want to be more discerning when using these masks.
Best peel-off masks to try
Aprilskin Real Calendula Peel Off Pack
Besides clarifying skin, this peel-off mask contains floral ingredients to moisturise and nourish skin. The formula removes dead skin cells while controlling sebum, making it great for those who are trying to keep acne at bay.
As a bonus, this mask contains floral ingredients and flower oil, which makes it nourishing and smells good at the same time!
Retails for S$23 at Guardian.
Shiseido Waso Purifying Peel Off Mask
Formulated with Red Shiso, a Japanese herb that has antiseptic and skin detoxification effects, this mask helps reveal fresher, smoother, and brighter skin.
Its formula allows it to reach deeply into the pores to clear it of impurities. You’ll also love that it has antioxidant benefits, which help reverse free radical damage on your skin.
Retails for S$45 at Sephora and all Shiseido counters.
Sephora Collection Blackhead Peel-Off Mask
Designed to reduce the numher of blackheads right from the first application, this also instantly purifies and mattifies your skin.
Simply apply it onto your T-zone, let it dry for 15 minutes before peeling it off to achieve clearer skin.
Retails for S$25 at Sephora.
4. Cream masks
What are they?
Cream masks are a literal dream to apply: this goes on as the last step of your skincare routine, and you leave it on to work its magic overnight as you sleep and wash it off when you get up. It’s that simple!
Cream masks are an excellent choice for hydration and nourishment. They are also extremely luxurious to fall asleep to in a cold, air-conditioned room, and you wake up with skin that looks and feels so soft and smooth.
Types of cream masks
Typically, you can choose from hydrating or anti-ageing masks, as they stay on your skin overnight and deliver the moisture boost your skin craves after a long day of modern urban living.
How often can you use cream masks?
Go on, treat your face to a cream mask twice or three times a week, you won’t regret it. Pro tip: avoid applying too near the eye area, to prevent the formation of milia. Milia can form when heavy creams are combined with the build-up of dead skin cells.
Who should use this?
Nourishing, moisturising, and gentle on the skin, cream masks are great for everyone, but especially those who have dry or dehydrated skin.
Best cream masks to try
Origins Plantscription Powerful Lifting Overnight Mask
This luxurious mask is made with a potent blend of botanical ingredients to help plump your skin while your sleep. Besides boosting moisture, it also helps reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles and delivers lifting benefits as you use it regularly.
Retails for S$113 at Sephora and all Origins counters.
Apivita Moisturizing Face Mask – Sea Lavender
This cooling mask is ideal for those with dry, dehydrated, and mature skin. It is formulated with Sea Lavender, Rose Essential Oil, and a patented Propolis Extract to rejuvenate skin, infuse it with antioxidants, and gives it long-lasting moisture.
Retails for S$22 at Lookfantastic.
Chantecaille Jasmine & Lily Healing Mask
A luxurious cream mask that feels cooling on the skin, this is formulated with a concoction of botanical ingredients that help intensely moisturise skin. Those who are suffering from dull complexion are recommended to use it as a rich night cream, instead of a weekly treatment, to help hydrate skin and keep it feeling supple.
Retails for S$131.50 at Lookfantastic. At the time of writing, it is available at 20% off when you use the promo code: 618SALE20. Chantecaille products are also available at Takashimaya S.C, Cosmetic Department at Level 1.
5. Gel masks
What are they?
Similar to cream masks but with a lighter texture, these masks are, quite simply put, the more lightweight cousin to cream masks.
Perfect for Singapore’s humid weather, gel masks are heavenly to apply on your face at the end of a long day and fall asleep to.
Types of gel masks
There are so many brands available today, but the key thing is to look out for are the ingredients.
Look out for ceramides or hyaluronic acid if you want something moisturising, and vitamin C or AHAs for anti-ageing benefits.
While many of them are sleeping masks, there are also a lot of options out wash-off options available.
How often can you use gel masks?
Photo from Althea.
It is usually recommended for use once or twice a week. However, many beauty enthusiasts swear by using gel masks every day.
Who should use this?
Cream masks are richer and more nourishing than gel ones, so those who have extremely parched skin are going to love the former more. However, for those who feel that their skin “suffocates” when using rich formula in our humid climate will find gel masks refreshing and comfortable.
If preference isn’t any issue, then gel masks are suitable for everyone.
Best gel masks to try
Beauty of Joseon Revitalize Sleeping Mask
With a great online reputation, this gel mask is formulated with botanical ingredients including black beans, ginseng, honey, and orchid, which are known in K-beauty as beneficial for anti-ageing, hydration, and skin-smoothing.
Retails for S$23.70 at Althea.
Laneige Sleeping Water Mask
One of the bestselling sleeping masks in the market, this gel mask delivers intensive moisture and detox your skin while you sleep. On top of that, it is also infused with a trademarked scent that helps you relax during sleep so you can have a more restful night.
Retails for S$42 at Lazada and at all Laneige counters and boutiques.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask
This product took the internet by storm and once had an 8,000-person waitlist – yes, that was how popular it is!
The luxurious formula is made with Watermelon extract, Hyaluronic Acid, and pore-refining AHAs to gently exfoliate and clarify skin while hydrating it overnight. Thanks to these skin-loving ingredients, you’ll wake up to glowing skin the next morning.
Retails for US$45 at Glow Recipe.
I’m From Ginseng Mask
Enriched with six-year-old Korean Red Ginseng Extract, this is a wash-off mask that helps skin achieve the ideal oil-and-water balance. It also can remove dead skin cells and other impurities to reveal a fresher-looking complexion.
Retails for US$37 at Wishtrend.
Fresh Rose Face Mask
This cult-favourite mask is infused with real rose petals, rosewater, and an algae that delivers intense moisture to the skin. The refreshing formula is loved by anyone who is looking for a mask that soothes, hydrates, and calms, all while brightening it.
Retails for S$95 at Sephora.
6. Exfoliating masks
What are they?
Exfoliation masks help remove accumulated dead skin cells and encourage cell turnover so that your skin will be less prone to clogging and look more radiant instantly.
Types of exfoliating masks
There two types of exfoliating masks that are most common in the market: those that comes with a scrub and those that are enriched with gentle acids.
The former nourishes the skin first before you add water to rinse off in a circular motion to generate an exfoliating effect. The latter softens and dissolves dead skin cells so that they come off when you rinse off.
How often can you use exfoliating masks?
Some people, especially those with sensitive skin, are going to find exfoliating masks slightly irritating to the skin. You can stick to a weekly routine with it, but if you still find it too irritating, you can cut down its frequency. To make sure it’s gentler for your skin, for scrub types, avoid using too much force or spending too much time massaging it on your face, and for acid types, leave it on for a shorter time.
Who should use this?
Exfoliating masks are generally suitable for everyone, but you should avoid it when you have active acne or broken skin, to prevent aggravating it further. And if you have dry skin, gentle acids work better than scrubs.
Best exfoliating masks to try
Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay
This two-in-one mask has a clay formula that contains jojoba beads to exfoliate your skin. Besides clearing clogged pores and removing dead skin cells, this also reduces skin inflammation and firms up skin.
Retails for S$39 at Sephora and all Origins counters and boutiques.
I’m From Fig Scrub Mask
This mask exfoliates skin with two ingredients: fig powder and black sugar. You probably already heard about the hydrating and naturally exfoliating abilities of the latter; the former is also used for gentle exfoliation while providing anti-ageing benefits.
Retails for US$32 at Wishtrend.
REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask
This peel mask helps to resurface the complexion with a cocktail of four AHAs: glycolic, citric, lactic and tartaric acid. The potent formula helps renew the complexion and reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, acne scars, and blemishes in just ten minutes.
Retails for S$63 at Lookfantastic. At the time of writing, you can use the promo code 618SALE30 to get 30% off this product.
Versed The Shortcut Overnight Facial Peel
This overnight mask by result-driven cult beauty brand Versed contains lactic and glycolic acid to deliver resurfacing benefits to the skin. It further rejuvenates and calms skin with vitamin A and vitamin E.
The brand says that this is gentle enough for you to use it on back-to-back nights, which is something not a lot of peels out there can boast of.
Retails for £18.00 at Cult Beauty.
7. LED Light Mask
What are they?
The newest kid on the block, LED masks look very different from all the other ones we’ve talked about in this article but serve the same function: as a regular booster.
LED masks are worn on your faces while LED light pampers your skin and deliver different skincare benefits (dependent on the colour of the light you use).
Types of LED masks
There are generally just one type of LED masks in the market, but look out for those from reputable brands and have features that protect your eyes to ensure they’re safe to use.
How often can you use LED masks?
You can use it up to three times a week and for no more than 20 minutes each session. Those who are new to the therapy may want to start less frequently and for a shorter duration first, before building up the frequency and duration to help your skin get used to it.
Who should use this?
They are great for everyone but most love it for its anti-ageing benefits.
Best LED masks to try
Cellreturn LED Mask Platinum
You may have seen Lee Min-ho used this mask in his latest series The King: Eternal Monarch, where he played Korean emperor Lee Gon.
This LED mask has 1,026 LED lights to give a complete coverage on the entire face, making sure that every part of your skin is given the light therapy.
It comes with three wavelengths (red, blue, and pink) and the choice of four treatment modes, and the mask covers up to the ears, cheeks, and neck to make sure that these often-neglected parts are also taken care of.
Retails for S$2,646.11 on the Cellreturn website.
LG Pra.L. Derma LED Mask
This mask has 160 IR and red LED lights and you’re recommended to wear it for nine minutes a day to see results. (The LED mask “speaks” through its voice assistance feature to you to let you know when the time is up.)
To make sure that it is absolutely safe to use, it comes equipped with an eye shield and only lights up when it detects that you’ve worn it.
Retails for S$1,349 at Lazada (at the time of writing, it’s available at a discounted price of S$1,049), Tangs, and Robinsons.
Eclair LED Therapy Mask
For a cheaper alternative, consider this one Eclair (owned by Zero Founders, a Korean beauty tech company). Made of 96 LED lights and three different settings, this is loved for its lightweight and comfortable design.
Retails for US$170 at Wishtrend. The retailer is offering it at 30% off (at US$119) at the time of writing.
Read more: LG Pra.L LED Mask review