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Overnight Masks

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Photo: Wix

What is an overnight mask and how can it benefit skin health?

Using an overnight face mask is a way to get a little boost out of your skincare routine. Overnight masks are similar to night creams but tend to use more concentrated ingredients. Moisturizers, creams, and other products used routinely work well, however, every now and again we all feel like our skin needs a little something "extra". This could mean that you seek more hydration, oil control, redness relief, etc. Overnight masks are a method to deliver concentrated ingredients to the skin over a short period of time.
Benefiting from a mask relies on understanding what your skin needs. The interesting thing that I come across in practice is that people genuinely just want to use a mask. They don’t know why, they just do! There is a relaxing quality to pampering ourselves or giving our skin a little extra attention. Just another example of self-care.

This is not a problem as long as it is understood that overnight masks are not meant for everyday use. The ingredients are so concentrated that if overused can start to cause a little trouble.
Understanding which masks to use is also important. Those with acne-prone skin or sensitive skin need to be the most careful.



How can I choose the best overnight mask for my skin?

To choose the right mask, look at your skin and think about what bothers you the most:
  • Dry skin?

  • Oily skin?

  • Acne-prone skin?

  • Redness?

  • Sensitive skin?

  • Discoloration from sun damage?

  • Discoloration from old acne scars?

  • Do you have a combination of issues?

If you are just hoping to pamper yourself but your skin does not have any particular challenges, choosing a mask for hydration is reasonable as these tend to be the mildest.
For those with acne-prone skin, choosing a hydrating mask can be helpful to counter the effects of the excess dryness caused by acne medications. However, caution should be taken to avoid clogging pores. I find it helpful to apply your acne medication first and apply your hydrating mask on top.
For those with sensitive skin, be cautious with products that promise anti-aging benefits. Often times the anti-aging benefits come from alpha hydroxy acids or chemical exfoliants that can be a bit too harsh for your skin.

If you are trying to improve discoloration from sun damage, a vitamin C-containing mask can help. However, if your discoloration is from acne scars it may be worth sticking with other types of fading agents such as kojic acid, azelaic acid, or alpha hydroxy acids.

How should I prep my skin before using an overnight mask?

Prepping your skin for an overnight face mask is similar to prepping your skin for applying a nightly moisturizer. After all, an overnight mask is a night cream with a little more. They do not tend to be like the masks people use for 10 to 30 minutes such as clay masks. This would be way too messy to sleep with!

After cleansing, you can go straight to your mask. However, if you use a night mask for acne, anti-aging, or hydration, it may help to add an extra step.

If you are using an overnight mask for acne, the mask likely has alpha hydroxy acids and other exfoliating ingredients. It will help to consider applying a hyaluronic acid serum before your mask to avoid excessive exfoliation or dryness.
I find it best to wash with lukewarm water and avoid extremes.

If you are using a mask for sensitive skin, sometimes an overnight mask can help but also ironically irritate the skin a little as well with the preservatives and other inactive ingredients. It may help to apply a non-alcohol-based toner such as one that contains rose water to work as an anti-inflammatory prior to applying masks.
Anti-aging masks are similar to acne masks in terms of the ingredients and also benefit from a hyaluronic acid serum applied first.

What are best practices for applying an overnight mask?

The most important thing to remember with overnight masks is that these should be a weekly or occasional product. Using these too often can start to irritate the skin or trigger clogged pores but also probably will not deliver more results. There is only so much our skin can absorb. Overusing concentrated ingredients constantly will either not work or will start to irritate the skin.
Read the ingredients! Most masks have butylene glycol which simply allows the ingredients to work more effectively. Butylene glycol is a solvent- if you remember back to high school chemistry solvents dissolve things that do not dissolve in water. Think oil and sebum in the skin.

If you have sensitive skin, be on the lookout for all of the floral and herbal ingredients and extracts added. These can be a little more irritating for you.

Are there any additional tips and tricks for using an overnight mask?

Using an overnight mask once weekly is a reasonable routine for someone who is keeping up with an overall skincare routine.
Your skin care needs may change over time- if this is the case your mask should change too! Every time you think it’s time to use one, really give some thought to your main targets for the mask. The single-use packets are helpful for this to avoid stocking up on too much product.
Don’t feel like you are stuck using one kind of mask on your whole face if you think you have different needs in different areas. I find the skin around my eyes always needs extra hydration whereas around my nose can run a bit oily. It is ok to use different masks in different areas!


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