Masks are made for the impatient: unlike everyday essentials, they're designed to supercharge your regular skincare routine and tackle a specific issue at precisely the moment you need it most – then deliver results in minutes. From instant brightening to pre-event plumping, tackling redness, dryness, rough feet and crepey chests – there’s now a mask for everything. Having put them through their paces, here are the ones every woman should know about…
From an instant fix for unsightly feet to covering up the effects of the morning after the night before, Bella Blissett talks through the very best masks for your every skincare need
Many masks claim to plump and hydrate – but few live up to the promise. This new “filler” mask from Vichy contains injection-strength hyaluronic acid , plus agave yeast and liquorice extract. Combined within a bouncy gel formula, it not only replaces the natural hyaluronic acid we lose as we age – but also stimulates our body's production of this intensely hydrating molecule, when used once a week or more.
Best for: Plumping skin before an event. The official directions suggest applying a thin layer for five minutes before removing the excess. I simply waited for 10 minutes on a Saturday morning when I had more time on my hands – then applied makeup as usual. Happily, it made my skin noticeably softer and plumper – plus it provided a great, dewy base for my CC cream , that stayed put for an hour.
Looking to tackle the breakouts and dullness associated with adult acne and pollution ? Hero ingredient Kaolin clay purges the skin of impurities, removing build-up in clogged pores to both treat and prevent spots.
“This is a great mask for re-balancing oily skin. Apply it after cleansing, but don’t wait until it's completely dry, as the skin can become dehydrated," says aesthetic doctor, Sarah Tonks .
Best for: Acne-prone skin and city dwellers on a budget. This creamy, scent-free formula feels reassuringly functional as it smooths on, then dries within a couple of minutes. To max out the benefits, I used it twice a week at night, when I knew I could leave my skin makeup-free afterwards. Apply a light moisturiser after rinsing, or spritz skin with rosewater to leave it hydrated and dewy come morning. Only a thin layer of the mask is needed, making it a bargain at £4.99.
The sheet mask trend has spread to other body parts in need of special attention. The mask itself is made of a natural fibre called Biocelloluse, which has traditionally been used in surgery to aid healing. Having been pre-soaked in a formula containing hyaluronic acid, collagen , aloe and a hydrating plant complex, the delivers a fast-absorbing super dose of hydration.
Best for: Pre or post-holiday, when you’re either about to bare skin or want to maintain your glow back home. It’s messy and requires you to sit still for half an hour in a semi-naked state. Nevertheless, if your chest area is dry, dull or crepey, it breathes new life into skin, making it feel soft – and look smoother. Use it 24 hours before applying fake tan to hydrate skin and make that glow last longer.
Contrary to popular myth, pores do not open and close like doors. Rather, this gel-to-oil mask capitalises on the moist heat inside your shower, as it helps soften the outer layer of skin to make removing makeup and build-up easier.
Best for: A supercharged cleanse for cheats. If double cleanses, muslin cloths and minutes spent massaging your skin seem like a stretch in the precious minutes you have each morning, this is the solution. Whack it on, and it'll gently heat on contact with your skin. Hop in the shower and by the time you've washed your hair and rinsed it off, your skin will feel soft, soothed and ultimately – really, really clean.
Smells good, feels good, does good: containing pumpkin, apricot seed powder, oat kernel protein and vitamin E, this orange-coloured mask clears, unclogs and gives skin back its glow by gently exfoliating away dead surface cells.
“Pumpkin contains fruit enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids , that exfoliate, smooth and refine dull or pigmented skin in a gentle way that won’t cause sensitivity,” says Dr Sarah Tonks.
Best for: An emergency pick-me-up for dull, uneven skin. Having shared Kim Kardashian West and Jessica Alba's love of the brand's hit Jet Lag Mask, £42 last summer, the sequel had a lot to live up to. Smelling deliciously of pumpkin, you massage the slightly grainy formula onto skin (make sure it's damp; otherwise it will be too abrasive) for 60 seconds, then leave it on for 10 minutes before rinsing. Even with a heavy cold and a dull, dry complexion to match, this mask made my skin look noticeably brighter and fresher.
We’re familiar enough with the concept of using well-chosen acids to smooth and brighten our faces. This facial for the feet is based on the same philosophy. Containing glycolic, salicylic, lactic and citric acids, it dissolves dead cells to soften dry skin and calluses.
Best for: Prepping feet for springtime sandals, mules and sliders. Pour the Activating Essence from the sachet into the Foot Masque Socks and pop them on while watching TV for an hour. With two treatments for £32, it’s worth it for what you’ll save on expensive pedicures.
Not for nothing was Orveda used backstage at Giambattista Valli’s runway show to give models their glow. By fusing cleansing green clay with hydrating botanical oils and prebiotics that feed the beneficial bacteria within the skin’s ecosystem, this Mud Mask is great for re-balancing and refining skin that’s prone to shine and breakouts, leaving it looking healthy – not feeling dry.
Best for: Feeling like you’ve had a professional facial. A little spread thinly goes a long way, making it more than worth the price tag. Like all Orveda products, it smells clean and plant-like – not overly scented or synthetic. I applied the grey cream-like formula using the accompanying brush and left it to dry for five minutes before rinsing. Immediately afterwards, my skin felt “pure” – as if it had been cleansed, exfoliated, hydrated, re-balanced and revived by a seriously good professional facial. Perfect for Sunday nights, use it once a week as a real treat when you need your skin to feel as good as new.
When it comes to getting great skin, no one is going to argue with Miranda Kerr. The latest addition to her Kors Organics skincare range is the gel Noni Glow Sleeping Mask. Containing silver ear mushroom, coconut milk and caviar lime extract, it capitalises on the window of time at night when our skin's reparative mechanisms peak, to help your skin look healthier, dewier and more hydrated come morning.
Best for: Cooling, calming redness and holidays. The gel texture feels great when you apply a generous layer before bedtime – especially when skin is dry, tight or feeling particularly sensitive . Keep it in the fridge to maximise the cooling sensation – then stash it in your washbag to soothe holiday skin after a day in the sun.
Good skincare really is the first step to getting a great makeup finish. These gel strips come pre-soaked in a mulberry, olive leaf extract and soy serum-like formula to give the overworked, under-rested eye area an intense boost of hydration that makes fine lines less visible and makeup sit better.
Best for: The morning after the night before. Whatever your reason for not sleeping, the hollow eyes, shadows, dryness and crepey appearance will give you away, for sure. Pop these on for 20 minutes before makeup, then gently pat in any excess until the skin feels slightly tacky. Not only will you need less concealer to hide shadows – but it’ll stay in place for longer. If you have real presence of mind, apply the strips before bedtime after a late night, so your eyes don’t give the game away in the morning.
Using LED light to tackle specific skin concerns is nothing new. Have the technology and power to do so in our own homes is. With five different light settings, the theory goes that red light boosts collagen production and calms redness, blue reduces acne-causing bacteria, yellow combats redness and sensitivity and white boosts your skin’s repair mechanisms. This is a plugin mask so you'll need to stay attached to your power source while you are using it.
"LED is a safe way to treat any skin type and won't cause photosensitivity, so can be used any time of day – pre or post-makeup. To maximise the benefits, try multi-masking: apply your favourite liquid mask then allow the LED to work for 10-20 minutes three times a week,” says facialist Abigail James.
Best for: Making a long-term investment in your skin. When you place this £385 gold mask on, and it lights up like a Christmas tree, you’re taking a leap of faith. Unlike regular masks, you won’t see an instant pay-off. But believe in the science and month after month, year after year, the quality of your skin will improve. Think of it like training your skin for life; if you wear it regularly, the cost per use is low compared to splashing cash on regular facials.
The Light Salon at Harvey Nichols in London has been a runaway success with its express mood and skin-boosting LED treatments. Now they've brought out an at-home device featuring the most popular light choice - red light - for boosting collagen production. It's a soft silicone rechargeable mask that feels supremely comfortable to wear - you can even walk around with it on and it packs flat into your suitcase. They say you'll see results over time using three to five days a week for 10 minutes though you can double up and do 20 minutes for a couple of your sessions. They warn that pigmentation might temporarily darken, but that's because you are speeding the path of pigmented cells to the surface before they naturally shed.
Best for: the everyday approach to great skin when you are time-pressed. Put on a podcast or like GTG's Editorial Director Victoria combine it with your morning meditation (they do downloadable meditations if you don't have your own). It's the ultimate mood and skin boosting treatment in the comfort of your own home. The first batch sold out fast, but you can put your name down to be part of the next drop.
At £99, this is a real treat. Containing pomegranate extract, aloe vera juice and avocado oil, it delivers a good dose of antioxidants to the skin, to help combat antioxidant damage, while comforting dry, irritable skin.
“After five minutes, tissue off any excess and moisturise. This mask leaves skin smooth and hydrated, making it a great base for flawless makeup application when you really need to look your best,” says makeup artist Florrie White.
Best for: Organic lovers. As the daughter of hotelier, Rocco Forte, Irene selects ingredients from their organic farm in Sicily to create formulas that are as “clean” as possible. It smells as fresh as a newly-blitzed smoothy and comes in a rich, creamy formula that blankets skin on moisture, to leave it feeling healthier and more hydrated.