When you think of face masking as an activity, most of us would picture lolling about in a dressing gown, cucumbers chilling and Netflix on standby. The mask, however, is modernising, rinsing away its spa-like connotations and aiming to sneak in somewhere between your morning coffee and making the bed.
Fast-acting ingredients, efficient exfoliating properties and residue that can be rubbed in to essentially replace your moisturiser are just some of the time-saving, radiance enhancing selling points of the speed mask, while prepping your skin for smooth makeup application is another supposed plus. Can a sub-five minute mask be a morning face saver as many brands and new launches would have us believe? Dr Anjali Mahto , Consultant Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, emphasises that the key lies in the formula:
“Fast face masks are a simple way to treat your skin and have a wide range of benefits for nearly all skin types. Fast masks can absolutely make a difference and can be added once weekly to your daily beauty routine. Many can deliver on the promise of reducing blemishes or leaving you glowing, but the key is to use the right one for your skin.”
As always, one size does not fit all, and miracles in minutes are hard to come by. What then, should we be looking out for in a morning mask, and which ingredients can work fast to make a difference? Dr Mahto encourages you to be prescriptive:
“For oily skin types, tried and tested clay based masks still remain the best option, especially if you’re prone to breakouts. Clay is an excellent ingredient when it comes to drawing out impurities that can lead to spots, and the kaolin in clay absorbs oil and helps to mattify skin naturally. Other ingredients that can be helpful include salicylic acid, glycolic acid, tea tree oil, retinol and niacinamide” (ensure that you follow up with a sunscreen in particular after using a mask containing these ingredients)
“For drier skin, look for a mask containing hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is one of the most hydrophilic (or “water-loving”) molecules found in cosmetic products and has an enormous water-binding capacity. It therefore acts as the ideal moisturiser, hydrating dry skin and plumping out fine lines and wrinkles in ageing skin. More traditional face masks containing oats and honey can also provide benefit to dry skin types.”
Obviously applying your mask in the morning deprives you of chill time, but there could be benefits to a pre-commute treatment in terms of the fact that you can get stuck straight into masking after a quick cleanse (compared to a triple makeup, grime and pollution extermination at nighttime) and you’re more likely to actually abide by the instructions on the box regarding leave-on time. Follow Dr Matho’s mask protocol for the best results:
“Before applying the mask, make sure your face is thoroughly cleansed and patted dry. This is absolutely the most important step- if you’re doing a quick mask before you go out this is your priority, as dirt, oil and makeup on the surface of the skin will prevent you from getting full benefits from any mask. If you have oily skin, it can be useful to gently exfoliate the skin first, to allow better penetration of the mask.”
“Once your skin is clean, a bit of heat can help the mask to work more effectively. Use a warm washcloth or try holding your head over a bowl of hot water for a quick steam before applying the mask.”
As for letting your mask of choice work its magic, a quick blast could in fact be advantageous as Dr Mahto stresses that ‘leaving masks in contact with the skin surface for too long can lead to dryness and skin irritation.’ That being said, pre-work masking is no excuse for skipping the moisturiser- Dr Mahto insists that most masks shouldn’t be used as a morning replacement for daily hydration. Rather, you’ll find that a mask paves the way for optimum penetration of the lotions and potions that follow.
The verdict? If your morning routine allows, by all means whack on a tailored, speedy mask as you wiggle into your workwear, but there’s something about putting your feet up at the end of the day with a more long-acting mask that will never lose its appeal. Mainly the relaxation element, but also freaking out your relatives and housemates and knowing that you’re heading bedwards afterwards. Treating your skin and then cosseting it away from makeup, sunlight, pollution and the like will always feel more satisfying than taking your freshly masked mug on the bus.