A new crop of morning masks promise to prime, moisturise and give you a glow as the kettle boils. Can a sub-five minute mask really make a difference?

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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.

The High Five of Five Minute Masks

Vichy Pureté Thermale Instant Glow Double Peeling Mask , £14

Dr Mahto deems this dead skin eliminator to be one of the most effective flash masks on the market. It’s powered by fruit based alpha-hydroxy-acids (AHAs) which exfoliate skin to leave a brighter, smoother canvas that’s more receptive to moisturiser.

Sisley Radiant Glow Express Mask , £77

Sisley’s mask range has quite the cult following, despite the hefty price points, and this mask is a favourite SOS option if time and tiredness have gotten the best of you. Red and white clay absorb oil, chamomile and rosehip oil soothe and add a bit of antioxidant clout and plant glycerin leaves skin hydrated and supple.

Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Advanced One Minute Mask , £51.50

Obviously you’ve got a time-money dynamic going on here, so if time is money you’re getting gentle exfoliation, smoother skin texture and a bit of blemish/ imperfection damage control on account of the salicylic and glycolic acids in the formula. You can feel it working but it doesn’t tingle aggressively, and skin was indeed softer and brighter post-wash during a few weeks of testing. It’s still a lot to splash on a mask versus an exfoliating toner, but you do get additional hydration for your money

Pixi GLOW-02 Oxygen Mask , £26

If you’re yet to try a bubble mask, much like bubble tea, they’re fast becoming “a thing” (look out for Urban Decay’s new foray into skincare coming your way). This Pixi treatment thankfully doesn’t foam to Fairy Liquid standard, but its more subtle application belies the active technology going on- think stimulating caffeine, gently exfoliating lactic acid and skin barrier boosting probiotics. If you’re sensitive of skin I’d steer clear (lavender and citrus oil klaxon), but otherwise max three minutes is all you need for a hit of morning/ pre-event luminosity.

Estée Lauder  Double Wear 3 Minute Priming Moisture Mask, £8 for one

Lining up a quickie mask with the Double Wear makeup range is an interesting move, but it underlines the fact that more and more of us are prioritising prepping our skin for makeup as much as wearing makeup itself. Mask as primer is the aim of the game here, and this speed treatment encourages you to massage in any mask that hasn’t absorbed after three minutes to act as your makeup base. Calming algae and cucumber extracts help to bring down redness, while hydration is the USP as the name suggests. The mask launches at the end of March- I’ll let you know how I get on in my makeup column…

More into nocturnal masking?  Check out our edit of the best overnight face masks

Follow Dr Mahto on Twitter  @DrAnjaiMahto  and Anna  @AnnaMaryHunter