In a time where social distancing and working from home have become the current norm, the luxury of indulging in self-care practices during the day are less of a dream and more of a reality. Responding to emails, binge-watching TV shows, and even hopping on Zoom calls with friends and family can be done in the comfort of charcoal, avocado, and collagen.
Beauty buffs rely on face masks to clean out pores, restore moisture to dry skin, rid complexions of impurities, and essentially be there for us when we need it most. Brands have come out with all kinds of formulas — including but not limited to — magnetic, bubble, and rubber masks that promise to leave skin looking better in no time at all. But is there such thing as masking too often? Could too much of a good thing be doing more harm than good? We sought out Chicago-based dermatologist Jessie Cheung, MD, to help answer those questions and more.
Can Face-Masking Too Much Harm Your Skin?
"Doing too many masks can definitely dry out your skin, especially if you're taking the mask off and not applying anything else after," she said. "Because the mask serums have to get through your skin, they usually don't have occlusive or thicker emollients, just humectants, meaning that initially, they pull moisture to the top of your skin, but the hydration can be coming from the ambient air, or at the expense from your deeper skin," Cheung said.
What this means is that because skin acts as a barrier to protect your body from losing water, too much hydration added to the skin can have an adverse effect and cause it to actually lose water. Ever been in a bathtub for too long? The way your skin becomes pruney in that sense is the same with masking.
"You may also be irritating your skin with too much skin exercise! What I mean is, you're interrupting the skin barrier function by getting it wet, over and over again," said Cheung. "Wet skin lets chemicals through more easily than dry skin, so things that don't normally irritate you can cause a reaction now, such as fragrances or preservatives." Even if you've never had a problem with certain ingredients before, due to the fact that your skin's barrier has been weakened by water, it's easier for it to become sensitized.
How Can You Avoid Drying Out the Skin?
Dr. Cheung advises that it's best to apply a moisturizer directly following a mask because too much masking can dry out skin. Keeping your face hydrated is essential, so moisturizing with products that contain hydrating ingredients like glycerin, amino and fatty acids, and hyaluronic acid can be beneficial.
"Overnight masks may be a better choice if you tend to get dry, since they should be formulated to seal in your moisture," Cheung said. These masks can also address issues from redness to wrinkles, depending on what you're looking for.
As for ingredients to look out for in your treatments, these include simple hydrators such as hyaluronic acids. But if you're doing a hyaluronic acid mask, it's still important to apply an emollient cream after. Products that contain salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and retinoids can stress skin too much when used in tandem with frequent mask treatments, so using these less frequently is encouraged. As with any new product, wait a couple days after you first try it to make sure your skin can handle it.
So, What's the Magic Number of Face Masks You Can Do Per Week?
The final verdict is this: masking one to two times a week and moisturizing afterward is the best way to benefit skin while also giving it the downtime it needs. If you want to mask more frequently, just be sure to check the ingredients and try to rotate different actives. This could mean doing a hydrating mask one day and a pore-cleansing mask later in the week. So, in this time of serious self-care, give your skin the love it needs, all while making sure you're checking in on it, yourself, and others.