Updated: Jan 12, 2022
Beauty masks, they've been around for ages- and with good reason! Masking is that part of our beauty routine that not only treats our skin but is a great way to bring a relaxing spa feeling to the comfort of our own home. Let's face it, with the way things have gone the last couple of years, we're getting pretty comfortable doing everything at home! But there is so much that goes into the masking experience that often goes unappreciated, and after a lot of reading on the practice of beauty masking I thought I'd share what I found with you! So next time you put on your mask and settle in for a relaxing night, here's a little something to make you feel extra good about what you're doing for yourself.
The History of Beauty Masks
The concept of putting wet ingredients on our face to enhance our natural beauty has been around for a very long time- about 5,000 years, in fact. The idea likely originated in India, where women would wear these masks to improve the look and feel of their skin. Even then they used ingredients that are common today, such as clays and muds, flowers, herbs and oils. Over time, as is often the case, people experimented with different constituents to see how they could improve on this idea. While some of these additions were a bit questionable, like lead and mercury, animal waste, and even straight up meat masks, there were some other more beneficial ingredients that are still in use today. People started using egg whites, milks, yogurts and fruits such as lemon in their masks. Unlike mercury or meat, some of these other ideas stuck because the outcome was quite noticeable (and didn't make you sick!). In beauty products today we still see many of these items, but they are usually in dried form for stability reasons. A quick Google search, however, will show you how to use these wet ingredients to make a mask in your own kitchen.
At the time when these things were being experimented with, we didn't have the market we have today, and people did in fact make their masks right in their own kitchen. As time went on that all changed. In 1875 a woman named Madame Rowley from Ohio patented the very first beauty mask, called the Toilet Mask or Face Glove. I personally would have stuck with the latter, but apparently people were happy to also put a toilet mask on their faces. Since then the market has changed and grown, and you can find any type of facial mask to treat any sort of skin type or condition that your heart desires. In fact, there are so many different types and uses that it could use a little breaking down.
Types of Beauty Masks
There are four different types of beauty masks that you can find on the market. The first, and probably the most well known is the wash off mask. These include clay and mud masks that are applied and then washed off with water. The second type is the peel off mask. Peel off masks are applied like the wash off type, but are then removed by peeling them off once they dry. The third type which is gaining popularity now is the sheet mask. They are often found in single use packages and are simply a sheet that you place over your face for a certain amount of time. The ingredients in these masks are the kind that can be left on the face, much like a serum. The final type of mask is similar to the sheet masks, but is called a hydrogel mask. You have probably seen these available for under-eye treatment. They are thicker than the sheet masks, but work in much the same way. From here on out we are going to focus on wash off masks, dry clay masks in particular.
Typically clay masks are found mixed and ready to apply to the face. What we don't often see are dry masks that you mix yourself, but there are so many benefits to these types of masks that I think they'll be gaining popularity. So what is a dry mask? Much like your typical wet clay mask, a dry mask is made up of things like clay, herbs, botanicals, seaweeds, vitamins and numerous other specialty ingredients like milks and oats. The difference is that there are no wet ingredients included, so you can mix it yourself. The benefits of adding your own ingredients is that you can customize your mask for your particular skin needs, there are no artificial preservatives used, and they have a long shelf life. You can try different wet ingredients each time you mix your mask, depending on the results you are looking for. Finally, there is little waste, unlike sheet or hydrogel masks.
While these may be a little different than the masks you might be used to, they can give the same results. You can find a dry mask for any skin type or skin condition you might be treating. Some of the features you might look for in a mask are detoxifying, exfoliating, regenerating, clearing complexion, removing excess oils, shrinking pores and treating acne. Once you find the right mask for you, it's important to know what to add to it get the best results! Below you will find some ideas for customizing your own dry mask.
Customizing your dry mask
There are countless ingredients that can be added to your dry mask, making it impossible to cover them all. I'm going to give you a few ideas as well as the attributes of each, but there's always room to play around with your own ideas!
Coffee/tea- Have some coffee or tea left over from your morning? The caffeine content in coffee or certain teas is great for firming and brightening skin as well as improving the appearance of dark spots and increasing circulation. Herbal teas that do no contain caffeine can also be great for your skin, depending on the type of herbs that are in them.
Facial Toner/Hydrosol- Toners and hydrosols are amazing for the skin. No matter what type you choose they can really improve the look and feel of the skin. I love to add my favorite toner to my mask to get the benefits of both at the same time.
Aloe Juice or Gel- Aloe is one of the most amazing herbs for skincare. Not only is it packed full of vitamins like A, C, E and B, it is also said to stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin. It is very moisturizing to the skin and helps fight acne.
Honey- Honey is a great humectant, meaning that it draws in moisture and helps the skin stay hydrated. Its antimicrobial action helps with acne, and it is rich in antioxidants. It offers a nice consistency to the mask too, making it easy to apply.
Avocado- The high fat content of avocados makes it great for improving the elasticity of the skin, diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Avocado is also said to improve certain skin conditions such as eczema and acne. Besides these amazing benefits, it offers a nice creamy feel that is soothing to the skin.
Banana- Bananas are an incredible addition to a face mask. High in potassium, bananas can encourage blood flow leading to bright and glowing skin. They are also high in manganese which is essential for both collagen production and wound healing (such as acne). Bananas can also help with hyper-pigmentation caused by sun spots and acne scars.
Milk- When it comes to milk, there are several different types to consider. I'll list some of them separately as they have very different things to offer.
Cow's Milk- The lactic acid in cows milk is outstanding for acne prone skin. It offers a deep cleanse to the pores and removes the bacteria that can cause acne. Lactic acid also dissolves dead skin cells and evens skin tone. In addition, yogurt can be used with similar benefits.
Coconut Milk- This milk is very hydrating to the skin, and therefore great for dry skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema or generally dry skin. It offers a wide array of anti-aging benefits and cools the skin. Coconut's high MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) content is known to improve the skin barrier for healthier, younger looking skin.
Almond Milk- The skin lightening properties of almond milk are perhaps their most impressive. It is also cleansing, moisturizing and hydrating to the skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)- Another amazing ingredient, ACV has a lot to offer. The acids in ACV help with exfoliation, declogging pores and absorbing excess oils. It also is great at balancing the pH of your skin, fighting acne and offering skin tightening benefits. ACV can be too much for already dry skin, so for those with dry skin I would recommend using it sparingly.
Lemon Juice- Much like ACV, lemon juice is high in AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) which is great for exfoliation and skin lightening. In addition, it is high in vitamin C, which is wonderful at preventing premature aging and improving skin damage from UV rays as well as acne. As an astringent, lemon juice can also tighten pores. Again, like ACV, lemon juice is not for everyone. It's low pH value and high acid content can be harsh for some skins. When mixing this ingredient into a mask, I would only use a small amount and be sure to add an additional wet ingredient.
Facial Oils/Serums- Oils and serums are a nice addition to your mask. In many pre-mixed masks you will find some of the same ingredients as in your favorite oils and serums. As a specialty ingredient you would only need to add a few drops and finish off with another wet ingredient.
Essential Oils- I add this one in because essential oils do offer skin benefits, but also because they are very popular in the world of natural skincare right now. A word of warning, however, is that you need to be very careful when adding these to anything that goes on your face. When adding an essential oil to your mask, it is important to do your research and make sure it is safe to be used on the face. Even then, I would never use more than one drop per mask. An alternative way to use essential oils in your dry mask would be to add a couple of drops to the dry ingredients and shake the container to blend it. This way you will be sure not to get too much.
Water- It would be silly not to mention that you can mix your dry mask with water! It is, after all, cheap and effective. I recommend using filtered water, or better yet distilled or reverse osmosis. Tap water has a lot of contaminants that you don't want to mix with clay or put on your face when your goal is to nourish it.
As you can see, there are several things you can add to your dry mask- and I'm sure there are many more that I didn't list! I encourage you to try different things and see what works best for your individual skin type and personal preference. Many of the ingredients listed above mix well together, too, so you can add multiple to your dry mix.
There are a few things worth noting when it comes to using clay masks (or any new addition to your skincare for that matter). Clays can be drying to some people, so it is recommended that you test a small spot before applying to the whole face. Once you've determined that it is a good fit for you, it can be added into your skincare routine about once per week. After removing your mask, always follow up with a good toner to balance the pH and hydrate the skin, as well as your favorite moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated.
So take some time to yourself to kick back and relax with your favorite facial mask. And while you're doing so, embrace the fact that you don't have to put cold wet meat on your face to look good. Happy Masking!