The Once-a-Week Secret to Better Skin

It's time to master the mask. The newest ones have top-notch ingredients that can detox, soften, and brighten after just one application. Busy Sunday night? Make a date with one of these.

Secret to Better Skin

Remember the masks from your junior high sleepovers: a face full of pink clay worn while you gossiped and cooed over a young Rob Lowe? Well, they've improved since then (come to think of it, so has Rob Lowe), and you need one in your grown-up beauty routine. "The newer face masks don't just pull bad stuff out of your skin; they put hydrators, wrinkle smoothers, and skin brighteners in it," says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, a clinical professor of dermatology at George Washington University Medical Center.

To do all that, they've gone high-tech with everything from special sheets that mold to your face to rich no-rinse creams. "Masks can tackle just about any skin issue," Dr. Tanzi says. Check out our chart to find the formulas that fit your face, along with expert application tricks to help them work even harder.

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Masks, Unmasked

1. Even Out Your Complexion

Here's the Deal: Brightening masks loaded with botanicals help lighten brown spots and smooth splotchiness. The newest versions bubble up on contact, claiming to pump in oxygen molecules and refresh a tired complexion. Our experts aren't so convinced about those bubbles. "They haven't been shown to have much of an effect on the skin," says Tanzi. But you can count on the brighteners below — they get results.

Best for: dull, discolored skin.
Look for: lighteners including vitamin C, licorice extract, and kojic acid.
Pro tip: Gently exfoliate your skin first so the actives in your mask will penetrate better.
Try: Peter Thomas Roth Brightening Bubbling Mask ($55, Sephora)

2. Get Luminous Skin

Here's the Deal: "Enzymatic masks exfoliate by dissolving the sticky bonds that hold dry, dead skin cells together on skin's surface," says Ava Shamban, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. They're your fast pass to a nice glow.

Best for: dull, flaky skin.
Look for: plant extracts from mushrooms or fruits like pineapple, papaya, and pumpkin.
Pro tip: Using a topical retinoid? That might make your skin flaky, but a weekly enzyme mask will whisk any dead skin cells away without irritating.
Try: June Jacobs Perfect Pumpkin Peeling Enzyme Masque ($65,

3. Clean Those Pores

Here's the Deal: Traditional clay or mud masks mop up excess oil and pull out dirt. Updated formulas also contain alpha or beta hydroxy acids for an even deeper pore cleaning, says Tanzi. Bonus: After you remove the gunk, your pores will appear smaller.

Best for: oily, acne-prone skin.
Look for: muds and clays (green, red, kaolin, and bentonite) along with glycolic or salicylic acid.
Pro tip: The directions may say to leave it on until dry, but don't wait until the clay is cracking—by then, it could be pulling too much moisture from your skin. Instead, rinse when it's only slightly dry. (It will have started to change color.)
Try: Freeman Feeling Beautiful Sparkling Pear Pore Cleansing Mask ($4, Drugstores and

4. Soften the Signs of Aging

Here's the Deal: Sheet masks are made of cotton or plant fiber drenched with a serumlike formula that hydrates and plumps. You wear it like a hockey mask (OK, you might feel a bit like a horror movie extra) for 10 to 15 minutes. "They are single-use packets, so there are fewer preservatives and the ingredients are extra potent and pure," says Tanzi.

Best for: dry, mature, or sensitive skin.
Look for: moisturizing hyaluronic acid, powerful antioxidants such as vitamin C, and anti-inflammatory ingredients like allantoin and green tea.
Pro tip: After removing the sheet, don't rinse. Massage what's left over into your skin, and top with moisturizer.
Try: Dr. Jart+ Firming Solution Dermask ($9 each, Sephora)

5. Smooth on Moisture

Here's the Deal: Trendy sleeping masks have a lot in common with super-charged night creams. You don't rinse or wipe them off; you wear them to bed. (No, they won't make a mess of your pillowcase.) The mask forms a seal on your skin, locking in hydration all night long — a plus, since we tend to lose more moisture at night. Use it as a weekly hydration booster. Or if you're seriously dry, apply it every night in place of a regular night cream.

Best for: dry skin.
Look for: mega-moisturizers such as ceramides, squalene, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and barrier-repair ingredients including niacinamide.
Pro tip: Layer your anti-aging serums and treatments under a hydrating overnight mask — it will help seal them into skin.
Try: Lancôme Hydra Zen Anti-Stress Moisturising Overnight Serum-in-Mask ($59, Macy's)

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Become a Multi-Masker

If you're fighting more than one battle at once — slick spots and dry patches, acne and wrinkles — any one of these products may not fit all your skin's needs. Enter "multi-masking," the new catchphrase for layering on several masks at once. "It's like spot treating your skin, only with masks," says Gillian Palette, a nurse-practitioner and cofounder of Skyngenuity Medical Spa in New York, who routinely uses three to five at once on her clients. We asked Palette for her most common combo — use it to beautifully balance your complexion.

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Make Your Own (It's Truly Easy)

These masks may not have the long list of active ingredients that a store-bought product can boast, but they're simple (and simply fun) to concoct at home. We asked New York-based aesthetician Ildi Pekar for some problem-solving DIY masks that can be whipped up in minutes with ingredients (three or fewer) you have in your kitchen. Because a make-it-yourself mask that's more involved than cooking a three-course dinner? No thanks, Pinterest! Mix the ingredients in these recipes together and apply a thin layer to your face. Leave it on for 15 minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water.

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Oily/Acne-Prone Skin

How It Works: Baking soda soaks up pore-clogging oil while keeping your skin pH-balanced. Lemon has both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and can shrink pimples.


  • ⅓ cup baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Twice a week, apply the paste to clean skin. To remove: Take a damp towel, and gently wipe off the mask, working up from your chin to lift.

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Dry Skin

How It Works: Honey is both hydrating and anti-inflammatory; whole-milk yogurt and avocados are high in fatty acids, says Pekar. (Use plain, unsweetened yogurt, of course!)


  • 3 Tbsp raw honey
  • ⅓ avocado
  • 1 cup yogurt

To boost the hydration factor, cut strips of plastic wrap and place over the mask to trap the good-for-you ingredients and help them sink in.

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Dull Skin

How It Works: Parsley is loaded with vitamin K, which helps boost skin's glow. The citric and malic acids in apple cider vinegar, along with the lactic acid in plain, full-fat yogurt, exfoliate dulling dead skin cells.


  • 1 Handful of chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp yogurt

To get the parsley ultrafine (no green chunks sticking out of your face), use a food processor. Your skin is in renewal mode at night, so apply then.

This story originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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