Highsnobiety / Stephen Cheetham

We may spend most of our time talking about designer garms and fresh kicks, but we know there’s a whole lot more to looking good than what you’re packing in your closet. Groom Service is your no-BS guide in how to look, smell, and feel better. This week we’re talking face masks.

If your skin is too oily or needs a weekly deep clean, then a mask might be right for you. If your skin is too dry and needs a weekly dose of ultra nourishment, then a mask might be right for you. If your skin is somewhere in between, but you prioritize things like anti-aging, smooth complexion, rested eyes, and balanced oil levels, then a mask (or two) is also right for you.

In actuality, masks are right for everyone. But since there are so many types to choose from, it’s important to know which ones are on the market, and which ones might be best suited to your needs. Here’s a breakdown of the two main types of masks: those that deeply clean, and those that deeply hydrate. Put them into a weekly rotation while maintaining your usual regimen, and you should notice many beneficial changes to your skin.

Cleansing masks

These ones help rid the face of excess oil and grime, as well as dead skin cells. Apply them after first washing your face.

Charcoal and/or clay masks

Clay Mask Natural

L:A BRUKET

$30

Both charcoal and clay (mud) masks soak up the oils and impurities in your skin. They dry onto your face, tightening and firming the skin until everything is totally dry and ready for a rinse. They’re especially useful for guys who are acne prone, or those with oily skin. However, they can overdry if done too frequently or left on for too long.

After the mask dries on your freshly cleaned face (after 10 minutes or so), rinse it with warm water and repeat every four to seven days. Once a week is really more than enough, or else you’ll start to see blemishes, plus your skin will turn rough and dry. Lastly, these work wonders as spot-treatments on big pimples, since they help soak up the oil that gives each pimple its prowess.

Peel-Off Masks

Golden Peel-A-Way Masque

Golden Door

$68

Peel-off masks can be made with a variety of cleansing and nourishing ingredients, some of which you’ll see repeated in other categories (like charcoal and enzymes). They’re unique in the way they tighten to your face, and instead of rinsing these masks away, you peel them off.

Like charcoal and clay masks, they leave your skin feeling firmer and looking more youthful. The peeling process makes them slightly better exfoliators than the deep-cleansing masks, since they more effectively extract dead surface cells as you pull them from the face. They’re still primarily designed as deep cleaners, however: you probably recall those infomercials with close-up footage of gunk being pulled out of the blackheads on the nose and forehead. Gross, yes, but awesome as well.

Exfoliating masks

Enzyme Exfoliant

Grown Alchemist

$69

Some masks are engineered primarily as exfoliants, and can be used after washing the face and before applying a night cream or moisturizer. These are often labeled as “enzyme” masks, and they incorporate ingredients like sugars or fruits to help break down the dead keratin cells that sit atop your skin.

You can use them in place of a scrub or a similar night cream, but be sure to wash them off after 10-15 minutes, since overuse can lead to red, irritated skin. You can feel them tingling away at the skin, and will notice a brighter complexion when finished; put them to use once a week, twice tops, and always follow the cleanse with a moisturizer (or a nourishing mask!).

Hydrating masks

These masks deliver nutrients and moisture to your skin. Apply them after washing your face, or after the use of a cleansing mask.

Sheet masks

Dermask Water Jet Vital Hydra Solution

DR JART+

$8

Yes, these masks make you look like a slasher-movie villain, but they also ward off mortality by delivering nutrient-dense serum to your face. The serum penetrates all three layers of the skin to repair damage, smoothen complexion, and firm the skin.

Sometimes they employ hydrating creams and gels as well, which offer the same ultra-nourishing benefits. However, because serums penetrate the skin more effectively (whereas creams and gels are more surface-level and act as defenses to outside threats like toxins), you should apply a serum underneath the non-serum masks, which the cream or gel will in turn cover; this further magnifies the benefits of this hydrating process. When you peel them away, you can massage any excess product into the skin, or around the chin and neck, then put yourself right to bed. The powers of the nourishing mask multiply as your skin cells regenerate overnight.

Eye masks

Celestial Black Diamond Eye Mask

111 Skin

$115

Eye masks target the sensitive patches of skin underneath and around the eyes. These are generally less oily than the other parts of your face, and the skin is thinner. Together, this makes the skin more prone to wrinkles and dark patches, so you need to load them up with extra serums and corrective, anti-aging ingredients. Most eye masks look like football eye patches, and you just stick them to your face for 15-20 minutes, then peel them away to reveal firmer, brighter skin. Try them in the morning before a big meeting, or after a restless night; or, find an overnight eye mask that promises a miracle fix come morning.

Gel and cream masks

Most “short-term” nourishing masks (besides sheet masks) are going to be cream or gel based. They deliver a jolt of hydration and often have ingredients like retinoids or antioxidants or collagen, to help reverse signs of aging, defend against toxins, and plump the skin. Truth be told, you can use most of them as overnight masks, too, since it always feels a little odd to wash away such nourishing ingredients after just 20 minutes of wear. Read the instructions on your product label closely, and test a small patch of skin for extended wear before using any such product overnight. Try this one.

Overnight masks

Overnight Miracle Mask

SK-II

$105

Again, you’ll notice that lots of overnight “masks” are in fact creams or gels, and are thus just night creams masquerading as something else. They’re all one in the same. Overnight masks and night creams work in tandem with the body’s regenerative process to magnify cellular turnover while you sleep. It’s like a steroid for your skin, minus any negative side effects.

After continued use (a couple months or more), you’ll notice lasting changes to your complexion, like smoother skin, fewer fine lines, and brighter complexion. (All the same temporary benefits of these masks, but with more lasting effects when used continually.) Best of all, you can often wear these ones every evening, just as you would a night cream. Read the instructions carefully to ensure that it’s safe; otherwise just substitute it in for your moisturizer as often as is safe.

Words by Adam Hurly

Grooming and travel writer from the US, based in Berlin.

What To Read Next