Introducing The Kit’s new editor-tested shopping awards, the Shop Smart Guide. The idea is simple: Every month, The Kit editors exhaustively test-drive items in desert-island categories — not the season’s exciting yet ephemeral trends but the evergreen essentials you’re most likely to buy now and wear or use forever. We’re talking mascara, jeans, retinol serum, black turtlenecks, white sneakers, etc. Our hope is that Shop Smart helps you reach that mythic shopping ideal: to buy less but better. Here, our guide to face masks.
You know how that famous chip brand’s slogan goes: “Bet you can’t eat just one?” Well, that’s how I feel about skincare masks, but instead of snacking on them, I slather them on my face at every opportunity. Bad day? I rummage through my collection of masks, pick a favourite and let the day melt away. Good day? I’ll finish it off with a little self-care session; maybe I’ll go for an exfoliating peel or dip into a luxe overnight treatment.
That’s the great thing about skincare masks. There are so many options to choose from that you’re bound to find one that specifically targets your skin type and concern. Some zap zits, others are great for brighter skin in a pinch; some work while you sleep, and others even make great makeup primers. But when choosing a mask to add to your skincare wardobe, make sure it’s one you enjoy using. Because a skincare routine is meant to be enjoyed, and a face mask is the ultimate treat. So go ahead, take that extra time for yourself, slip into your fluffiest bathrobe and reach for a mask. Need help finding your next favourite? Here, I present the very best skin care face masks you’ll love to wear.
Olehenriksen Cold Plunge Pore Mask, $53, sephora.ca SHOP HERE
Winner: Olehenriksen Cold Plunge Pore Mask
The cost: $53
The claim: Reduces appearance of pores, smooths texture, controls oil
The review: This mattifying clay mask is cool in more ways than one. Besides the fact that its colour is an extremely appealing shade of turquoise, it literally feels cool on the skin. That’s because its formula is inspired by the “cold plunge” step in a Scandinavian sauna cycle, which is meant to improve circulation and energize the body. While you won’t necessarily feel the shock that follows a dip in an ice-cold body of water, the pleasant tingly sensation this mask generates is quite lovely and not at all irritating. Ingredients like AHA and BHA acids gently exfoliate the skin, which helps with any texture issues, while alpine willow herb and snow lotus—two plants that thrive in cold conditions—add a dose of protective antioxidants. Wash it off with cool water and the clay formula melts into a creamy lather, revealing smoother, perkier skin. What I loved most about this mask is how fun it was to apply. From its shockingly bright colour to the soothing cooling effect, applying this mask is nothing short of joyful. Afterwards, my skin had a rosy glow and felt tight and clean (like, really clean) but not in an uncomfortable way. And my pores? Nowhere to be seen.
Dermalogica MultiVitamin Power Recovery Masque, $85, sephora.ca SHOP HERE
Best soothing mask: Dermalogica MultiVitamin Power Recovery Masque
The cost: $85
The claim: Brightens and hydrates skin while reducing the appearance of lines
The review: Most days, I have what is best described as “normal skin”—not too dry, oily or sensitive. But after introducing one too many new products into my routine, my skin started to get a little bit angry with me. A few blotchy red spots and tiny, pimple-like clusters of bumps began to form on my face. After giving my skin a few days to breathe, my reaction subsided, but I was still dealing with some residual dullness. Naturally, I restarted my skincare mask research and tested out this Dermalogica mask, which claims to be the “ultimate remedy for lackluster skin.” The creamy-gel texture felt ultra-soothing on my face, and I appreciated that the formula was unscented. I also enjoyed the pretty mango-yellow colour (I can’t say enough how much the sensorial experience contributes to my enjoyment of a mask). Ingredients-wise, a blend of vitamins A, C and E and linoleic acid help restore the skin barrier, while algae extract and pro-vitamin b5 promise to hydrate and nurse the skin back to health. The formula also includes plant ingredients like licorice, comfrey and burdock root for extra soothing properties. Try this one if you’re on the sensitive side and still want some brightening benefits without risking a reaction.
Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask, $48, nordstrom.ca SHOP HERE
Best sleeping mask: Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask
The cost: $48
The claim: Soothes and hydrates skin overnight
The review: I had to request a sample of this when a good friend of mine (with great skin, mind you) swore it was the key to her dewy glow. Lo and behold, she was right. This overnight mask from Clinique sinks into your skin while you sleep. In the morning, my skin was considerably hydrated—I even decided to forgo my usual morning cleanse because my skin felt so great! It’s oil-free and recommended for all skin types, which makes it a very safe bet if you’re seeking a moisture boost before a special event, or throughout colder months.
Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant, $78, one2oneonline.com SHOP HERE
Best balancing mask: Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant
The cost: $78
The claim: Brightens, tones and soothes skin
The review: Let me be honest: Masque Vivant is not for the faint of heart. A close contender for the top spot in this series, this cult-favourite mask from French skincare brand Biologique Recherche is nothing short of spectacular. It’s made up of a high concentration of purifying actives, including amino acid and vitamin-B-packed yeast, toning witch hazel and soothing cucumber. The yeast gives this mask its signature scent, which can be best described as…interesting. Personally, I don’t mind the yeasty smell (to me, it smells a little bit like chocolate, but I’ve heard people say it reminds them of everything from vegemite to soy sauce), nor do I mind the sticky, gloopy texture, but I can imagine it might deter a few shoppers. Despite this, the benefits are very real. Recommended for oily and dull complexions, it reduces breakouts and mattifies the skin—but what I really noticed is how it gave my face an undeniable radiance the next day. I find myself reaching for this mask the most. There’s no other product quite like it. Consider it a must-have, if you can handle the smell!
Beautycounter Reflect Effect AHA Smoothing Facial Mask, $124, beautycounter.com SHOP HERE
Best facial in a jar: Beautycounter Reflect Effect AHA Smoothing Facial Mask
The cost: $124
The claim: Resurfaces dull skin and improves tone and texture
The review: Channel all the spa vibes with this gritty gel mask from B corp-certified brand Beautycounter. Made with a mix of chemical and physical exfoliants, including glycolic acid and bamboo particles, this vegan mask offers up an intense exfoliating treatment minus the unpleasant burning sensation. Apply the transparent gel using the silicone applicator and let it work its magic for 10 minutes before rinsing off. When removing the mask, be sure to use gentle, circular motions to maximize its resurfacing properties (and don’t forget to relish the sensation of scrubbing your face without worry of causing micro-tears…ahem, walnut scrubs). The only drawback is the $124 price tag, but if you’re after a glass skin complexion, it’s a worthy splurge.
Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask, $63, sephora.ca SHOP HERE
Best fragrance-free mask: Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask
The cost: $63
The claim: Combats dryness, dullness and uneven texture
The review: Jet Lag is a mask that lives up to the hype. Before giving it a try for the first time a few years back, I’d heard many go on about its glow-inducing properties countless times on social media. What is it about Jet Lag that has influencers and beauty bloggers raving? Besides its obvious tube appeal (how gorgeous is the metallic blue packaging?), its blend of brightening niacinamide, hydrating glycerin and hyaluronic acid plumps up the skin while exfoliating ever so gently. As its name suggests, its the perfect pre-, post- or in-flight treatment to keep your skin in top form while on vacay. But besides that, what I love most about this mask was how gentle it felt. The fragrance-free, white cream melts into the skin and feels like a very thin veil of moisture is sitting on your face like a protective shield. The instructions note to leave it on the face for 10 minutes for maximum benefits, but since its a no-rinse formula I like to leave it on overnight to soak up all its goodness.
Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask, $19, sephora.ca SHOP HERE
Best budget-friendly mask: Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask
The cost: $19
The claim: Absorbs excess oil, evens skin tone and reduces the look of pores
The review: If you’re after a mask that leaves you feeling cleaner than clean, opt for this newly reformulated K-beauty favourite from Innisfree. Its star ingredient, Jeju Super Volcanic Clusters sourced from South Korea’s pristine Jeju Island, vacuum up gunk from pores like its nobody’s business. To top it off, lactic acid gently resurfaces the skin for less-noticeable pores. Priced at a very reasonable $19, it simply can’t be beat.
Biossance Squalane + Glycolic Renewal Mask, $63, sephora.com SHOP HERE
Best instant brightening mask: Biossance Squalane + Glycolic Renewal Mask
The cost: $63
The claim: Reduces fine lines, discolouration, and pores
The review: For a quick fix, I love this all-in-one peel-meets-mask from Biossance. Heavy on the acids, it features a blend of completely plant-based AHAs including glycolic, lactic, tartaric and malic acids. After three minutes, the skin is visibly brighter, but you can leave it on for up to 10 minutes depending how tolerant your skin is. Although it is quite potent as far as exfoliating masks go, irritation is minimal thanks to the addition of soothing licorice root. Follow up with the brand’s beauty director-approved Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum for seriously great skin.
Tatcha The Clarifying Clay Mask, $92, sephora.ca SHOP HERE
Best mask for breakouts: Tatcha The Clarifying Clay Mask
The cost: $92
The claim: Decongests skin without drying
The review: There’s nothing quite as satisfying as putting a clay mask on a bubbling blemish and watching it shrivel up as quickly as it came into fruition. Sound relatable? May I direct you to Tatcha’s latest clarifying clay mask, formulated to stop unwelcome visitors from setting up shop on your face. Mineral-rich Okinawa Kucha clay absorbs excess oil, while Japanese konjac root sloughs off dead skin and grime. Japanese volcanic ash triggers a unique warming sensation, which helps to draw impurities out of the skin. It works fast, too: Five minutes is all you need to get all the acne-fighting benefits, which is less time than most clay masks require. The coolest thing about this mask is that as you massage the creamy formula, the colour of the mask changes from a dusty sage green to a pale red hue. Fun!
Sisley Paris Black Rose Cream Mask, $220, nordstrom.ca SHOP HERE
Best luxe mask: Sisley Paris Black Rose Cream Mask
The cost: $220
The claim: Softens and hydrates skin
The review: If you really want to have a “treat yourself” moment, go ahead and nab this iconic mask from Parisian skincare brand Sisley. This dreamy, creamy mask is everything it promises to be: nourishing, hydrating, and plumping. Breathing in its gorgeous rose scent is the pinnacle of luxury, as far as skincare goes. Beyond its rosy colour and scent, this luminizing, hydrating concoction includes fragrant plant ingredients like black rose, magnolia and geranium, along with radiance-boosting red vine and softening shea butter. Is it a non-negotiable in my routine? That depends. I’m two months away from my wedding day, and applying this mask every so often absolutely helps me tap into that bridal energy. Would I typically splash out on a $220 mask? Probably not. But if you can afford it and you’re craving a truly magnificent skincare experience, full steam ahead, I say!
Shiseido Vital Perfection LiftDefine Radiance Face Mask, $135, nordstrom.ca SHOP HERE
The cost: $135
The claim: Lifts and firms skin
The review: I’m not usually one for sheet masks. The way they slide on and off my face can be bothersome, and the amount of leftover product swimming at the bottom of the packet is nothing short of infuriating. However, I will make an exception for this lifting mask from Shiseido, which I have come to adore. It’s a two-piece mask: Mask 1 sits over the entire face, while mask 2 fits snugly around the ears and cradles the jawline. Its meant to tone the face and revive dull skin in 10 minutes, and I find it delivers on both counts. Ingredients like watercress extract boost collagen and firm the skin, while vitamin C and white lily help to hydrate and brighten up the complexion. I like to pop this one in the fridge before securing it on my face—the cold combined with the lifting neck mask creates a flushed effect that reminds me of the way my skin looks after coming in from a particularly cold winter day. Afterwards, I scoop out the remaining essence from the package and pat it into my skin. The result is a very covetable glazed-donut-like complexion. What’s not to love?
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