Skincare Week: Masks & Peels for All Your Skin Concerns

Let’s be real. Most of our lives are crazy busy. Whether you’ve got midterms to study for, kids running around, a 10 hour shift to work, or a social calendar with very little wiggle room, a lot of us understand the struggle to find a little me-time. And while the idea of heading off to the spa for a weekly facial might sound glorious, most of us don’t have the time or money to indulge in that kind of fantasy. That being said, if you can find 10 minutes in your week to incorporate a face mask or peel into your bedtime skincare routine, both your brain and your body will seriously reap the benefits. Even with an awesome regime of cleansing and moisturizing, sometimes our skin needs a little extra boost of exfoliation, hydration, or nourishment to look and feel its best.

These face masks and peels are some of my personal favorites, and address a number of skin concerns, from dryness to dullness to congestion or hyperpigmentation. Most of them take less than 10 minutes to use and are surprisingly easy to make time for. As a quick aside, some of these masks and peels contain absolutely zero physical exfoliants, while others of them do. If you’re currently suffering from active acne, I’d recommend steering clear of any kind of skincare product with physical exfoliants, as they can irritate blemishes and unintentionally spread bacteria, worsening the problem. A mask with a chemical exfoliant (AHAs, glycolic acid, fruit enzymes, etc.) on the other hand, breaks down and removes dead skin and debris in a more gentle way. Just remember that prescription acne treatments can sensitize your skin, and if you’re under the care of a dermatologist, you may want to check with them before adding any kind of product like this to your skincare routine!

Skin looking a bit dull? Give it a boost with this Vitamin-C packed Yes to Grapefruit Pore Perfection Brightening Peel ($15.99). Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, fighting off free-radicals that can lead to signs of premature aging, and aiding your skin’s natural healing response, reducing the appearance of acne scars and dark spots. Not only is this peel really quite affordable, but it’s also made almost entirely out of all-natural ingredients. Aloe, glycerin, grapefruit and a blend of other fruit extracts work together to soothe and refine the surface of your skin. As someone who’s suffered from acne in the past, I was particularly drawn to this peel. I can often get an active breakout to clear up fairly quickly, but it can take months for the red mark it leaves behind to fade. Having used this a few times now, I was really quite impressed with the results. First of all, if you’re a fan of citrus scents, this peel will totally tickle your fancy. The grapefruit fragrance on this is definitely pretty intense. The texture of this peel is really light and cooling, and it didn’t seem to irritate my skin. It also washes off very easily, making it a friendly addition to your bedtime routine. After use I definitely noticed that my skin felt clearer and smoother, and my large pores seemed to be tightened up a bit. If you’ve ever tried the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask the texture and results seem very similar, although the price points are significantly different.

As much as I am an avid tea lover, having a cup of coffee every morning is a bit of a sacred ritual of mine. Without that good ol’ cup o’ Joe, my day just doesn’t feel like its properly begun. On the same note, if my skin is a bit off, the LUSH Cup O’ Coffee Face and Body Mask ($10.95) is what I need to turn things around. Whether it’s from stress or lack of sleep or eating junk the day before, if my skin is looking cranky in the morning, this mask will perk it right back up. Not only does it smell absolutely incredible (like a tasty vanilla latte), but it also feels great too. With a base of Kaolin clay, this mask will help to draw out impurities from your skin if its looking a bit congested and leave it feeling extra soft and smooth. It also has actual coffee grounds to gently exfoliate and an extra kick of caffeine to invigorate and firm. Since the coffee grounds can make this mask a bit messy, I find it helpful to apply this about 5 minutes before I get into the shower, and then rinsing it off there instead of at the sink.

Unlike LUSH’s Fresh Face Masks, this formula is self-preserving and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It also has a shelf life of about three months. That being said, if you’re not planning on sharing with a roommate or significant other, and/or are primarily using this as a face mask and not over your whole body, I would opt for getting the smaller container. I think the bigger one would very likely go bad before I got anywhere close to finishing it.

If you’re after a true at-home spa experience, the Korres Wild Rose Vitamin C Petal Peel ($64) is a seriously excellent option. While it does seem like a bit of a crazy splurge purchase, if you would consider paying over $60 for a single facial, buying this duo starts to look like a bargain. I’ve written an entire in-depth review of this product before, which you can check out here, but the major bullet points are these. This peel is intense, and is definitely not suitable for those with incredibly sensitive skin. I personally have days where I find the tingly sensation it gives almost too much to stand, and I normally can tolerate just about anything. It does, however, give you immediately visible and kind of spectacular results. Utilizing a high concentration of fruit extracts and Alpha-Hydroxy-Acids, this two step process will essentially resurface your skin, leaving it plumped, glowing, and smooth. With regular use it will also help to reverse signs of aging by reducing the appearance of fine lines and hyperpigmentation.

Honestly, if you’re fresh out of college and have relatively youthful skin, you probably don’t need to invest in a product like this. However, if you’re in that phase of your life where signs of stress and sun damage are starting to show and you’d like to do something about it, this peel is totally worth every penny. If you use it religiously once a week, you will see a difference in the way your skin looks and feels. That being said, the ingredients in this peel that make it so effective also cause your skin to become increasingly sensitive to the sun, so it’s important to wear SPF every day while using this product.

Dry winter air sucking the life out of your skin? Perhaps you should give the Caudalie Moisturizing Cream-Mask ($39) a try. Unlike the other mask I’ve included, which tend to gravitate towards declogging pores and promoting cell turnover, this mask is truly all about soothing and rehydrating a dull, tired face. In a lot of ways it’s almost like a super heavy duty night cream (and to be honest, you probably could use a thin layer of this in lieu of one). To use this as a mask, all you need to do is apply a thick layer to your skin, let it sit for as long as desired (at least 10 minutes to reap the full benefits), and either massage in the excess or wipe it away with a cotton pad. No rinsing required.

It looks like Caudalie has recently repackaged all of its masks, so if you go out and purchase this now it’ll look a little bit different than the one I’ve photographed above. However, the formula appears to be the same, if not improved upon.

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with peel-off masks. On one hand, seeing all of the gunk that’s been pulled out of my pores is the grossest and yet most insanely satisfying experience. On the other, having the baby fine hairs of your face ripped out takes some of the fun out of things. If you can get past the idea of discomfort and want to satisfy your peel mask curiosity, the Boscia Luminizing Black Mask ($34) is definitely one of my favorites. It’s got a blend of calcium montmorillonite clay to absorb dirt and oil, Witch Hazel, which is a natural astringent that kills acne bacteria and tones, and Vitamin C (I feel like I’m seeing a trend here) to even skin tone and reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

I’d definitely recommend applying quite a thick layer of product all over the skin (at least make sure it’s appearance is opaque all the way around) in order to make the removal process way easier. It needs a good 20 to 30 minutes to dry completely, so this is not the kind of mask you want to plan on using when you’re in a hurry. When it comes to removal, it can be a little tricky to get the first edge up. However, once you get going you can almost remove the whole mask in one piece. It will definitely (with visible evidence) extract gunk from your pores and leave your skin feeling toned and tightened. I do also think the Witch Hazel can make this mask a little drying, so I’d recommend following up with a soothing moisturizer after use!

Another thought for those of you with more sensitive skin. Rather than applying this mask over your entire face, you could essentially use it like a liquid Bioré Pore Strip and only apply it to targeted areas (namely your T-Zone).

Perhaps America has gone a bit pumpkin-crazed in the past few years, but this mask is no trendy latte. The Michael Todd Pumpkin Nutrient-Rich Facial Mask ($34) is amazing year round for toning, brightening, and resurfacing the skin. I feel like the labeling on this mask is a little misleading, as the words “moisturizes and nourishes” make me think I’ll essentially be slapping a soothing pumpkin-pie esque cream on my face. On the contrary, it contains a high concentration of glycolic acid and other fruit enzymes to aid in the process of cell turnover, and can result in a bit of a tingly burn as it sits (perhaps why it recommends for all skin types except sensitive). That’s not to say that there aren’t quite a few nourishing and soothing ingredients in this mask as well to counteract the AHA action, but the overall vibe from this mask is to do something for your skin, rather than just passively pamper it (if that makes any sense). Also, the scent of this mask is straight up pumpkin, so if PSL is the vibe you’re going for, prepare to be a bit disappointed.

Every time I’m in a drugstore that sells Freeman masks, I find myself wanting to take the lot of them home. There are so many amazing sounding combinations (strawberry and chocolate, anyone?) and for the price you could purchase 10 different kinds and still spend less money than you could at a single mask at Sephora. However, my sense of reason has often reeled me in (I’ve only got one face, after all) and I’ve restricted myself to trying one at a time. Currently I’m testing out the much hyped Freeman Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Mask ($4.29) and have to say that I’m not disappointed with it.

This mask has active charcoal to detox and absorb excess oil, and sugar particles to scrub away dirt and debris. It’s a little messy to use, so I personally like to throw this on while I’m in the tub and don’t have to worry about getting sugar everywhere. It also feels nice and slightly warming as it sits on the skin. Now, the sugar scrub part of this can be a bit intense, but you can definitely scale up or down the amount of exfoliation you get. After letting the mask sit for 5-7 minutes, you can massage the product into your skin to get a really deep scrub. If you add some water first, that will help to break down some of the sugar and make the exfoliating process a little more gentle. Or, if you’re concerned about the sugar being too harsh, you can simply rinse the mask off and skip the extra scrubbing step.

Do you also incorporate a face mask or peel into your skincare routine? What kinds of skincare issues do you want them to address? Are you in need of an extra boost of hydration, or are you looking for something to brighten and tighten? If you’ve got a great peel or mask to recommend, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! Similarly, if you’ve tried something that totally did NOT work for you, tell us why.

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