Holiday party season is almost upon us, and you know what that means: time to sparkle and shine head to toe, and to have some well-deserved fun. Before the festivities begin, you’re going to want to spend some time at the salon getting fluffed and folded — hair, eyebrows, mani-pedi, you know the routine.
In the rush of holiday shopping, concerts and other special events, plus all the duties of regular life, we here at Dandelion Chandelier frequently find ourselves longing for a proper luxury facial at our favorite spa before the whirl of holiday parties, but never have the time to get one.
Enter the perfect solution: facial masks! They won’t completely substitute for a professional facial, but they are certainly a lot better than nothing, especially in a pinch.
If you are even moderately involved in the beauty category, or hang out with people who are, you already know that masks are a thing right now. If you visit your local Sephora, you will find at least 50 mask options. In fact, the saturation level is so great that you actually need a guide now to understand what each one does and which ones may be right for you. Another issue? The prices run the gamut from pretty inexpensive to crazy expensive, and everything in between. So which masks are worth paying for, and which are not?
No worries – we’ve done the work so you don’t have to. Herewith is our inside guide to the masks that really work, based on tips from all the glamour girls and guys we could round up. Our beauty editor has flawless skin, and she’s the one I always turn to for advice, so I’d say you can take these recommendations to the bank.
First, a quick review of the basic kinds of masks (the New York Times did a helpful overview on this in August): there are sheet masks, cream masks, liquid masks, and mud masks. There are splash masks and targeted masks. Some are good to use first thing in the morning, and others are meant to be applied at night before bedtime. Some are the perfect pick-me-up about an hour before you start getting dressed for a big night out. In short, there’s a mask out there for everything.
Splash masks. If you don’t have 15-20 minutes (or 8 hours overnight) to indulge in a full mask treatment, these are designed to give you a concentrated dose of the same ingredients in typical mask treatments so that you need only one minute to get results: just splash on and rinse off.
—Blithe’s Yellow Citrus and Honey Splash Mask is a great skin-softener on the fly.
—Boscia’s Tsubaki Splash Mask is focused on hydration using an extra-potent formula inspired by Japanese rice-water masks.
—Cream masks. Standouts to try in the category of masks that are dispensed via a pump, a tube, or a jar, are creamy, and are to be left on the skin either for 10-15 minutes or overnight:
—Natura Bisse. This Barcelona-based brand is the secret weapon of many wealthy people, including Beyoncé. Our beauty experts swear by all of their products. Their glycolic peel mask, which comes in 15% and 30% strength, is a favorite of our beauty editor. She says “My favorite is the 30%; you put it on before a night out and it simply makes your face glow. The results are terrific. It also attacks the age spots a little bit!”
—Sisley-Paris. Rumored to be the favorite of Karl Lagerfeld, this brand has proven to be a godsend for me. I use the Black Rose Cream Mask almost every night – just put it on and let it soak in, then sleep – it’s like Botox on visible wrinkles, and so much more pleasant. Totally worth the price.
—La Prairie’s Skin Caviar Luxe Sleep Mask is also quite effective, and it comes with a brush to smooth the cream on, which in and of itself is a nice little luxury
—Dior’s skin care products are quite good, and the Hydra Life Jelly Sleeping Mask is a fine way to end a long day.
Mud masks. The cliché of a day at a spa is laying around with mud on your face and cucumbers over your eyes (it looks silly, but it feels great). The goal of a mud mask is to detoxify and hydrate your skin. Three standouts that you can use at home:
—GlamGlow. Recently purchased by Estee Lauder, this product line was created by a couple in LA who were tinkering around in their kitchen on beauty products. It’s become a sensation, and everyone we know who has tried it loves it. Their Supermud Clearing Treatment mask is really helpful for problem skin.
—Patchology. The problem with mud masks and treatments is that they can be messy. Patchology has solved this problem with a mud mask that can be applied like a sheet mask, for maximum benefit with minimum mess.
—Tom Ford has an Intensive Purifying Mud Mask for men. Like all of his cosmetic products, it’s expensive and well worth the price.
Targeted masks. These tend to be smaller versions of a sheet mask, meant to be applied to a specific area of the face, usually the eyes. They can also come in cream or gel form:
—Guerlain’s Super Aqua-Eye Anti-Puffiness/Smoothing Eye Patch feels great and is the perfect fix for too-little sleep.
—Estee Lauder’s “pre-party prep” Stress Relief Eye Masks are hydrating and rejuvenating.
—Tata Harper is a luxury all-natural line – the brand’s Boosted Contouring Eye Mask should be applied in the morning as part of your a.m. routine.
—Chantecaille’s products are ideal for sensitive skin, and their Gold Energizing Eye Recovery masks deliver exactly what they promise.
Sheet masks. Of all the options, my personal favorite is sheet masks (they’re what most people think of when they think of a beauty mask in the first place). They come individually packaged, with a targeted serum and a mask made of cotton, cellulose, or gel. I’ve tried dozens of them, and I can honestly say that none were a bad experience. When you’re tired and want to feel pampered, this is a great way to grab 15 minutes of “me time.” Any sheet mask is basically a nice experience. But which are the best? Our top picks, in reverse order:
—Amore Pacific. Korean brands launched the popularization of sheet masks, and the Moisture Bound Intensive Serum masque is a great example of “K-Beauty’s” best.
—Shiseido’s Benefiance Pure Retinol Intensive Revitalizing Face Mask, from Japan, is also highly effective.
—La Mer’s Hydrating Facial Masks are great in the winter months.
–The winner, at least for me, is SK-II. Known for years in the fashion business, all the hype is actually true: if you don’t do anything else for yourself this holiday season, buy a box of these and really use them. My Sunday night ritual has become pouring myself a nice glass of red wine, lighting some scented candles, and applying any one of the three varieties of SK-II sheet masks (Facial Treatment, Brightening Derm-Revival, and 3D Refining). I get 15-20 minutes of pure bliss, and I emerge ready for the week with noticeably brighter and smoother skin.
The mask craze has actually gotten to the point where there are now products designed to be applied prior to a mask to make them more effective. Origin’s Maskimizer is a spray that is designed to soften and hydrate your skin to make your mask optimally effective.
If you find the plethora of options in this realm bewildering, you’re not alone. Our friends who are beauty experts (with the radiant skin to prove it) suggest narrowing your search for the right products to one or two stores that you like and feel comfortable in. Our favorite beauty specialty store right now is Space NK, which has an extensive product selection and more “progressive” products than some others. The other tip is to build a relationship with a great salesperson at a luxury department store, like Bergdorf’s, Barney’s or Neiman Marcus. Don’t spread your purchases around from store to store – if you’re loyal to one person at one store, you’ll reap real rewards. “Your” beauty salesperson will keep you up to date on special offers, give you lots of samples of new and existing products, toss in a couple of extra gifts-with-purchase, and sometimes even throw in standard sizes of your favorite product or one that you should try. My salesperson refers to herself as “Eva the Diva”: at 70 years old, she looks amazing, claims to have never had plastic surgery, always gives honest advice, and assures me that if I keep up the regimen she’s set for me, I’ll look that good when I’m her age. I should be so lucky!
So before you put on your party shoes, take a moment (or more) for a mask. It’ll be a little dose of luxury for both body and soul.