Cream face masks: why are they so good for your skin?

In the past, sheet masks have stolen the spotlight in skincare. Now, it’s the classic cream mask that’s reshaping the future, says NEWBY HANDS


Looking through my bathroom shelves, I realized that many of the brands I love and use regularly – including Dr. Barbara Sturm, Dr Sebagh, dermo-pharmacist Colette Haydon’s Lixirskin, and Dr Marko Lens’s Zelens – all have one thing in common: a noticeable absence of sheet masks. Their masks all come in tubes, pots and pumps.

It’s interesting that, while sheet masks may have become the global stars of many an influencer’s Instagram feed, they haven’t made it into the world’s leading expert ranges. Not that there is anything wrong with sheet masks, of course. As long as they hug the contours of your complexion (111Skin masks stand out for their perfect fit), they can achieve dewy results, fast.

“The problem I have with sheet masks is that they just do one job – and it may not be the only job you want done,” says Dr Barbara Sturm. “Most of us need something more moisturizing or nourishing on the cheeks, and something clarifying down the center of the face. That’s something you can only do with cream masks.”

Ultimately, it’s that cream-to-skin contact that pays dividends in our skincare, and why we massage in cream or pat on a serum to help drive the active ingredients to where they should be. Nothing beats the results I get from lavishly applying a creamy rich mask, such as La Mer’s Intensive Revitalizing Mask or Circumference’s In-Depth Hydration Face Mask onto post-flight, sleep-deprived city skin and letting it soak right it. And then re-applying it wherever it has disappeared.

This is a clever makeup-artist trick and perfect for elevating any of your favorite nourishing, hydrating or moisturizing face masks. When you saturate your complexion like this, your skin will soak up an astonishing amount of moisture, so those more oil-prone should try a hydration-focused face mask, such as Tata Harper’s transformative Hydrating Floral Mask.

This skincare hack is equally effective for calming complexions. Try Ren’s Evercalm Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask or Femmue’s super soothing Gypsy Rose Calming Mask, making sure to chill them in the fridge first. Once cold, masks also act as a cooling compress to take the heat out of irritated, reactive, and sun- or wind-damaged skin.

Increasingly, cream masks are becoming one of my own skincare staples: some form part of my regular skincare regimen; others I rely on for an occasional boost. As advised by formulator Colette Haydon, I use a clay mask mid-week to tackle dry skin – Charlotte Tilbury’s Goddess Skin Clay Mask and Dr Sebagh’s Skin Perfecting Mask both deliver a smooth, velvety texture – then use something richer and more hydrating at the weekend.

Sleep-in masks are also a genius invention – although I can’t see a huge difference between nourishing overnight masks and sleeping in layers of La Mer or Augustinus Bader’s The Rich Cream. That said, Aesop’s Sublime Replenishing Night Masque certainly lives up to its name, and Aurelia’s Probiotic Overnight Recovery Mask works wonders on dry or sunburnt skin. Meanwhile, layering up a clarifying mask over a breakout delivers an intensive overnight treatment. Try Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Clarifying Mask or Omorovicza’s Deep Cleansing Mask.

For a quick complexion boost, the gentle peeling and shot of caffeine in Susanne Kaufmann’s Glow Mask negates the dullness and grey tones from a late night. I’m also a fan of Sisley’s Eye Contour Mask, especially for tired, dry and crepey eyes. If you don’t suffer from puffiness, I also suggest sleeping in it. However, nothing quite compares to Sisley’s now famous Black Rose Cream Mask. Slather it on and leave for 10 minutes (I like to massage it in too), then wipe away the excess for a post-facial glow only an actual facial could rival.

The model featured in this story is not associated with NET-A-PORTER and does not endorse it or the products shown