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Skin

Should you use a cream mask or sheet mask?

From intriguing newcomer to mainstay of modern skincare regimens, sheet masks have certainly caused a buzz in the beauty industry. But when it comes to benefiting the skin (rather than our Instagram feeds), which gets better results – a sheet or cream mask? NEWBY HANDS weighs up the pros and cons of both

Beauty

Cream masks versus sheet masks

The point of a good sheet mask is that it will work fast, if mainly in the short term. Pre-event, post-flight or just to give yourself a morning lift, sheet masks can have impressive results when it comes to plumping up dry, dull skin with an extra boost of hydration. And, for me, Charlotte Tilbury’s excellent Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask is one of my beauty essentials for an evening out. It’s a dry mask that fits perfectly over the face and chin and stays in place with ear loops. I even wear one over makeup on the way to a dinner or party, removing it in the car, because this sheet mask gives both bare and fully made-up skin the most incredible, shine-free glow.

But while sheet masks are good for hydration, the benefits are limited. “If you want to peel the skin, acids work better used in a gel mask or a peel pad,” explains skincare product formulator Dr Colette Haydon. “And it’s the same for people with dry skin: when you need those extra lipids to moisturize, they work better in a cream mask rather than a sheet mask.” The recent popularity of the overnight face-mask creams no doubt owes much to this, as the best – like Sisley’s Velvet Sleeping Mask, Allies of Skin’s Future Bright Sleeping Facial and 111Skin’s Meso Infusion Overnight Clinical Mask – really deliver plumper, fresher-looking skin the morning after.

I also recommend swapping your in-flight sheet mask for a cream version. Dr Barbara Sturm’s excellent Deep Hydrating Face Mask comes in a box of seven sachets, making it perfect for flying. Although sheet masks may currently be the in-cabin treatment of choice, the ultra-arid air is more likely to suck up most of the mask’s hydration, instead of your skin. If, however, you are using a sheet mask when flying, don’t leave it to completely dry out on your face. Instead, remove it after 10 minutes and then apply a cream to seal in the mask’s hydration.

  • Charlotte Tilbury
    Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask
  • Sisley
    Velvet Sleeping Mask, 60ml
  • Allies of Skin
    Bright Future Sleeping Facial, 50ml
  • 111SKIN
    Meso Infusion Overnight Clinical Mask, 75ml

Deep-clean with a cream

“Because of air pollution, we need to make sure we are deep-cleaning our skin – which means you need a cream, gel or clay mask, not a sheet mask,” explains Dr Haydon. “For me, as a French woman, using a cleansing clay mask and a clarifying gel acid mask each week is part of my basic skincare routine.” Dr Haydon also recommends rethinking how we use masks depending on where we live. “If you are in a city, focus on cleansing and peeling masks during the week and use something more nourishing at the weekend,” she says.

What does a sheet mask actually do?

The beauty industry reached ‘peak sheet’ in 2018 (in both sales and celebrity Insta-endorsements), with sheet masks chosen as much for their attached panda ears as for their cutting-edge active ingredients, but what do they actually do? “The sheet itself creates an occlusive layer that minimizes evaporation of the serum and acts like a little greenhouse on the skin,” says Dr Haydon. “This creates warmth, which is good for absorption, and boosts the skin’s vital microcirculation.” And good micro-circulation – which delivers oxygen and nutrients to skin cells – is key for a great complexion.

But if this occlusive action is vital to success, then it’s important to realize that not all sheet masks deliver, especially the more papery versions that seem to flap over, rather than fit on, the face. Choose one of the newer bio-cellulose masks that drape perfectly over facial features and stay firmly in place. Sarah Chapman’s Platinum Stem Cell Eye Mask is particularly good, treating the whole eye and brow area. Even better, use face masks with ear loops for a super-snug fit. Finally, using a face roller such as Angela Caglia’s La Vie en Rose Face Roller or the Omorovicza Rose Quartz Face Roller over your sheet mask is a good idea because it increases sheet-to-skin contact.

  • Sarah Chapman
    Platinum Stem Cell Eye Mask x 4
  • 111SKIN
    Bio Cellulose Facial Treatment Mask x 5
  • Angela Caglia
    La Vie en Rose Face Roller
  • La Mer
    The Hydrating Facial x 6

The joy of multi-masking

“Aside from not always being very efficient in covering and treating skin, you can’t personalize your skincare with a sheet mask,” says skincare specialist Dr Barbara Sturm. “You can only use one treatment – but, in reality, most of us need a clarifying mask as well as something hydrating or moisturizing on drier areas, especially the cheeks.”

  • Tata Harper
    Hydrating Floral Mask, 30ml
  • Omorovicza
    Midnight Radiance Mask, 50ml
  • Irene Forte
    Brightening Pomegranate Face Mask, 50ml
  • Sarah Chapman
    Skinesis Instant Miracle Mask, 4 x 15g

The best of both worlds

It is possible to use our favorite and highly potent serums and creams (and use each as needed on different areas of the face) and still get the occlusive benefits of a sheet mask. Nurse Jamie’s clever Face Wrap is a reusable medical-grade silicon face mask that you can use over any cream mask or skincare product to get extra absorption and a deeper treatment. It even works brilliantly over regular face creams to turn your daily day moisturizer into more of a beauty treatment.

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