Eye Masks Are Worth The Extra Step In Your Skin Care Routine

Death to dark circles.

benefits to using eye masks
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Crafting a good skin care routine requires a few basic steps: a face wash to cleanse, a toner to balance the pH, serums to target specific concerns, and a moisturizer to lock in hydration. Aside from these staples, there are also a variety of eye creams and eye masks formulated to target concerns of aging around the area. While the concept of the former isn’t much different than slathering on a firming moisturizer, the latter can seem like a frivolous extra step unless you’re a skin care maximalist. This begs the question: Do eye masks offer true skin care benefits?

According to Genalyn Staines, a licensed esthetician at NakedMD Med Spa in Newport Beach, Calif., eye masks — both cream formulas and patches — offer a slew of advantages to parched and aging skin. In fact, that versatility is what sets them apart from your standard moisturizer. “Eye masks have the ability to deliver instant and lasting effects depending on their composition. A cream formula penetrates into the skin to fight deep concerns, while patch masks work to alleviate superficial issues for quick fixes.”

But even with these advantages, not everyone is in tune with how they work. For this reason, TZR turned to two experts to find out why including an eye mask in your routine is the extra step your skin care routine needs.

Eye Patches

How Do They Work?

Often referred to as under-eye masks, patches work similarly to sheet masks. As Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, M.D., a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder of DeRosa Center Facial Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston, explains, “patch eye masks are infused with serums that seamlessly absorb into the skin.” No tapping, rubbing, or rinsing required. “The moon shape perfectly fits the curves of the face and makes it easier for the delicate area to soak up the product,” she says. Compared to a cream or serum, patch eye masks also have more concentrated ingredients that allow them to target surface concerns.

What Are The Benefits?

More than just a topical product, eye patches work to fight signs of aging and visibly improve the appearance of the skin because they directly cover the area. While they can be made from a variety of materials, they’re most commonly crafted from hydrogel, which delivers a cooling effect that can immediately decrease puffiness and leave the area looking refreshed and hydrated. “Eye masks have a plethora of benefits including smoothing fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, evening tone, and brightening dark circles,” says Dr. DeRosa.

As is the case with a sheet mask, these patches also take the guesswork out of how much product you should be applying. “Each packet has a fixed amount of product needed to yield the desired effect,” she says. This not only ensures efficacy, but also guarantees you’re not over-saturating the area.

When Should You Use Them?

While it’s true you can use eye patches any time of day, there are some benefits associated with morning and evening use. As Staines notes, regardless of what you are targeting, the patches will give you a boost of hydration and on-the-spot reduction in puffiness. “For this reason, they are great for the morning to energize tired eyes,” she says.

However, if you’re looking for anti-aging and brightening effects, Dr. DeRosa suggests placing them on in the evening before bed. “Nighttime is the reparative state for skin cells and having these concentrated ingredients penetrating the skin while you sleep can aid in how well they work.” In that vein, she also recommends using them just once to twice a week and not daily as they may irritate the skin or the eyes.

What Ingredients Should You Look For?

Both Staines and Dr. DeRosa agree that the skin around your eyes is prone to dehydration so finding a mask with hydrating ingredients will be key. Hyaluronic acid, black caviar, and collagen are all great places to start when examining the ingredient list. Next, you should be on the hunt for ingredients that will combat your specific area of concern, such as cucumber extract to diminish puffiness or niacinamide and vitamin C to reduce dark circles.

While anti-aging principles don’t work as instantaneously, there are a number of ingredients in eye patches that can provide benefits with use over time. According to Staines, “patches formulated with 24K gold and retinol work well to smooth fine lines and wrinkles.”

Cream Eye Masks

How Do They Work?

Much like eye creams, these types of masks are formulated to fix deep concerns like wrinkles that form around and under the fragile area. Dr. DeRosa tells TZR that cream eye masks are filled with potent ingredients that work to nourish thin skin and target issues associated with aging. And while any age can reap the benefits, they are typically for mature skin. “Think of a cream-based eye mask as you would your eye cream,” Staines says. As a rich emollient that sits on top of the skin, they can intensely moisturize the area while working to smooth and even its tone.

What Are The Benefits?

Perhaps the largest benefit of using a cream mask instead of patches is the possibility of long-term results. “In contrast to the serum-soaked patches, cream formulas have powerful components that deeply penetrate into the skin to ultimately make it appear more youthful,” says Dr. DeRosa. While they can help with excess puffiness, their main purpose is to resolve fine lines that form crow's feet and decrease dark circles that can make the face look sallow and sunken in.

When Should You Use Them?

Just like a conditioning hair mask or pore-minimizing face mask, cream eye masks should be used sparingly. “You shouldn’t need to use them on a daily basis,” says Dr. DeRosa. Instead, she recommends setting aside a specific time to apply them. “These are intensive treatments and work best when used just a few times a week.”

Similar to eye patches, these kinds of masks also yield specific benefits when incorporated into morning and evening routines. “If your primary focus is to target puffiness, then you may want to apply the mask in the morning but just like an eye cream, the evening will be best for stimulating anti-aging actives,” she says. You’ll also want to pay close attention to the directions as some masks need to be rinsed off after a short time period while others can withstand overnight use.

What Ingredients Should You Look For?

By nature, cream masks will moisturize the area, but hydrating ingredients are helpful to plump the skin. With that in mind, you’ll want to look for actives similar to those found in eye patches that help the skin retain water. As for targeting the concerns such as dark circles and fine lines, Staines recommends looking for hero ingredients found in other skin care products like kojic acid, malonic acid, and retinol. “Eye cream masks are meant to supplement or use in conjunction with your daily eye cream, so finding a mask with similar ingredients can be a helpful place to begin.”