There are countless face masks for purifying and clarifying, for brightening and tightening, for exfoliating, toning, detoxing, and firming. But recently, on a particularly cold and windy day that left my already flake-prone skin parched, I didn’t want acids, I didn’t want clay, I didn’t want peels — I just wanted to slather on 20 minutes of pure moisture. I tore through my (sizable) skincare collection in search of a hydrating mask and came up empty, leading me to wonder: Where are all the moisturizing masks? The ones with ingredients that plump and hydrate, no more, no less? The rich creams for thirsty skin to slurp up in seconds?
Moisturizing masks that don’t make your skin slippery (like too-big or too-wet sheet masks) are surprisingly hard to find, so I decided to research, test, and put together a definitive guide to purely hydrating face masks — with expert advice from dermatologists, of course. “Face masks often contain the same types of hydrating ingredients that your moisturizers contain, only at higher levels,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at Zeichner Dermatology in New York City, tells The Zoe Report. “Look for emollients like hyaluronic acid, which acts like a sponge to bind 1000 times its weight in water to hydrate and plump the skin.” His top pick? Neutrogena Hydro Boost Moisturizing Overnight Face Mask.
Other star ingredients include natural oils (like sweet almond and avocado), butters (like shea and mango), and aloe juice — almost all of which are present in Glossier’s much-loved Moisturizing Moon Mask and Josh Rosebrook Advanced Hydration Mask.
While there’s really no wrong time to moisturize, Dr. Zeichner says the skin is more receptive to hydrating masks in the late afternoon and evening. “We know that the skin undergoes normal circadian rhythms, where specific activities occur in the morning and others occur in the evening,” he explains. “Skin hydration levels start to decline in the afternoon and continue throughout the evening, which is why a nighttime moisturizing mask can be very useful.” Grown Alchemist Age Repair Sleep Masque, with hyaluronic acid and skin-plumping peptides, is my new favorite for overnight hydration; but it can be used anytime as a 30-minute mask, too. (May I suggest applying a thick layer while you soak in an early evening bubble bath?)
Ahead, 15 masks to reach for when all you want is major moisture, plain and simple.