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.
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This Grown Alchemist mask is my holy grail product when I'm in need of intense hydration. It's meant to be used while you sleep — but instead, I layer on a thick coat during the day and let it soak in for 20 to 30 minutes. The result? Lots of moisture (care of hyaluronic acid) and more even texture (thanks to amino acids and peptides).
I added Glossier's mask to my collection a few years ago when it first came out, but never restocked. After recently repurchasing, I don't know how (or why) I ever lived without it on my #shelfie. The genius blend of aloe leaf, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and squalane oil is exactly what the name claims — moisturizing — and everything my dry winter skin needs.
A new personal favorite, Summer Fridays' just-released R + R Mask features a unique texture that's more oily than creamy — which is a good thing if your skin is dry, red, or peel-y. It's rich in Omega- 3, -6, and -9 fatty acids to build up the skin's barrier and lock in hydration (you can thank argan, sesame, and avocado oils for that), and even features powdered rose petals to gently exfoliate.
You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from a glass of red wine? Well, Kahina Giving Beauty's Moisture Mask does that for your face. Packed with red wine grape extract — which is high in anti-aging resveratrol — and mushroom extract to plump and smooth skin, I'd call it a necessary evening indulgence.
The texture appears thick and creamy in the jar, but it glides on like a light-as-air balm. Layer it over your nighttime skincare routine to reveal glowier skin in the morning via natural alpha-glucan yeast (it soaks up bacteria and impurities on the skin's surface) and macqui berry extract (which deposits moisture).
Current obsession: Lovinah's Super Green Smoothie Mask. While it's not a straight-up moisturizing product (it includes detoxifying clay and polishing matcha), this mask features probiotics to repopulate and repair skin's microbiome — which translates to skin that's better equipped to hold in hydration.