Derm DMs: Is It Possible to Over-Mask Your Skin?

November 11, 2020
Samantha Holender
By: Samantha Holender | by L'Oréal
Derm DMs: Is It Possible to Over-Mask Your Skin?

On a mission to brighten your complexion? Need an extra dose of hydration? Trying to clear gunk out of your pores? There’s a face mask for that. A masking session can work wonders for your skin, but how often should you really be using them? To find out if it’s possible to over-mask, we turned to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kenneth Howe from Wexler Dermatology in New York City. 

Is it Possible to Use Face Masks Too Frequently?

Here’s the deal: It may be totally fine to use a face mask every night, but doing so could also cause irritation. It really depends on the type of face mask you’re using and your skin type. “Face masks are just a different way of delivering emollients or actives to the skin,” says Dr. Howe.“By holding ingredients in concentrated form on the surface of the skin, face masks enhance the effect of these agents. So if I’m concerned about over-masking, it’s not really the mask itself I’m worried about, it’s what the mask is delivering to the skin.” 

For example, people with oily skin can become too greasy if they over-mask with hydrating formulas. But it’s masks that contain exfoliating or detoxifying ingredients that Dr. Howe recommends being the most cautious with exfoliating face masks.  “Exfoliating face mask treatments removes dead skin cells, thinning the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin),” he says. “If the process is repeated too soon — before the skin has  time to recover — the exfoliation proceeds deeper and deeper.” Dr. Howe explains that when the stratum corneum is thinned, the moisture barrier becomes compromised and the skin can become sensitized and easily inflamed. 

While the standard recommendation is to use exfoliating masks (or serums) two to three times a week, the frequency with which you can tolerate masking can be more or less depending on your skin. “Experience is going to be your best guide here; note how your skin responds to different products,” says Dr. Howe. 

Signs You’re Masking Too Much

“A common sign of overuse is an irritant dermatitis that presents as dry, flaky, itchy or red areas of skin,” says Dr. Howe. “Occasionally, acne-prone patients react to this irritation by producing more acne that looks like a rash of small pimples.” If you notice any of these reactions, it’s indicative that the overuse of treatment masks have weakened your skin’s barrier. It’s best to stop using them and stick to a routine of a  gentle cleanser and moisturizer, like the Cerave Moisturizing Cream, until your skin improves. If irritation persists, visit a board-certified dermatologist. 

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