Sometimes it seems like no matter how much moisturizer you slather onto your face, your skin still feels parched. What you really need is a product that will deeply penetrate the skin to soothe, hydrate, and restore its luminous glow. But navigating the overcrowded sea of moisturizers that promise to do everything for your skin—short of beaming down and giving you a completely new face—can be daunting, to say the least.
Enter your new best friend: the hydrating face mask.
Whether you choose to saturate your thirsty complexion with a paper, gel, or fiber sheet doused in moisture-boosting collagen, brush on a rich, emollient cream, or apply a skin-nourishing overnight mask before getting some shuteye, rest assured there's definitely a moisturizing mask out there that's perfect for your unique skin type and your lifestyle.
So, if your face is feeling tight, or you're experiencing more serious symptoms of extreme dryness, like redness, acne flareups, flaking, cracked skin, fine lines, and rough patches, it's high time to rebuild your skin's natural moisture barrier, says the New York-based dermatologic surgeon, Dendy Engelman, MD.
Meet the Expert
Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon in New York. Dr. Engelman has also been featured in the media as a consultant and is heavily involved in the MDSC Skinceuticals skin care line.
With Engelman's help, we've cracked the code on the best hydrating face masks for dry skin to find out just exactly what makes them so great, plus how to get the best results for your skin type, whether it's sensitive, dry, normal, oily, acne-prone, or combination. Here we break down the three types of masks for dry skin and drop 15 of Engelman's top picks for the best hydrating face masks that plump, nourish, and soothe parched skin.
Generally, sheet masks are composed of either paper, cotton, nonwoven fiber, cellulose, pulp (from rayon to wood and coconut), or even a combination of these materials. "Hydrating sheet masks contain ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, which binds more water molecules to restore moisture to the skin," says Engelman. Paper masks tend to be thin and don't actually contain enough moisture to effectively hydrate skin—even if their labels promise they will. Engelman suggests using a hydrating mask made with bio-cellulose or hydro-gel, which tightly adheres to the face and doesn't dry out. Both act as occlusive mechanisms (they close off the skin to the air) that force product penetration and enable active ingredients to stay on the skin longer.
If you're looking to be proactive in developing an anti-aging regimen while solving dry skin problems, use masks (they can be a combination of sheet masks, overnight, or rinse-off versions) specifically targeted to those concerns (fine lines, deep wrinkles, discoloration, hyperpigmentation, etc.) instead of one conventional hydrating mask, says Engelman. "If you use a hydrating mask or targeted treatment every day, you don't need anything too potent," she adds. "I mix-and-match my hydrating treatments to include an in-shower mask, rinse-off hydrating mask, sheet mask, and overnight mask."
If you use a hydrating mask or targeted treatment every day, you don't need anything too potent...I mix-and-match my hydrating treatments to include an in-shower mask, rinse-off hydrating mask, sheet mask, and overnight mask.
According to Engelman, overnight masks can actually be the holy grail for people with dry skin. They work while you're asleep, which is when the body naturally rebalances hydration. "When the body is in a deep, restful sleep, the skin's metabolism increases and cell-turnover and -renewal escalate," she says. Skin is, therefore, able to recover moisture while excess water in the body is processed for removal. Since skin can lose water while you're sleeping, the application of overnight serums and creams creates an impermeable seal on the skin's surface (again, an occlusive layer) that locks in the mask's hydrating ingredients so that they penetrate more deeply into the skin.
Trust us, there's a mask out there for you, no matter your budget or skin type.
The Antiaging Radiance Booster
This hydrating, antiaging gel mask targets skin dryness, dullness, uneven texture, and loss of firmness and elasticity—in all skin types. It's packed with moisture-boosting sodium hyaluronate, which also helps prevent future dryness and vitamin E for its skin-firming properties. For best results, slather this over your face, neck, and décolletage and leave it on for at least 15 minutes. And there's no need to rinse it off, either—just rub in the excess gel once you're done. It also works great as a leave-on overnight mask.
The Super-Juicy Overnight Mask
This lightweight mask is best for normal, dry, combination, and oily skin types. It contains a potent mixture of skin-soothing watermelon extract, moisture-infusing hyaluronic acid, exfoliating and pore-refining alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and glycolic acid, and skin-brightening peony root. Pat a thick layer over your face until it's absorbed, and leave it on overnight. Those with sensitive skin should rinse it off with lukewarm water after 10 minutes' time.
The Chocolate-Lover's Skin-Tightening Dream
Aside from being super-hydrating, this rich cream mask contains a skin-tightening and plumping blend of DMAE (a water-soluble skin-firming molecule), hyaluronic acid, and cocoa extract that targets fine lines and wrinkles. During application, the mask's cocoa microcapsules burst and turn dark-brown while releasing a delicious, chocolatey fragrance. Massage it into your skin until the cream turns a darker shade, leave it on for five to 10 minutes, and then rinse with warm water.
The Ceramide-Rich Skin Firmer
"The ceramides within this overnight mask help restore skin's natural barrier," says Engelman. "This mask is also great at sealing in moisture and preventing further loss," she adds. "Its amino acids help support collagen and elastin production, too, while its light fragrance and alfalfa extract promote a restful night's sleep." This hydrating cream mask is best used twice per week: Massage it into the face and neck and let it work its magic while you sleep. When you awake, simply wash your face as you normally would.
The Hyaluronic Acid-Infused Peel-Away Mask
This gel-and-loose-powder mask's formula of hyaluronic acid, humectants, algae, and calcium helps skin retain and produce its own moisture, boost radiance, remove impurities, and smooth fine lines—all while cooling and calming the skin. With the applicator and bowl provided, mix one packet of the Hyaluronic Cushion Gel with one packet of Activating Powder. Spread a thick layer onto dry skin with upward strokes, let the mask sit for up to 15 minutes, and then peel it off and wipe away any excess with a damp cotton ball.
The Naturally-Derived Cream Mask
This rose-scented cream mask's ingredients are 100-percent derived from nature, and it works just as well as a daily treatment as it does an overnight mask. It counts moisture-locking and ultra-emollient hyaluronic acid, aloe, shea butter, coconut extract, camellia seed oil, and olive oil among its chief ingredients that replenish dried-out skin and instill a dewy glow. Massage one or two pumps into your face and neck after your morning routine or smooth it on just before bedtime.
The Bargain Drugstore Sheet Mask
Drugstore beauty brands can be hit-or-miss, but Engelman always recommends Freeman Beauty products for their maximum bang for your buck. This 100-percent cotton sheet mask won't irritate the skin, and is infused with a powerful collagen-and-manuka-honey blend that boosts moisture, restores smoothness, and improves elasticity in dry skin. Use the mask two times a week, leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes, and then pat excess serum into the skin.
The Vitamin-C Mask for Sensitive Skin
This silky gel-cream mask is chock full of antiaging ingredients, is incredibly gentle, and is also enriched with antioxidants and vitamin C which purify and soothe tired, dry, and stressed-out skin while protecting the skin's natural barrier function. Once a week, massage into dry skin, leave on 10 to 15 minutes, and rinse off with warm water.
The Skin-Texture Silkener
Apply this creamy mask to your face once a week, and your complexion will feel suppler and silky-smooth. Purslane—a leafy succulent plant and the mask's key active ingredient—stimulates your skin's own antioxidant system and protects against free radicals. It's also packed with aloe vera, kaolin, vitamin E, and chamomile, which all serve to deeply hydrate parched skin. Smooth it over your face and décolletage two-to-three times a week, then leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse off with lukewarm water and commence your usual, daily skincare routine.
The Algae-Infused Gel Mask
This cooling, blue gel mask is infused with nutrient-rich blue marine algae and skin-energizing Korean green tea to protect and nourish skin, prevent its dehydration, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Layer onto the face and leave on for up to 10 minutes before rinsing off with cool water. Use it two to three times a week or daily for an extra hydrated and plumped complexion.
The All-Natural Mask that Combats Wintertime Dryness
This plant-based hydrating face mask is perfect for wintertime dryness because it helps to heal redness and inflammation while tightening pores and plumping skin for a more supple look and feel. Plus, it's a boon for folks who shy away from synthetic everything; it's full of natural, unprocessed ingredients such as raw honey, lavender, rose petals, and virgin coconut oil—and it's free of alcohol, fragrance, toxins, refined oils, and fillers. Use on damp skin, leave on for five to 15 minutes, and then wash off with warm water.
The Crème-de-la-Crème Hydrating Mask
La Mer is known the world over for injecting its Miracle Broth into all of its products. It's a cell-renewing formula produced from hand-harvested sea kelp, other proprietary nutrients, and a long fermentation process—. Its hydrating sheet mask is no exception; it comes in two parts, one for the top half of your face, and one for the lower half. Infused with jojoba seed oil, alfalfa, marine algae extracts, and essence of melon, these potent 100-percent cotton masks work to reduce signs of premature aging such as fine lines, loss of elasticity, and diminished volume. With masks on, rest for eight minutes. Then remove and massage excess product into the skin.
The Golden Glow Mask
Not only does this gold-infused mask make a gorgeous addition to any vanity, but it also contains peptides that deliver real gold particles straight to the skin, giving it an instant dewy glow. With sodium hyaluronate, edelweiss flower, evening primrose, and sweet almond oil, this mask is uber-hydrating and improves skin's elasticity and evenness while diminishing fine lines. Apply onto dry skin, let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and then rinse or towel off.
The Dry Face Fix for All Seasons
This hydrating overnight mask smooths and softens skin while you're catching some Zs. Its active ingredients are fountain plant (known to resist droughts), glacial glycoprotein extract, (defends and hydrates skin in extremely cold temperatures), and desert plant extract (contains high concentrations of potassium to hydrate). You'll wake up seriously moisturized whenever you've used it, even on the coldest, rawest, winter mornings. Before bedtime, apply a thick layer to your dry face and simply wipe off excess before hitting the sheets. In the morning, wash your face as usual.
The Antiaging Bio-Cellulose Sheet Mask
This coconut-derived bio-cellulose sheet mask is formulated for all skin types. Okinawa red algae and hyaluronic acid instantly hydrate parched skin while giving it a firmed, lifted appearance. Once applied, this mask forms an occlusive layer that enables efficient penetration of its skin-quenching ingredients, which also include green tea, rice extracts, royal jelly, and ginseng root extracts. Place the mask, gel side down, onto dry skin and let sit for 15 minutes. Then, no need to rinse off—just remove and pat excess into the skin.
Aguirre-cruz G, León-lópez A, Cruz-gómez V, Jiménez-alvarado R, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Collagen Hydrolysates for Skin Protection: Oral Administration and Topical Formulation. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(2).doi:10.3390/antiox9020181
Jegasothy SM, Zabolotniaia V, Bielfeldt S. Efficacy of a New Topical Nano-hyaluronic Acid in Humans. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(3):27-9.
Hollinger JC, Angra K, Halder RM. Are Natural Ingredients Effective in the Management of Hyperpigmentation? A Systematic Review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(2):28-37.
Keen MA, Hassan I. Vitamin E in Dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2016;7(4):311-5.doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185494
Tran D, Townley JP, Barnes TM, Greive KA. An Antiaging Skin Care System Containing Alpha Hydroxy Acids and Vitamins Improves the Biomechanical Parameters of Facial Skin. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:9-17.doi:10.2147/CCID.S75439
Spada F, Barnes TM, Greive KA. Skin Hydration is Significantly Increased by a Cream Formulated to Mimic the Skin's Own Natural Moisturizing Systems. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2018;11:491-497.doi:10.2147/CCID.S177697
Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin Anti-Aging Strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):308-19.doi:10.4161/derm.22804
Guo G, Yue L, Fan S, Jing S, Yan LJ. Antioxidant and Antiproliferative Activities of Purslane Seed Oil. J Hypertens (Los Angel). 2016;5(2).doi:10.4172/2167-1095.1000218
Kim JH, Lee JE, Kim KH, Kang NJ. Beneficial Effects of Marine Algae-Derived Carbohydrates for Skin Health. Mar Drugs. 2018;16(11).doi:10.3390/md16110459
Zhang S, Duan E. Fighting against Skin Aging: The Way from Bench to Bedside. Cell Transplant. 2018;27(5):729-738.doi:10.1177/0963689717725755