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Taking good care of your skin is a must, and several products and methods are available to achieve it. Two popular methods are exfoliating and using face masks.
Both methods have their own benefits, but which one is better for the skin? Well, that depends on your skin type, skin goals, and other requirements.
If you have dry/sensitive skin, face masks can be better as exfoliating too often can lead to irritation and dryness, (1) while exfoliating at intervals may be beneficial for those with oily skin. (1)(2)
Dermatologists believe that masks are a better choice for most people, as they can provide targeted benefits such as hydration and brightening. (3)
Although exfoliation also provides benefits such as smooth texture and removal of dead cells, blackheads, and whiteheads, if not done properly, it could do more harm than good, so it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Nonetheless, if you decide to exfoliate, it’s essential to do it carefully so that it does not injure your skin or cause any redness or breakouts. (1)
Some people might also like to include both exfoliators and masks in the skin care regimen, they use exfoliators to remove dead skin cells and a follow-up face mask to nourish the skin.
This article will explore the benefits of exfoliating and using face masks and compare their effectiveness in improving the skin’s appearance and health.
Exfoliating Versus Face Mask
Using exfoliators and face masks differ for dry, sensitive, and oily skin.
- If you have dry and sensitive skin, using a gentle exfoliator once every 2 weeks may be enough.
- If you have oily, exfoliating more often (1–2 times per week) may be beneficial in keeping pores clear and reducing breakouts. (1)
- If you have dry and sensitive skin, face masks can be used more than twice a week as they are generally formulated to be gentler on the skin.
- If you have oily skin, face masks can be used 1–2 times weekly.
- If you have both oily and dry skin, exfoliate first and then apply face masks.
How to Use Exfoliators and Face Masks
Here is how you can use both exfoliators and face masks in your skin care regimen:
- Cleanse your face with a face wash.
- Dry using a towel but make sure your face is still damp.
- Take a mild scrub/exfoliator and rub it on your face for around a minute.
- Wash your face and wait for it to dry.
- Select the right mask for your skin. Use the mask on your face and leave it on for the indicated time on the face mask package (around 15 minutes).
- Wash away the mask.
- Finish off with a moisturizer.
Exfoliation for Various Skin Types and Needs
Distinct skin types mandate the use of appropriate exfoliators.
Exfoliation for sensitive skin
If you have dry or sensitive skin, exfoliating too frequently can cause irritation and dryness. In this case, using a gentle exfoliator once a week or every 2 weeks is recommended by experts.
Mandelic acid is a good option for people with sensitive skin who want a gentle way to exfoliate. (4)
Other chemical exfoliators such as lactic acid may not be suitable for such skin types. According to a study, sensitive skin can react negatively to certain cosmetic products and ingredients such as lactic acid, causing discomfort such as itching, burning, redness, and swelling. (5)
Exfoliation for dry skin
Some products such as prescription retinoids or those with retinol or benzoyl peroxide can increase skin sensitivity or cause peeling in dry skin. Exfoliating while using these products could worsen skin dryness. (1)
So, if you have dry skin, it’s better to use a mild chemical exfoliator such as glycolic acid or mandelic acid and a washcloth instead of a mechanical exfoliator such as a brush, as the latter may cause too much irritation for this skin type. (1)
Exfoliation for oily skin
When you have oily and thicker skin, you may want to use stronger chemical or mechanical exfoliators. (1)
Chemical exfoliators containing beta hydroxy acids such as salicylic acid are some options good for those with oily skin. Experts also recommend physical exfoliators such as jojoba beads.
Note: Experts advise that those with darker skin should avoid strong exfoliators as they may cause dark spots on the skin. (1) Strong exfoliators are better for oily and fair skin.
Face Masks for Various Skin Types and Needs
Different skin types ask for specific kinds of masks.
Face masks for acne-prone skin
Using clay facial masks on acne-prone skin can be a helpful cosmetic treatment to reduce skin lesions and improve overall skin condition.
In a pilot study, participants with acne-prone and lesioned skin were instructed to apply clay jojoba oil masks 2–3 times per week for 6 weeks. After the treatment, there was a 54% reduction in total lesion count. The number of pustules, papules, cysts, and comedones were all reduced significantly compared to the baseline. (6)
Face masks for dry skin
If you have mature or extremely dry skin, you might want to consider using an overnight face mask that hydrates your skin. These masks can be really helpful because they contain ingredients that can help your skin retain moisture such as hyaluronic acid.
So when you wake up in the morning, your skin feels soft, supple, and hydrated. (7)
Face masks for oily skin
If you have oily skin, consider using face masks made of clay, sulfur, or mud. These masks are great because they can help absorb excess oil from your skin, making it look less shiny.
Additionally, they can also provide mild exfoliation that can expel dead cells and free up pores, leaving your skin looking rejuvenated and luminous. (7)
What to Use for Combination Skin
For combination skin, you can use both face masks and exfoliators.
In combination skin, there is excess oiliness or greasiness in the T-zones, and exfoliators can help in these regions of the skin. The face masks will be helpful in hydrating and nourishing the drier areas.
There are face masks such as clay masks that are specifically made for combination skin, which you can look for when you are buying your skin care products.
What Is Exfoliation and Why Does Your Skin Need It?
Having youthful and healthy-looking skin means having a glow or radiance on your face. This radiance is created when light reflects off the surface of smooth skin.
As age increases, this radiance fades because the skin’s cell renewal rate slows down, causing a buildup of dead skin cells. This buildup causes uneven, dry skin, big pores, and inadequate light reflection.
Exfoliation, which can be done via either chemical or mechanical means, is the procedure of expelling this dead skin buildup. This stimulates cell renewal and creates a smoother and more translucent surface on the skin. (4)
Some chemical substances that can help exfoliate the skin are glycolic, lactic, and malic acids (called AHAs) and salicylic acid (called BHA).
Just be careful not to use too many of these chemicals, especially if the concentration is above 10%–15% for AHAs and 2% for BHAs.
If you use a lower concentration, you can safely use these exfoliators at home regularly. (4)
You can physically exfoliate your skin using a range of products that contain abrasive materials or tools such as facial brushes, micro-exfoliating rollers, and sonicators. These products can be utilized as a substitute for chemical exfoliation or in combination with chemical exfoliation.
Physical exfoliation causes your skin to shed dead cells immediately, which can temporarily disrupt your skin’s natural barrier and cause your skin to lose water more quickly. (4)
Exfoliation has gained fame recently due to its easy accessibility and immediate benefits. Benefits of exfoliation include:
- Exfoliation can give you healthy and glowing skin.
- Exfoliation can help lessen the impression of pores and decrease breakouts/acne.
- Exfoliation can assist in alleviating wrinkles and fine lines.
- Exfoliation expels dead cell buildup and thereby facilitates the easy and quick absorption of skin care formulations.
- Exfoliation can also help improve your tan.
- Regular exfoliation can help maintain the body’s pH balance. (2)
Disadvantages of exfoliation include:
- Scrubbing too hard or using harsh chemicals can lead to skin irritation such as reddening and an inflammatory response. If you have sensitive skin, you may also be at risk of allergic reactions to the chemicals found in some synthetic scrubs.
- Overexfoliating can cause your pores to become enlarged and more susceptible to pollution and UV rays. (2)
What Are Face Masks and Why Do You Need Them?
Face masks are applied to the skin and left on for a specified amount of time before being washed off.
These masks come in various forms, including clay, sheet, and peel-off masks. They are designed to provide a deep clean, pull out impurities, and improve the skin surface.
It is advised to apply face masks 1–2 times per week, based on your skin requirements and concerns. Different face mask ingredients have various advantages for the skin: (7)
- If you have acne, you may want to look for masks that contain salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acids. These components can assist in unclogging your pores and reducing inflammation.
- If you’re concerned about fine lines and wrinkles, antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and resveratrol may be helpful, as well as retinoids, such as retinol and retinaldehyde, and humectants, such as hyaluronic acid. (7)(8)
- For redness due to rosacea, masks with niacinamide can be a good choice.
- If you’re dealing with dark spots or pigmentation issues, kojic acid, retinoids, and vitamin C can support skin brightening and evening out your skin surface. (7)
- To increase hydration levels, blue honeysuckle powder and hyaluronic acid can be great agents. (9)
How to Exfoliate at Home?
To properly perform mechanical exfoliation, follow these steps:
- Cleanse your skin with a mild cleanser and let it dry.
- Apply a physical exfoliator such as a scrub, brush, or sponge to your skin.
- Gently massage the exfoliator in circular motions on your skin for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Rinse off the exfoliator with lukewarm water and pat your skin dry.
- Use a moisturizer that soothes and hydrates your skin.
To properly perform chemical exfoliation, follow these steps:
- Wash your skin with a mild cleanser.
- Use a chemical exfoliator on your skin.
- Wait for the appropriate time to allow the exfoliator to work.
- Wash off the exfoliator with water and let your skin dry.
- Use a moisturizer.
How to Make DIY Herbal Exfoliators
Here are some quick recipes for natural exfoliators that you can make at home.
1. Oat scrub for sensitive skin
An oat scrub is a good choice for those with sensitive skin. Oats are known to alleviate the skin’s inflammatory response. (2)
By grinding the oats, they become gentle exfoliators that can help unclog pores and absorb dirt and oil.
How to use:
- Mix ground oats with water, milk, yogurt, or apple cider vinegar to create a paste.
- Carefully massage the paste on your face and neck.
- Wash it off with water.
- You can store any leftover ground oats in an airtight container for future use.
2. Baking soda scrub for oily skin
If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to exfoliate your skin at home, try adding a little bit of baking soda to your regular liquid skin cleanser.
Baking soda has a fine texture that works like microdermabrasion and can benefit all skin types. It also is good for absorbing extra oil, making it incredible for those with oily skin. (2)
It’s really simple to make this scrub – just mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda into a small amount of your regular cleanser, and you’re ready to go!
3. Aloe vera scrub for dry and other skin types
Superfine sugar is really good for your skin because it’s very fine and gentle. Aloe vera is also great for all skin types because it can help soothe and heal the skin. (2)
How to use:
- Mix sugar and aloe vera.
- Gently massage the mixture onto your skin.
- Leave it on for a few minutes, and then rinse it off well.
4. Almond–jojoba oil scrub for acne
Jojoba oil is good for acne-prone skin and won’t clog your pores. (2)
How to use:
- Grind 12 raw almonds into a fine powder using a coffee grinder or food processor.
- Mix in 1–2 tbsp of jojoba oil.
- Using gentle circular motions, apply the mixture to your skin to exfoliate it.
- Remove the scrub with a warm washcloth.
How to Make DIY Face Masks
Here are some quick steps you can follow to prepare face masks at home.
1. Honey and yogurt face mask
- Mix 1 tbsp of honey with 1 tbsp of yogurt. Make sure you use only plain yogurt and not flavored yogurt.
- Properly cleanse your face.
- Apply the mixture to your face. Leave it on your skin for around 15 minutes.
- Wash off the mask with water and dry your face.
2. Banana and oatmeal face mask
- Mash the banana in a container and add 1 tbsp of oatmeal to it.
- Mix both ingredients to form a paste.
- Apply this combination to your face.
- Leave it on your face for 15 minutes.
- Wash it off with water.
Can I use exfoliating scrubs and masks together?
Yes, using an exfoliating scrub followed by a mask can enhance the effectiveness of both. However, it is crucial to select products that are appropriate for your skin and avoid overexfoliating.
Can exfoliating and applying masks help with acne?
Yes, both exfoliating and applying masks can be beneficial for acne-prone skin. Exfoliating can help to unclog pores and prevent breakouts, while using face masks can deliver targeted ingredients to help control oil production and reduce inflammation.
Is an exfoliating serum better than a mask?
It is difficult to compare exfoliating serums and face masks because they’re made for different purposes. Exfoliating serums help exfoliate the skin, and face masks help hydrate and nourish the skin. The product that is suitable for you depends upon your skin needs.
Are face masks a form of exfoliation?
Some face masks may provide exfoliation if they contain ingredients such as alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids, but not all face masks have exfoliating properties.
Both exfoliating and using face masks can be beneficial for maintaining healthy and radiant skin, and the choice between the two depends on personal preferences and skin concerns.
Exfoliation can work to expel dead cells and stimulate cell turnover, while the use of face masks can provide targeted benefits such as hydration, brightening, and pore refining. It is important to choose products that are suitable for your skin type and concerns and to avoid overexfoliating or using face masks with harsh or irritating ingredients.