I’m nothing if not a creature of skin-care habit, and every Sunday without fail, I turn on Netflix (“The Night Of,” lately), hop in the bathroom to get my beauty lineup ready (an exfoliating mask, followed by two sheet masks—one of which I layer on top of an eye mask), and park myself on the couch to marinate/get pretty.
Lately, said Sunday night routine has been happening at my boyfriend’s place, and though I usually make it through the hour-long process without much more than a glance from him that simultaneously says “That’s excessive” and “Please just don’t put that shit on me,” last weekend, he stopped and asked me if all those products, one right after another, could possibly be doing more harm than good to my face.
At first, I was offended, because how dare he suggest I’m being ignorant in my quest for perfect skin. Once that subsided, I realized he might be right: Could I possibly be screwing up my skin by OD’ing on masks? Is it even possible to OD on masks? Being the journalist than I am, I decided to investigate.
“I’ve seen patients come in with new skin inflammation or severe dryness from using them too frequently,” says NYC dermatologist Amy Wechsler, striking fear directly to the center of my heart.
Plus, “The direct occlusion and increase in temperature of the skin can cause breakouts, especially if left on the skin for long periods of time,” says Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, cosmetic dermatologist and director of clinical research at Marmur Medical. But I haven’t fallen victim to breakouts since I started masking every Sunday night about a year ago—and while I thought I just might be an outlier, Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin said I might be picking the right ones.
“Not all masks are created equal,” she says, adding that you should look for ingredients that play well together— glycerin and hyaluronic acid, for example—for great results. “While you most likely won’t overdose on skin-care masks, you can overdo it, which can lead to breakouts, irritation, and allergic reactions. Looking at ingredients is key, and matching them to your skin conditions is important. If you have inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis, or have very sensitive skin, the combination of retinols and alpha-hydroxyl acids, such as glycolic and lactic acids, or with salicylic acid can [make it worse].”
If you’re a skin-care daredevil like me and like to physically layer masks one on top of the other—I particularly enjoy throwing the Chella Anti-Fatigue Eye Mask underneath Dr. Jart+ Water Fuse Water-Full Hydrogel Mask, the latter of which bills hyaluronic acid as its top active ingredient—Dr. Wechsler says that’s exactly the way to do it. “It’s OK to layer masks if you understand the ingredients and the purpose for each mask.” Gold star for me, guys.