Understanding Different Facial Masks

With so many different types of facial masks available, it can be hard to decide which is best for us personally or for our salon as  professional service providers. Here we will explore the different types of facials and masks you might consider for yourself or for your clients. It is important to understand both the characteristics of the active ingredients in the mask as well as the characteristics of your client’s skin. Masks which are appropriate for oily, acne-prone skin are not always appropriate for dry or sensitive skin.

Charcoal Face Masks

One type of mask which has been trending lately is the Charcoal mask. Activated charcoal, the ingredient in a number of beauty products including charcoal masks, is coveted for its perceived ability to draw impurities out of the skin, improve acne and kill bacteria. Some people have also applied charcoal to the face and other parts of the skin for the purpose of neutralizing the venom from insect bites. Like other masks, it is best to apply Charcoal masks to clean, dry skin one to two times per week. Also, although the scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of charcoal masks is currently lacking, there are many people (both salon clients and salon professionals) who swear by this product. Since Charcoal masks are generally very well tolerated, there is little danger in trying one of these masks for yourself in order to decide by your own results if they work or not. As a tip, if you have dry skin, find a charcoal mask that includes other moisturizing ingredients such as olive oil and jojoba oil or, if you have oily skin, find a charcoal mask which includes other ingredients such as clay to absorb excess oil.

Aloe Vera Face Masks

Aloe Vera is an ingredient that has been popular in various beauty products for a long time and continues to be popular due to its benefits. Unlike some of the other trending face masks and beauty products in general, aloe vera has proven benefits with the science to back it up. Aloe vera is used in hair gels, skin creams, sunburn ointments, face masks and many, many more beauty and skincare products. Some people like to create their own aloe vera face masks at home while others prefer to buy already-prepared concoctions. Aloe vera soothes and hydrates the skin which is why it is very versatile and appropriate for almost all skin types. Some newer preparations also come as peel-off sheets which can be applied, left to dry and then peeled off to help remove dirt, blackheads or other impurities on the skin. Like Charcoal face masks, Aloe Vera face masks are generally very well tolerated so, whether you are looking for a face mask for yourself or for a face mask to provide as a service at your salon, Aloe vera masks are generally a very good choice.

Mud Face Masks

Similar to clay masks, mud masks are utilized for their exfoliating and bacteria-killing properties. Many people also believe they help unclog pores and absorb excess oil. Mud masks do have some scientific evidence to back up their claims as some petri dish studies have shown that the ingredients contained in these masks may inhibit some bacteria due to their high mineral content. Unlike charcoal and aloe vera masks which are generally tolerated well in everyone, mud masks may be drying or irritating to sunburned skin, skin which is already very dry or skin which is generally sensitive. One of the most popular types of mud face masks is dead sea mud face masks. These face masks, most likely due to their high sodium and magnesium content, are revered for their anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. If you are interested in mud face masks but you are worried about how your skin might react because you have generally sensitive skin, try testing a small amount of this mask on your face to see how you react.

Clay Face Masks

Similar to, and sometimes confused with mud face masks, clay face masks have been used for hundreds of years to improve skin. They are used to absorb excess oil in the skin, prevent acne and even manage dry skin. kaolin or bentonite clays are most often used in these face masks and each have their own uses. Kaolin clay is a natural exfoliator, absorbs excess oil, evens out skin tone, smoothes skin and is said to have anti-aging benefits. Bentonite, which also absorbs excess oil, also has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also absorbs dirt. Also, while clay masks are generally well-tolerated, using them too much may dry out your skin so they should be used more sparingly than gentler face masks such as those containing aloe vera.

Hyaluronic Acid Face Masks

Hyaluronic acid is a popular and common ingredient in a variety of face masks. It is utilized and coveted for its powerful hydrating abilities. Technically, it is known as a “humectant” or a substance that helps the skin hold on to water. Now, while it does have powerful hydration benefits, it is not anti-aging per se and will not turn the clock back on aged skin. People tend to perceive well-hydrated skin as more youthful and this does hydrate the skin but, marketing claims that it is “the fountain of youth” are decidedly exaggerated. On the plus side, it is generally very well tolerated because skin does naturally contain hyaluronic acid. So, if you do want to try one of these facemasks, there should be very little risk. If you are worried about possible side effects, it is best to start with a preparation that contains a lower concentration of hyaluronic acid. For the few people who do experience side effects such as irritation, it is usually because they are using a mask with a very high concentration of hyaluronic acid. One interesting note about hyaluronic acid is that the quality of items containing this active ingredient can vary widely. This is actually due to the molecular weight of the hyaluronic acid in the product. Hyaluronic acid with a higher molecular weight is not able to penetrate deep into the skin and will more likely create a film over the skin whereas hyaluronic acid with a lower molecular weight is more appropriate for deep moisturizing.

Salicylic Acid Face Mask

Although not a new ingredient, salicylic face masks continue to be popular because of the scientifically verifiable benefits of salicylic acid. It is well-known for its ability to exfoliate the skin and reduce acne. Salicylic acid does this by penetrating the skin to dissolve dead skin cells where oil, combined with those dead skin cells, set the stage for acne to appear. Although various concentrations of salicylic acid products are available in a number of different skin products, both prescription and non-prescription, which are mostly used for the same reasons, the 2% salicylic acid concentration is the most common for masks and other over-the-counter products. Sometimes the salicylic acid in these masks is combined with clay, vegetable/activated charcoal or other ingredients. Because salicylic acid is a relatively powerful ingredient, it is generally recommended that you use these over-the-counter preparations no more than 1 to 2 times per week unless instructed otherwise by your doctor. It is also important that you do not unwittingly combine more than one product with this ingredient. For instance, if you are treating acne, it is possible that a cream and a mask you are using both contain salicylic acid and this could ultimately lead to side effects such as stinging skin, peeling skin, hives or itching.


Due to the nature and popularity of face masks, there are probably another thousand ingredients that are contained in face masks somewhere. However, this article should get you started with the more common and popular face mask ingredients so that you at least have a basic understanding. Since the ingredients listed in this article are less obscure, if you are trying a face mask for the first time, it may be good to start with a face mask that contains one of these better-known ingredients and work your way to lesser-known concoctions if that is what you desire to do.