Grooming is a world filled with jargon, technicalities and insider knowledge – some of it true, a lot of it bluster. That's where the Grooming Glossary comes in: a brand new series that drops the science on the world of skincare and haircare so you can self-care better – and with the know-how to separate the wheat from the chai-infused anti-aging miracle potion. This week, the overnight facechangers known as night masks.
If you gently fall asleep each night, totting up a splendorous nine hours and awake feeling (or looking) as fresh as a post-presidency Barack Obama, then you clearly don't live in central London. Or reality. For modern life, with all of its travails and brunches and pandemics, is a stressful affair. And stress takes its toll. Not just mentally, but physically, as an increased production of cortisol – the hormone responsible for inducing stress itself – can break down the collagen in your skin, and thus lead to wrinkles. Makes sense, then, to boost your precious time horizontal with ingredients that counter these affects. That's where night masks step in.
We're not talking about sheet masks. Those disposable 20-minute jobbers are for jumping out at your significant other at night and really upsetting them (oh, and another Glossary instalment entirely). These face masks are applied at night, working their magic over the course of a (half) night's sleep. Then, in the morning, you awaken brighter and fresher than your body clock would have you believe. Or at least that's the thinking as several brands have released their own nocturnal wondermasks.
"Night masks claim to be more effective than night creams at targeting skin issues such as acne, dry skin, redness and dark spots as the skin goes into ‘regenerative mode’ at night and is more receptive to topical active ingredients," says Dr Vincent Wong, a London-based cosmetic specialist. "Some brands claim that the ingredients have longer to be absorbed into the skin as well." And it works. Dr Wong says that the right sort of night masks can leave skin looking smoother and plumper. The downside is that these results won't hang around. "Although there is some truth behind the fact that the skin does repair itself at night, the benefits of using night masks are temporary, partially due to the lack of medical-grade active ingredients at an optimum concentration. That said, the glow tends to last for up to 24 hours."
A quick fix then, but not a lasting one. What's more, it's best-used in tandem with other products that are known to slow down the ageing process, like retinol and hyaluronic acid. "If you're blessed with great, glowing skin, products like face masks are good for maintenance," says Wong, with applause given to their hydrating and soothing powers. But if they're to make a difference, be prepared to invest. "For topical skincare products to be effective in the long-run, frequency is key," says Wong. And even then, a night mask alone does not a handsome face make.
You need a firm grooming rotation in which a night mask is the side plate, not the main dish. Wong advises some choices over others, too. "Guys should avoid products containing perfume and sulfates, especially after shaving as they can irritate the skin, making it more prone to pigmentation and brown spots, while the latter dries out the skin by stripping away the sebum." Which is a nightmare for those prone to acne, as sulfates can exacerbate the condition further.
Swerve those, go natural and you can indeed enjoy an overnight wonder. Well, until the next night anyway. Sleep tight, sweet prince.
Verdict: Night masks can make your skin feel and look better. Rejoice! Though it's not a long-term solution, and the effects of a one-off treat will last just 24 hours or so.
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more delivered straight to your inbox
Need some positivity right now? Subscribe to Esquire now for a hit of style, fitness, culture and advice from the experts
You Might Also Like