With potent ingredients and effective delivery systems, today’s face masks pack a power punch, giving you brighter and plumper skin. By Joyce Cheo.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
With potent ingredients and effective delivery systems, today’s face masks pack a power punch, giving you brighter and plumper skin. By Joyce Cheo.
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The evolution of face masks has been revolutionary. While earlier versions struggled to adhere to the skin or even cracked upon drying, today’s face masks are a whole different breed. Made of materials such as bio-cellulose or hydrogel, they are more concentrated, and deliver instant, long-lasting results (up to a few days versus a few hours). “Active ingredients are usually the ones working the magic and masks tend to contain an above-average level of active ingredients; thus, the improvements after application are more visible,” explains Dr Por Yong Chen, Medical Director of Dream Aesthetics & Plastic Surgery. However, if you have been sporadic with your usage, only slapping them on when you need a quick-fix, it’s time to consider making them mainstays in your routine. “A good face mask works as a great complexion booster and you can use it to compensate any shortfalls of your skincare regime,” Dr Por shares before explaining that the efficacy of face masks comes down to the concentration of active ingredients (the higher the concentration, the more visible the results) and the delivery method.

Dr Wilson Ho, Medical Director of NOVU Medical Aesthetic Holdings, says that face masks are effective because they form a blanket over the skin, allowing the active ingredients to penetrate within. But not all face masks are created equal, so it’s important to choose wisely. According to Dr Stephanie Ho, Consultant Dermatologist at Stephanie Ho Dermatology, sheet masks that are made of high quality bio-cellulose or hydrogel masks “enhance the penetration of active ingredients into skin by forming skin-tight occlusion.” This means that most of the essences are absorbed by our skin instead of evaporating into the air, making them perfect for sealing in brightening, hydrating and calming ingredients. On the other hand, “clay masks are better for deep-cleansing or sebum-control properties because of their natural absorption abilities,” adds Dr Por.


If your main concern is hydration, “look out for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin and ceramides,” advises Dr Stephanie Ho. Try SkinCeuticals’ Hydrating B5 Masque—it is packed with hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 to increase the amount of Natural Moisturising Factor (NMF) found in skin and strengthen its ability to retain moisture. We also like June Jacobs’ Mandarin Moisture Masque, $97 for 120ml, which combines algae extract, hyaluronic acid and antioxidants to soothe, plump and protect skin from environmental hazards. For added anti-ageing benefits, ASTALIFT’s Moisturizing Mask, $88 for six pieces, contains ingredients like astaxanthin, lycopene, collagen and elastin. Those looking to calm redness and soothe inflammation-prone skin can opt for the Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Masque, $62 for 100ml, from Kiehl’s.


When it comes to fighting a dull and uneven skin tone, or pesky spots, Dr Wilson Ho recommends sticking to vitamin C and niacinamide. SK-II’s Whitening Source Derm Revival Mask, $220 for 10 pieces, is soaked in a rich gel serum formulated with both the aforementioned ingredients. For a gentle brightening action, try Clinique’s Even Better Brightening Moisture Mask, $72 for 100ml, which is also fortified with skin-soothing ingredients that calm inflammation. Or take an au naturel approach with AVEDA’s Tulasara Wed ding Masque Overnight, $116 for 50ml, which improves skin luminosity and supports cellular repair with turmeric root and plant stem cells.


For those battling clogged pores and shine-prone skin, look out for products that are enriched with clay, as mentioned by Dr Por. Caudalie’s Purifying Mask, $43 for 75ml, contains two types of clay (bentonite and kaolin) to draw out excess sebum and impurities, and grapeseed oil to rebalance skin. Innisfree’s Jeju Volcanic Melting Clay Mask, $21 for 100ml, has a self-heating mechanism (which is activated upon application) to deeply purge pores and Arcona’s Magic Black Ice, $94 for 59ml, refines skin texture with a blend of Icelandic volcanic sand, black lava and charcoal, and mandelic acid.


The skin around the eyes is up to six times thinner than the skin on other parts of the face. To iron out wrinkles around this delicate area, look to tried-and-tested ingredients such as “retinoids and peptides”, says Dr Stephanie Ho. We recommend Verso’s Reviving Eye Mask, which uses Retinol 8, the brand’s proprietary form of retinol to penetrate skin effectively and stimulate collagen production without compromising its barrier function. On top of smoothing out fine lines, Talika’s reusable Eye Therapy Patch also works to reduce puffiness and dark circles, thanks to its timereleased mechanism that infuses skin with ceramide and botanical extracts. Or try PeterThomasRoth’s 24K Gold Pure Luxury Lift & Firm Hydra-Gel Eye Patches, $146 for 15 pairs—each patch contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin to replenish skin’s moisture, and pure 24-karat gold to brighten.