Main content

The Right Way To Use A Face Mask

When you want to treat yourself to a little self-care, there’s nothing quite as relaxing as kicking back and doing a full at-home facial. Sheet masks get the job done (and admittedly, they’re convenient), but when we think pampering, we think clay mask, cucumbers, and a fuzzy robe. But even the most indulgent facial ritual won’t do your skin any favors if you’re not using the right formula for your skin type.

Thankfully, we’re here to help you perfect your pampering ritual. We’ve compiled a guide to the best types of face masks for your skin type so you can pick the formula that suits your needs. Plus, we’ll teach you how to use a face mask properly for maximum beauty benefits. Read on for the official Kiehl’s guide to masking for healthier-looking skin.

Step #1:

Cleanse Skin Thoroughly

Before you begin to apply your mask, it’s vital to cleanse your skin thoroughly to remove any dirt, oil, or impurities from your skin’s surface. This helps eliminate pore-clogging buildup and makes it easier for the mask’s active ingredients to penetrate your skin.

Unless you’re using an exfoliating mask or have extremely sensitive skin, we recommend using a mild exfoliating cleanser for this step. Try our cult-classic Ultra Facial Cleanser, which is formulated with olive-derived squalane and emollient avocado oil to gently cleanse skin without stripping it of its natural moisture. The foaming formula also contains crushed apricot kernels, which work as a mild physical abrasive to buff away dead skin cells.

Apply a dime-sized amount to damp skin and lightly massage it over your face in circular motions. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm (not hot) water and pat skin dry with a clean towel.

Step #2:

Reach For a Formula Suited To Your Skin’s Unique Needs

Once you’ve washed your face thoroughly, the next step is to apply your chosen mask. But not any mask will do: Which type of face mask is best for your skin depends mostly on your skin type and specific concerns. Read on to discover the best types of face masks for your skin.

Oily Skin: Clay Masks

When you think "facial," you probably think of the classic clay face mask. You know how to use a face mask like this: Apply it to a clean, damp face and let it dry for a while (usually around 10-15 minutes). Clay masks typically contain mineral-rich clay, which helps draw out dirt and impurities from clogged pores. As such, they’re ideal for those with oily or blemish-prone skin.

Our top-rated Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask contains Amazonian white clay and aloe vera to thoroughly purify the skin. The unique absorbent formula helps reduce surface oil production by 46.7%, which visibly minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores.* You can use it once weekly or whenever skin feels congested to detoxify and refine your skin.

Dry Skin: Cream Masks

Cream masks are rich, non-drying formulas made to condition dry or irritated skin. Like clay masks, they’re typically applied to clean, damp skin and left on for 10 minutes; however, these soothing formulas don’t dry out. Instead, they provide the skin with much-needed moisture.

To replenish dry skin, try incorporating Avocado Nourishing Hydration Mask into your weekly routine. This creamy mask contains avocado oil, avocado fruit extract, and evening primrose oil to nourish and hydrate dry skin. The unique, oil-rich formula helps seal in moisture to prevent water loss for softer, more supple skin. Use it up to three times per week to keep symptoms of dryness at bay.

Kiehl’s Expert Tip: If you have both oily and dry areas, try multi-masking. This technique involves using different face masks on specific areas of the skin to address multiple concerns at once.

Dull Skin: Exfoliating Masks

If you have dull or uneven skin, reach for an exfoliating mask to brighten your skin. These formulas may contain physical or chemical exfoliants and plant extracts or oils. While we always recommend reading the instructions on your product before using it, it’s crucial for these masks, as leaving chemical exfoliants on for too long can irritate the skin.

Our brightening Turmeric & Cranberry Energizing Radiance Mask contains antioxidant-rich turmeric and physical abrasives, specifically cranberry seeds, to remove dirt, oil, and dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. The invigorating formula visibly boosts brightness for a more energized, radiant-looking appearance. The cranberry seeds act as a super-gentle exfoliant, making this mask a great option for all skin types (even sensitive skin).

For this formula, we recommend applying a thin layer to damp, clean skin. After drying for about 10 minutes, add lukewarm water and massage the formula over your face in circular motions. You can use this mask up to three times per week to renew and smooth dull-looking skin.

Sensitive Skin: Gel Masks

Gel masks are lightweight, hydrating formulas with, as the name suggests, almost jelly-like textures. They typically provide a cooling sensation immediately upon application, so they’re great for those with sensitive or irritated skin. You usually leave these masks on for about five minutes before rinsing off.

Anytime your skin needs an extra dose of moisture, reach for Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Mask. This ultra-light formula contains calendula extract and aloe vera to hydrate the skin and soothe signs of distress. With regular use, it helps revitalize the skin for a healthier-looking appearance. You can use this mask up to three times per week to refresh and soften the skin.

All Skin Types: Sleeping Mask

Whereas most face masks are worn for only a few minutes and then removed, sleeping masks (also known as overnight masks) remain on all night while you sleep. They help provide deep moisture for dry or dehydrated skin and are typically best used once per week, though this will vary depending on the exact formula you use.

Our Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask contains a blend of powerful plant extracts, including desert plant extract and fountain plant extract, to replenish the skin. To use it, apply a generous amount to clean, damp skin and let the formula soak in for about 10 minutes. Then, tissue off any excess and go to sleep. The hydrating formula will continue to work overnight for softer, more supple skin by morning.

Kiehl’s Expert Tip: Even if you’re certain you know how to use a face mask, read the package before putting it on. The most accurate directions for use will always be outlined on the product itself.

Step #3:

Remove Residue With a Mild Toner

After rinsing off your mask and patting your skin dry, use a gentle toner, like Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner, to remove any leftover residue. This customer-favorite formula (a Kiehl’s essential since the 1960s) contains calendula extract to soothe and refresh skin after cleansing or masking. It’s formulated without any harsh or drying ingredients, like alcohol, so it’s suitable for all skin types.

Kiehl’s Expert Tip: If you want a more targeted treatment toner, discover the best toner for your needs here.

Step #4:

Apply Serum While Skin Is Still Damp

While skin is still damp, apply a concentrated serum to lock in moisture, like Vital Skin-Strengthening Hyaluronic Acid Super Serum. This potent yet gentle formula stars 11kDa hyaluronic acid, an engineered form of hyaluronic acid capable of penetrating skin’s deeper layers. It also contains an adaptogenic herbal complex, which helps defend the skin against environmental aggressors like pollution and lack of sleep.

With regular use, this unique serum is clinically-demonstrated to double skin’s strength, boost radiance, and visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles.** Though potent, it absorbs quickly and easily with a lightweight texture and is suitable for all skin types. We recommend using this powerful serum morning and night for more youthful-, healthy-looking skin.

Step #5:

Lock In Hydration With a Moisturizer

The final step in your masking routine is to apply a lightweight moisturizer to lock in hydration and keep your skin looking its best. We recommend using our best-selling Ultra Facial Cream, which contains olive-derived squalane and glacial glycoprotein. This classic formula provides lasting, 24-hour hydration to keep skin soft and smooth. It absorbs quickly with a non-greasy finish for visibly healthier skin.

*Based on results two hours after use vs. untreated skin.
**Based on a 4-week clinical study on 58 subjects tested in urban and polluted environments, using the Skin Strength Index = Composite average score of skin suppleness, plumpness, and resiliency.

For the best experience, please turn your device