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Multimasking for Beautiful Skin

Vicky Uhland

April 24, 2008

8 Min Read
Multimasking for Beautiful Skin

While your customers are stocking up on cleansing teas and herbal supplements as part of their new year's detox resolutions, make sure to steer them to the facial masks as well.

Masks are the detoxifiers of the skin care world. Long considered a necessity by Europeans, facial masks are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Still, says Steve Strassler, president of Haddonfield, N.J.-based Reviva Labs, "American women lag behind in this area, probably because the majority of Americans misunderstand masks."

Strassler says there are two kinds of facial masks: tightening and softening. Tightening masks, generally made with clay as the main ingredient, harden on the skin and are used to draw out impurities. Softening masks' main ingredients are oils, waxes or butters. They work more like a face cream, moisturizing the skin. Most Americans think of the tightening type when they go shopping for masks, Strassler says, and miss the skin care benefits of the softening masks. Consequently, they view masks as part of a "once-a-week facial," he says. "They haven't been exposed enough to the fact that they don't have to wait for a special occasion to use a mask."

Americans could learn from their European sisters, he says. "European women use different masks almost every day. The working woman may apply a tightening beauty mask for 15 minutes each morning before she applies makeup, and a similar mask before an evening out. Then, these same women will alternate treatment masks in the evening while they watch TV or read, to correct their dry or oily skin condition."

Strassler says the growing popularity of day spas has introduced more Americans to facial masks and has encouraged them to buy masks to recreate the spa experience at home. Manufacturers are offering more products to keep up with the demand. But the increased selection also creates confusion: With so many facial masks available, how can a customer tell what's right for her skin?

From Anti-aging To Acne
The key point to remember is that masks are generally used to correct some sort of skin problem.

"Most women—and now even men—have conditions of their skin they want to work on. Masks offer a more intensive approach to things like aging, lines, blemishes or firming the skin," says Kathy White, ingredient information specialist at Dr. Hauschka Skin Care in Hatfield, Mass.

Most facial masks specify what type of skin or problems they're designed to treat. Here's a look at a variety of skin conditions, and the mask ingredients that may help them.

  • Oily and problem skin. Most masks for oily skin contain clay (see sidebar). Clay is filled with positive ions, and when it's wet, it undergoes a mild ionic change that creates a drawing effect that increases circulation, White says.

    "Animals will lay in clay beds when they're injured or sick," says Linda Upton, vice president of sales and training at Annemarie Borlind of Germany. For humans, clay draws oil out of the complexion and loosens sebum, which causes blemishes. Clay can be too harsh for dry or sensitive skin, although masks that combine clay and oil work well for combination skin.

    Treatment masks for problem skin should contain antiseptic ingredients such as lemongrass, red clover, comfrey, rosemary, sage, echinacea, chamomile, witch hazel, zinc oxide and tannin, Upton says.

    Another option for oily skin is gel masks, which typically don't contain oils but are moisture-binding to provide lubrication for the skin, Upton says. Generally, oily skin doesn't need any more oil, but if the surface is dry or chapped, look for masks with lightweight polyunsaturated oils such as apricot, almond and carrot, Dr. Hauschka's White says.

  • Dry skin: Masks should contain ingredients that form a protective, moisturizing layer on dry skin. Look for heavy or medium-weight oils such as jojoba, peanut, wheat germ, sesame, safflower, avocado, calendula and olive. Other options are liquid waxes, shea butter and lanolin. Honey is effective in masks for dry skin because it has moisturizing and healing properties. Water should be an ingredient because "hydration overcomes the barrier function that the layer of dead skin cells on the top of your skin provides and allows ingredient compounds to enter," White says. But, she cautions, "you need oil because water has a drying effect."

    Vegetable-based sodium hyaluronate binds with water and "holds 1,000 times its own weight in water," says Glenny Legendre, customer service manager with Telluride, Colo.-based Astara Conscious Skin Care. It also smoothes and repairs the skin and helps with the production of elastin, she says. Sorbitol hydrate, which comes from berries of the mountain ash, rowan or whitethorn trees, moisturizes and binds with oils, Upton says.

  • Sensitive skin: Sensitive skin carries heat, and heavier oils can trap that heat, White says. Chamomile, borage and copper can help remove excess heat and soothe the skin, as can quince seed, which has a mucus coating that protects delicate tissues, she says.

  • Aging skin: Look for masks that treat dry skin but also contain ingredients that tone and firm, including St. John's wort, angelica, thistle and artichoke. Menthol and camphor help stimulate circulation, which is good for the skin of those over 30, Upton says. Vitamins B, C and E are antioxidants that prevent free radicals, which can cause aging. Green papaya is a good exfoliator and antioxidant for tired, weathered or thick skin, Astara's Legendre says.

  • All skin types: Skin has a protective layer of dead cells that needs to be exfoliated or dissolved in order for oils and herbs in masks to penetrate skin layers, White says. The oilier the skin, the more important exfoliation becomes. "Oily skin creates sebum that hardens, and when it gets to the surface it needs to be dislodged," says Upton.

Masks containing papaya and pineapple enzymes are particularly effective for exfoliation. Crushed almonds, oatmeal, cornstarch and fruit acids also exfoliate. Malic acid, which comes from apples, and lactic acid, the result of fruit fermentation, are the most common fruit acids, Upton says. Those with sensitive skin should choose a gentler exfoliant such as oatmeal.

Seaweed is a multipurpose ingredient packed with minerals that tones and clarifies all types of skin. It also helps stimulate circulation and remove toxic wastes.

Facial masks are a great way to give the sensitive facial skin the extra attention it deserves. Whether your customer is looking for something to treat blemishes or fine lines, help your customers find the mask that's right for them.

Vicky Uhland is a freelance writer and editor in Denver. She may be reached at [email protected].

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 1/p. 40, 46

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 1/p. 46

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 1/p. 46

About the Author(s)

Vicky Uhland

Vicky Uhland is a writer and editor based in Lafayette, Colorado.

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