How to Use a Peel-Off Mask Correctly

These are the six most common mistakes, according to derms.

peel-off masks


Winter is almost upon us—which means, apart from binge-watching episodes of Succession on your couch, you’re probably ramping up a more hydrating skincare routine. There's sheet masks, cream offers, and, of course, peel-offs. When it comes to peel-off masks specifically, we always get a kick out of watching others apply them, waiting with anticipation to see what gunk they manage to peel off. And, whether your skin skews dry, combination, or oily, rest-assured there’s a peel-off mask on the market for you. But there are a few differences specific to peel-offs. The good news? You tend to see (and feel) results instantly after removing it. The bad news? You’ve probably been using them wrong this entire time. 

Hear us out.

It may be that you forgot to set a timer, you applied too much product, or you simply picked up the wrong formula. Don't worry, we've all been there. Thankfully, this is a judgement-free zone and we’ve got you covered. Keep scrolling for common mistakes and a few tips on applying (and removing) a peel-off mask correctly.

You're Overusing

We know, we know. Peeling off a face mask can be just as stress relieving as late-night snacking or a hot bath. But when it comes to masking, overusing is a common mistake, no matter your skin type. "Peel-off masks are unique in that they form a film over the skin after drying, creating a cohesive layer that allows you to ‘peel’ it off,” says Erum Ilyas, board-certified dermatologist and founder of sun-safe clothing line AmberNoon. “But if you don’t leave enough days between application, you’ll likely deal with excess drying, possible irritation, and clogged pores.” Nevertheless, no one’s raining on your peeling parade. Get that stress relief. Just limit it to no more than once a week.

Meet the Expert

Dr. Erum Ilyas has practiced dermatology in the Philadelphia area and Boston for over 15 years, and has served as Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Drexel University College of Medicine. Dr. Ilyas has presented nationally and authored several peer-reviewed journal articles and textbook chapters.

You’re Not Using the Right One For Your Skin Type

Step into the mask section of any beauty store and you may be overwhelmed by all of your options. From foaming bubble masks to those with magnetic removal (we're looking at you, Dr. Brandt), finding the right mask for you can be a daunting task if you go into it blindly. “If you have dry skin, look for a peel-off mask that has hyaluronic acid or glycerin,” says Ilyas. “Oily skin will benefit from clay or charcoal as an ingredient while aloe can help soothe sensitive, irritated skin.” Moral of the story: Do your due diligence before adding to cart.

For Sensitive Skin

hey honey take it off mask
Hey Honey Take It Off Exfoliating Honey-Peel Off Mask $38.00

This non-irritating, skin-renewing formula is perfect for those with sensitive skin as it’s made with a lower concentration of AHAs (the type of acid that exfoliates the skin).

For Oily Skin

shiseido waso purifying peel off mask
Shiseido Waso Purifying Peel Off Mask $32.00

Made with red shiso, an antioxidant-rich extract meant to reduce the appearance of dullness, this peel off mask targets oiliness, impurities, and enlarged or clogged pores.

For Dry Skin

pur blue agave mask
Pur Blue Agave Energizing Peel-Off Mask $26.00

Parched skin will drink up this cooling formula of green tea, ginseng, and Vitamin B. Afterwards your skin will look visibly more plump, hydrated, and refreshed.

You're Leaving It On For Too Long

Between wash day, tax day, and National Doughnut Day—your life is busy. We get it. But there can be drawbacks to forgetting to remove your peel-off mask at the right time. According to Ilyas, you should be careful about leaving product on for too long as it can be irritating to the skin, especially if you’re using a mask with fragrance. Most masks will direct you to gently remove as soon as it’s dried (but when they say gently, they really mean gently).

It may seem like common sense, but setting a timer on your phone is so helpful in sticking to the correct schedule. That way, you won't get caught up doing something else and forget to remove the mask.

You're Too Aggressive With Your Peeling

There is indeed something oddly satisfying about peeling off a layer of your skin. Some may chalk it up to nostalgia—you know, those nights you’d spend obliterating your blackheads with pore strips. Regardless, when the time comes, control your excitement and peel slowly (beginning at the sides). According to Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, dermatologist and author of bestselling skincare book Beyond Soap, you’ll know you’re a pro peeler if you’re able to remove the mask in one piece. “This is usually a function of using the right amount and leaving it on just long enough to be fully dry.”

Meet the Expert

Dr. Sandy Skotnicki is the founding director of the Bay Dermatology Centre and is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto in the Department of Medicine in the Divisions of Dermatology and Occupational and Environmental Health. Dr. Skotnicki started the Bay Dermatology Centre in 2006. She is also a Diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology.

You're Multi-Masking

Yes, multi-masking was (and still is) a beauty craze that’s very much alive, but save it for rinse-off masks versus the peel-off variety. If you have different skincare concerns you’re trying to tackle (say, you’ve got an oily T-zone but your cheeks are prone to dryness), it’s more effective to alternate your peel-off masks weekly rather than trying to tackle two issues at once. You won’t run the risk of the masks mixing, which may cause burning. Plus, drying times vary and there can be issues leaving them on for too long.

You're Waxing or Threading Before Peeling

Both masking and waxing remove a layer of dead skin cells, and doing both simultaneously could leave your skin feeling raw and sensitive. The result? Potentially exposing your skin to bacteria, which can lead to breakouts, which can lead to redness, which can lead to irritation (do you see where we’re going with this?). Bottom line, leave ample time in between beauty treatments.

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