Face Care

Dermatologists and Estheticians Love This “More Is More” Masking Technique

face mask on woman's face

At the end of a long, busy week, I like to relax with some music, a hot bath, and a double — or, if I’m feeling cheeky, a triple — helping of my favorite Friday night indulgence. I’m not referring to a fancy cocktail or large glass of rosé (though both sound delicious); I’m talking about my self-care plan, which involves layering multiple face masks. If you’re not familiar with this method, it’s called multimasking. Multimasking describes an application technique that’s used to care for individual areas of the face with specific treatment masks, while making the most of your at-home products. It’s equally popular on social media (ex: Spotlyte’s Instagram®) and celeb-favorite spas or the home bathrooms of dermatologists. Read on to learn all about the method, including which skin types can best benefit from this “more is more” approach, plus how dermatologists, a celebrity esthetician, and yours truly practice the technique at home.

What is multimasking?

As its name suggests, the technique involves using more than one face mask in a single sitting. “Multimasking involves the application of multiple facial masks,” echoes Matthew Lin, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, who notes that there are two main multimasking techniques. The first option is to apply different masks “simultaneously to different facial regions,” he says. This allows you to target specific skin concerns in different areas (e.g. you could use a clay mask on an oily T-zone, and a creamy mask on dry cheeks). The second option is what Dr. Lin calls “sequential layering,” which involves applying each of your masks to your entire face and rinsing between masks, or “layers.” 

Both application methods are touted as safe and effective by dermatologists and estheticians alike. Which method might be right for you depends on a variety of factors, including your skin type and concerns.

In addition to addressing skin concerns in an easy, targeted way, multimasking is just a great all-around skin booster that can provide instant results. “Multimasking is a great way of really giving yourself an at-home facial that will boost the results and really increase the glow factor,” says celebrity esthetician and skincare guru Joanna Vargas. But the technique isn’t just relegated to home bathrooms. In fact, it’s a method you might be even more familiar with in a professional spa or salon setting. “In the salon, we always double mask pretty much in all of our facials,” Vargas tells us. “We always do some sort of exfoliating mask, and then we follow with a treatment mask depending on what's going on with the client's skin.”

What are the benefits of multimasking?

Because of the customizable nature of a multimasking routine, the benefits are seemingly endless. “Multimasking can have many benefits on the skin, depending on the combination of active ingredients used,” says Dr. Lin. “It is useful to address oiliness, dryness, inflammation, and pigmentation.” Whatever your concern may be, there’s probably a mask for it.

Besides addressing specific skin concerns, multimasking also helps you make the most of your products, boosting the results from what you already have in your beauty stash. This is most evident when multimasking begins with a light exfoliation that suits your skin type — whether that’s a warm washcloth, enzyme-based exfoliator, or an acid-based peel

“If you were going to do an exfoliation mask, you're taking off all the layers of dead skin cells and the stress that your skin is under, Vargas explained. “And then when you apply the second mask — which would be what I would call a ‘beauty mask’ — that's really going to sink further into your skin than if you skipped the first mask and just did the second.” Essentially, you’re getting more powerful results by pairing your favorite exfoliants and actives together.

For those of us who are impatient, Chris Adigun, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Chapel Hill, NC, cites the method as one of the best skincare techniques to achieve instant results. As she explains it, multimasking — unlike many professional treatments which can involve downtime and looking “a little bit torn up” afterwards — delivers instant results and zero downtime. “Multimasking can achieve a lot in a short period of time,” she says, “and it can make your skin look good in a very immediate sense.” So if you’re looking for an instant, albeit temporary glow, multimasking is the way to go.

The benefits of multimasking don’t just go skin-deep. “Many of my patients find that it has psychological benefits. It can be a really relaxing and rewarding self-care ritual,” says Dr. Lin. Joanna Vargas agrees, and emphasizes the importance of taking the time to slow down focus on yourself in the midst of a jam-packed schedule. “It's really healthy for us to all take time to focus on self-care more,” she says. “I don't think that people do it enough.”

So what skin types can multimask?

As you may have gathered, because the technique is so customizable, it can be tailored to suit everyone, regardless of skin type or concern. That said, the application technique is just as important as the masks themselves. Dr. Adigun and Dr. Lin agree that the mask-by-area-of-concern method — which Dr. Adigun charmingly refers to as “skincare puzzle pieces” — is best for combination and acne-prone skin. This is because the “puzzle piece method” directly addresses the concerns of each area, without potentially inflaming sensitive or acne-prone areas with more potent ingredients. “It intuitively makes sense for combination skin,” Dr. Lin says, “because [it] targets multiple skin concerns [at once].”

For drier skin types, Dr. Lin recommends focusing on moisturizing masks with lipid-based and water-based emollients to restore moisture. (Two of my favorite masks in those categories are the brightening and moisturizing squalane-based Biossance® Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Mask and the ultra-gentle glycerin-based PCA Skin® Hydrating Mask.) He and Dr. Adigun agree that dry skin and mature skin can also benefit from one final layer after the initial puzzle piece multimasking routine: a hydrating sheet mask. “You can apply a sheet mask [after] all of [the previous steps] to really facilitate penetration if you are going all out,” says Dr. Adigun, who regularly finishes a multimasking session by applying a sheet mask to herself and each of her daughters. However, if you’re prone to inflammation and breakouts, you should skip sheet masks or emollient moisture masks. “It is best to avoid a sheet mask because it can occlude the skin and exacerbate acne,” warns Dr. Lin.

If you have overall sensitive skin, you might want to take a different approach to the routine. “Patients with sensitive skin should be conservative with multimasking and generally stick to gently hydrating products. Avoid irritating ingredients such as acids, retinols, and fragrances,” says Dr. Lin. (One of my all-time favorite sensitive skin-soothing masks? The Paula’s Choice® Hydrating Treatment Mask.) Joanna Vargas agrees, explaining that the most important step to be careful about with sensitive skin types is the exfoliation step. “Exfoliation can be really tricky with sensitive skin,” she says. For sensitive skin, she recommends enzymatic exfoliation. “Enzymes don't typically sensitize the skin — even though they're really effective as exfoliators,” Vargas explains.

Editor's Note

Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.

So how do I get started?

Now that you’ve learned all about the benefits of multimasking for your specific skin concerns, it’s time to take matters — and masks — into your own hands. First, think about your skin, and what approach you think might benefit you the most. As Dr. Lin says, “Everyone’s skin is different and different areas of skin have vastly different requirements.” Joanna Vargas agrees. “People have a tendency to feel like their skin is all one thing. Typically, it's very common for your skin to be different in different areas of the face,” she says.

For Dr. Adigun, the best approach is using the puzzle piece technique, focusing treatment masks — like oil-absorbing clay masks, or brightening vitamin C-based masks — on individual areas of concern. “I prefer to really just put the mask products on the certain areas,” she says. “I worry about a mud mask causing dryness in certain areas, and I'd rather use a photo-corrective mask on the lateral cheeks where people tend to pigment the most.” 

Personally, I also like to adhere to the method that Dr. Adigun uses at home for herself and her daughters: cleanse, exfoliate, apply masks in the puzzle approach, and top it all off with a moisturizing mask or hydrating sheet mask. I like to apply masks using a flat or fan-shaped skincare brush to further boost the spa-like experience I’m channeling. While fingers are fine, using a brush to apply products is a small step that makes the whole process feel that much more luxurious. The amount of product I apply depends on what mask and facial area I’m treating: peels and exfoliating gels get conservatively spread out in a thin, light layer, while moisturizing masks get slathered across my cheeks with reckless abandon. As for the pièce de résistance — the sheet mask! — well, I think there is no wrong way to apply it. As long as the mask fits comfortably across the skin, you should see the benefits. In fact, Joanna Vargas thinks that the humble yet powerful sheet mask is one of the best tools in your beauty arsenal when it comes to multimasking. It’s pre-portioned essence, clear instructions, and targeted ingredients also make it perfect for multimasking beginners. “I'm a huge fan of sheet masks, that's why I have so many in my line,” she says. “I feel like it makes skincare really simple for people.”

If you’re a total beginner, the experts agree that starting a multimasking routine is simple enough to master. Once or twice a week, apply three masks — one that exfoliates, one that treats, and one that hydrates — which are suited to your skin concerns. Et voilà! A multimasking routine is born. If you’re already an avid multimasker, try upping your game by focusing on more specific ingredients, trying a more powerful exfoliator, or topping it all off with an all-over hydrator. If you want to get extra fancy, you can even add in a lip mask or sleeping mask to seal it all in.

Ready to get started on your own multimasking routine? You can use what’s already stashed away in your medicine cabinet — after all, this technique is about making the most of what you’ve got! But if you’re interested in which masks I have found play nicely together on my dry/eczema-prone/combination skin, read on.

Exfoliating Masks/Peels

Peach & Lily® Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask

Peach & Lily® Super Reboot Resurfacing Mask

I’ve been using this resurfacing mask for years, and it’s one of the best for gentle, efficient exfoliation. 20 minutes with a thin layer of this cooling blue gel on, and your skin will be brighter, smoother, totally fresh.

AmorePacific® Treatment Enzyme Peeling Masque 

AmorePacific® Treatment Enzyme Peeling Masque 

Gently exfoliating papaya enzymes, plus ultra-hydrating green tea water, make this peeling mask ideal for both beginners and those with sensitive skin.

Algenist® BLUE ALGAE VITAMIN C™ Dark Spot Correcting Peel 

Algenist® BLUE ALGAE VITAMIN CTM Dark Spot Correcting Peel 

This new peel combines a triple-thread blend of AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs with the skin-brightening power of vitamin C. True to the brand’s name and mission, this vitamin C is derived from spirulina, the vitamin-packed blue-green algae you may be more familiar with in your morning smoothie.

Mud Masks

Omorovicza® Deep Cleansing Mask

Omorovicza® Deep Cleansing Mask

I consider this surprisingly hydrating, vitamin-enriched mask to be the Rolls-Royce® of my mud mask collection: powerful, smooth, luxurious, and rich. (Though the brand’s clarifying Ultramoor Mud Mask is a close second.)

Innisfree® Pore Clearing Clay Mask with Super Volcanic Clusters™ 

Innisfree® Pore Clearing Clay Mask with Super Volcanic ClustersTM 

This creamy clay mask is as effective as it is affordable. Packed with absorbent Jeju Super Volcanic ClustersTM and lightly-exfoliating AHAs, it’s great for acne-prone skin.

Brightening Masks

Tatcha® Violet-C Radiance Mask

Tatcha® Violet-C Radiance Mask

Hands down the most joy-sparking mask I have ever had the pleasure to put on my face. If the creamy texture and bright lavender hue doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then the brighter, glowier skin it leaves behind certainly will.

Eve Lom® Radiance Transforming Mask

Eve Lom® Radiance Transforming Mask

With plant-derived AHAs and amino acids, this silky smooth mask makes skin look brighter and feel smoother, plumper, and firmer. I love to melt the balmy formula between my fingertips before pressing into my skin as a powerful radiance-boosting overnight treatment.

Hydrating Masks

Fresh® Beauty Rose Face Mask

Fresh® Beauty Rose Face Mask

This mask is a classic best-seller for a reason. Soothing, toning, hydrating, and appropriate for all skin types, it’s been a go-to of mine for years. For deep hydration, try applying this post-peel and pre-sheet mask; pat in any remaining essence, and seal it all in with a face oil for maximum moisture.

Tata Harper™ Hydrating Floral Mask 

Tata HarperTM Hydrating Floral Mask 

The entire Tata Harper line is clean beauty at its most luxurious, and this lightweight, floral-infused gel mask is no exception. Packed with 1,000 sizes of water-holding hyaluronic acid and myriad botanical extracts, this mask is ultra-hydrating, soothing, and smoothing.

Moisturizing/Nourishing Masks

Fresh Beauty Crème Ancienne® Ultimate Nourishing Honey Mask

Fresh Beauty Crème Ancienne® Ultimate Nourishing Honey Mask

If the Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask is the Rolls-Royce of mud masks, then this healing honey-based formula is the Cadillac® of cream masks. Its thick texture is rich and balmy, but easily melts into the skin with a touch of warmth.

Korres® Hydra-Biome™ Probiotic Superdose Face Mask

Korres® Hydra-BiomeTM Probiotic Superdose Face Mask

I wrote about this soothing, skin-balancing mask last year (see here), and the sentiments still hold true. If your skin is stressed, sunburned, or recovering from eczema, give this a shot.

Sheet Masks

Joanna Vargas® Skincare Twilight Face Mask

Joanna Vargas® Skincare Twilight Face Mask

Infused with niacinamide, a tripeptide complex, and epidermal growth factors, this power-packed sheet mask shrinks the appearance of pores, plumps skin, and boosts vibrancy. I also love the Dawn Face Mask, which is saturated in a mandelic acid-infused essence, making it a resurfacing and hydrating two-in-one treatment.

Too Cool For School® Egg Cream Mask Firming 

Too Cool For School® Egg Cream Mask Firming 

This affordable K-Beauty favorite is probably the most moisturizing sheet mask I’ve ever used. The microfiber mask is drenched in a combination of glycerin, hydrolyzed collagen, and egg yolk extract that is intensely nourishing. Pro tip: save the extra essence in the packet and put in the fridge to use another time — trust me, there will be enough for a second application!

Loops™ Beauty Weekly Reset Mask Set 

LoopsTM Beauty Weekly Reset Mask Set 

With a super custom fit — thanks to a two-piece construction and ultra-flexible jelly texture — this is the mask you’ll want to wear around the house, anytime, any day of the week. I loved every mask I tried in the Variety Loop pack, but the Weekly Reset is my top pick for it’s combination of moisturizing and skin-balancing benefits.

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Some complimentary products were provided to the author for the purpose of writing this article.

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