The Best Skin-Resurfacing Face Masks
Sometimes I crave a bit of nitty gritty when it comes to skincare. When it comes to my pre-period week or if I have been burning the candle at both ends or troughing through vast amounts of cheese, I want something that is fast and just a little bit furious.
Enter exfoliating and resurfacing face masks. These feel positively old-school now, with their AHA-powered dead-skin-sloughing action and slightly tingly formulas, but are they effective. Instant brightness, instant smoothness and the feeling that someone has gone over your face with a very small, but very powerful skin vacuum.
I say that they are old-school, but only because AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) have now been mainstream for a while – I feel as though all the beauty excitement gets used up on retinol. And although I will admit that products with retinol have entirely changed the look and feel of my skin, nothing beats the instant satisfaction of sitting in the bath wearing a powerful, fast-working exfoli-mask.
I also say old-school because face masks seem to be having a bit of a back seat moment. At least the ones in pots and tubes. The sheet ones appear to be part of a booming industry, which upsets me because I don’t like the feel of the cold, slimy mask on my face and it feels quite wasteful, but I don’t see a lot of other masking going on. It doesn’t seem to be de riguer.
I do like a mask, but only occasionally and only in the bath, because it is easier to rinse off properly if I am in the bath and also it gives me something to do. If I have nothing to do, I get out after four minutes due to boredom. Stick a mask on and I can last 10, especially if I need to shave my legs or examine my thread veins.
Here are my tried and tested picks of the best exfoliating face masks of the moment. Some a bit nitty gritty, others more smooth and suave, all of them quite fierce, so don’t use if your skin is sensitive or you are about to go to town with the old retinol.
No7 Laboratories Resurfacing Skin Paste
I love that No7 Laboratories Resurfacing Skin Paste comes in an oil paint tube. It is very functional and pleasing, even if I do lose the cap every time I take it off. This mask has a mixture of AHAs and PHAs – PHAs are a bit like next generation AHAs, slightly more refined and gentle. I get a tingle with this, but it doesn’t feel as though I have fallen asleep at midday on a lounge chair on a beach in Crete in August wearing only SPF 8, so I would say you are good to go if your skin is slightly more on the sensitive side. If you are worried about any of the masks on this page, just vastly reduce the time you are supposed to leave them on and gradually increase to the recommended length once you feel comfortable.
Beauty Pie Fruitizyme Five Minute Facial
Beauty Pie Fruitizyme Five Minute Facial is is an excellent one. I am developing quite a thing for Beauty Pie — just straight-to-the-point skincare that doesn’t seem to have a single dud in the entire line-up. The Five Minute Facial blends glycolic acid with fruit enzymes, both of which will brighten and smooth dull skin, and also has scrubby bits, for those who like some manual exfoliation. I don’t, particularly, so I just smooth the mask on and wait for five minutes. No rubbing. No scrubbing. You can do as you please, but note that this is strong. I find the combination of acids and scrubbing too much so you might want to start slowly.
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser is called a “daily foaming wash” but it isn’t really; it is a foam, but it isn’t foaming, as in, what you would expect liquid soap to be if you poured it into a fountain. It is also far more than a cleanser. In fact, this is probably the most comprehensive and fast-acting face resurfacer on the list — it isn’t a mask, granted, but you couldn’t leave it on as a mask. It would quite literally resurface you away. This is for those who like their results quicker than quick. No time to wait for a mask to work. Just smooth it on, massage in for half a minute or so then rinse. Do not exceed the timing, do not use this and then an acid toner or a peel pad. This IS your acid. It is your cleanser and acid in one. Handy. Strong.
Pixi Peel & Polish
Pixi Peel & Polish is an excellent option for a quick once-over. It combines lactic acid (great for those who can’t use glycolic) with various other peel and polish elements. Basically, throwing everything at your face, but in a thoughtful way. After this my skin feels facial-smooth, deep-cleansed and incredibly soft and the tingle isn’t too disturbing.
Because I always get asked “which one, if you had to choose?” I’m going to say the following:
No7 for more sensitive skin and beginners, Kate Somerville for the die-hards who want the most fast and furious fix, Beauty Pie for anyone who wants luxury at high-street prices and Pixi for those who don’t get along with glycolic acid. I hope this helps! All of the above are suitable for pregnancy/breastfeeding and all skin types except for the very sensitive. I would use once or twice a week, but not before any other acid peel product and probably not before retinol, truthfully, because it tends to make my face scream.