Glow Guide

Masks unmasked: Cut the fuzzy science and find out which ones work

A face mask can make skin look and feel nicer.
A face mask can make skin look and feel nicer. PHOTOS: FOR BELOVED ONE, GLAMGLOW, ISTOCKPHOTO, KIEHL’S, 3CE
Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque
Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance MasquePHOTOS: FOR BELOVED ONE, GLAMGLOW, ISTOCKPHOTO, KIEHL’S, 3CE
Glamglow FlashMud Brightening Treatment
Glamglow FlashMud Brightening TreatmentPHOTOS: FOR BELOVED ONE, GLAMGLOW, ISTOCKPHOTO, KIEHL’S, 3CE
For Beloved One Flawless Brightening Ethyl Ascorbic Acid Bio-Cellulose Mask
For Beloved One Flawless Brightening Ethyl Ascorbic Acid Bio-Cellulose Mask PHOTOS: FOR BELOVED ONE, GLAMGLOW, ISTOCKPHOTO, KIEHL’S, 3CE
3CE White Milk Sleeping Mask
3CE White Milk Sleeping MaskPHOTOS: FOR BELOVED ONE, GLAMGLOW, ISTOCKPHOTO, KIEHL’S, 3CE

Find out which facial mask suits your skin

Putting on a face mask means it’s me-time. It signals a Greta Garbo-esque desire to be left alone since family members find it socially awkward to talk to someone with a sheet mask on.

But there are so many facial masks – all hyped with a bewildering array of benefits such as whitening or oil-absorbing properties or an overall improbable radiance – that it can be hard to tell what works for you.

How often have you picked up a beauty product and had no idea what it was banging on about?

I once looked at the fine print for a facial cleanser which promised to get rid of keratotic plugs. Who knows what a keratotic plug is? But, yikes, I felt I needed to get rid of mine – ASAP.

Googling the term yields many thoughts about pores and sebum, but jargon isn’t helpful even though it’s rife in the beauty industry.

Fuzzy science seems to add to problems with fake news. Communicating science in a clear way is more important than ever, especially when failing to act on climate change has consequences in the real world.

In beauty speak, I just about understand the labels when it comes to retinol and peptides and the difference between AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid). But it easily goes pear-shaped.

The average consumer doesn’t know what role substances such as carnitine or phytonutrients play in cosmetics, yet their benefits are touted as selling points for some products.

For maximum impact, retailers add hot-button terminology – “glow”, “shine”, “gloss” – for that endorphin rush, which might propel consumers to hand over their money to buy something “good” for themselves.

To be clear, these may well be stellar beauty products. Sometimes, though, it’s a matter of which beauty brands are shouting louder than the rest about their scientific-sounding good work.

Educating myself about the science behind cosmetics is going to take time. Meanwhile, my current favourite face masks, which are suitable for all skin types, make skin look and feel marginally nicer. No amazing claims, no jargon-filled bamboozle.

Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Masque ($62, available at Kiehl’s outlets) boasts turmeric, which is known for its anti-inflammatory qualities, as well as crushed cranberry seeds for gentle exfoliation. Best of all, it looks like a creamy rempah or spice paste, which leaves a tingly effect when applied. My skin looks newly pink after use.

Glamglow FlashMud Brightening Treatment ($88 for 50g, available from Sephora) believes in commitment. To jumpstart its efficacy, it is recommended that you apply it three days in a row before using it at least twice a week for maintenance. It dries as hard as a diamond, but leaves my skin softer.

For Beloved One Flawless Brightening Ethyl Ascorbic Acid Bio-Cellulose Mask ($63 for a box of three pieces, available at Sephora) is said to be especially good for sensitive skin. Like other sheet masks, it’s a slippery little thing. It feels almost sensate, like the white flesh from a coconut about to quiver into action. My skin feels plumped-up and soft.

Just leave on 3CE White Milk Sleeping Mask ($28, available at Sephora) and go to bed. I wake with a slight flush to my complexion. It’s great for a lazy girls’ night in.

• Glow Guide is a fortnightly column about beauty and make-up for everyday women.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'Masks unmasked'. Print Edition | Subscribe