Face masks have undoubtedly grown as a skincare category over the last year. But I think it's always worth stopping to ponder the necessity of any product handed down to us in beauty folklore.

Now growing up, a face mask was a rite of passage into womanhood, along with Aapri Scrub and the Clinique 3-step routine. Not necessarily a good thing you might think. I have memories of messy kaolin-based masks I had high hopes would solve my breakouts and an oily t-zone.

But the reasons I reach for a mask these days have changed considerably.

Here’s the 6 scenarios in which I find a mask helpful:

1) You’ve overdone your Actives

If you’re a newbie retinoid user you'll want to have a mask in your back pocket. Retinoid irritation and the so-called “retinoid uglies” are a rite of passage so have a hydrating rescue repair mask on standby.

2) You’re tired

When you’re tired 3 things happen. Lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to rise, impairing the skin barrier. It can also trigger a pro-inflammatory state. And, it can . A nourishing, barrier repair mask is one of the easiest things to help get skin back on track and fake that elusive glow when you’re running on empty.

3) You’ve just got off a plane

A welcome luxury for many of us, jetlag is something we are hopefully looking at facing again soon. The combination of low humidity in the air cabin combined with the sleep disruption can really wreck your skin leading to both breakouts and barrier impairment. Seek out a mask with skin calming and inflammation fighting Niacinamide or ceramides to revive frazzled skin.

4) You’ve been wearing a facemask a lot

Familiar to us all by this point. But there's something about the combination of humid air and chaffing from masks that can send your complexion into freefall. In some ways it presents similar challenges to jetlag - and imagine if you’re wearing a mask on a long-haul flight, as we’re likely to in the months to come. You’ll be in need of some intense hydration to reset your barrier.

5) You have sensitive skin

A mask can be a good way to introduce actives that you’ve otherwise struggled to use. It’s essentially short contact therapy, meaning you don’t leave the ingredient on the skin, you wipe it away after a defined period of time. Now this works well for ingredients like niacinamide and lactic acid. And the mask format helps drive ingredients into the skin, a bit like applying gloves after moisturiser, as it creates occlusion.

6) You fancy a bit of self-care

I know I’m a bit reductionist when it comes to skincare treats!!!! But I do think that this is one of the best ways to let it all go, when you’re as overwhelmed as your skin!!! So hop in the bath which helps your mask penetrate more effectively, light your favourite scented candle, dim the lights and fire up your Alexa with something that soothes the soul.

Final Thoughts

I love the idea of a mask. But my rational brain requires good reasoning behind why it’s in the plan - and these 6 reasons appeal to me, as I know that I experience all of those scenarios on a regular basis. I also feel that it’s the easiest way to build in some indulgence without upsetting the day-to-day work of your regular skincare routine when carefully chosen. In fact, I’m off to run a bath right now!