The Perfect 5-Step Facial Mask Routine

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I doubt I speak alone when I say that I haven't been treating my skin very well this past week. First, there was the traveling — the moisture-leaching airplane air plus one very long, very dehydrating train ride during which I drank only iced coffee. Then, there was the sugar — the bowl of chewy peppermints my mom left out on the kitchen counter and kept replenishing, the cookies I was simply forced to bake for my brother's homecoming. And let's not forget the late nights spent watching "Once Upon a Time" with my sister.

Needless to say, it was time for a facial mask; not just any facial mask, but an entire facial mask routine. I rounded up a small sister of mine to help, because everything's better with a sibling along.

1. Pre-cleanse your skin. It's really important to get off all the gunk of the day and prepare your skin to receive the mask (ew). I recommend either a long facial steam (I like Maijan's herbal facial steams) or a vigorous oil cleansing (I like Aster & Bay's cleansing oil), since both cleanse and purify the skin without dehydrating it.

2. Mist your face and neck with water. When you're applying a clay mask, it's important to keep your skin hydrated before and after, since clay can be pretty drying. You can obviously splash your face lightly with water, but my sister and I used Clayspray's H2O mist (similar to the Evian sprays) and it felt so-o-o luxurious.

Evian Sprays, $13, Amazon

3. Apply a good clay mask to face (and neck, if necessary). And let the snickering commence. Does anyone look good with a facial mask? I used Clayspray's Pore Refining White Clay Mask and my sister braved their Mattifying Red Clay Mask. We looked pretty haute.

Secret step 3.5. PHOTOSHOOT!

4. Listen to your skin as the mask dries. I know it sounds cheesy, but I have really dry skin, while my sister's is on the oily side, so by the time she was leisurely washing her mask away, I was literally dancing around the bathroom trying to to tear off my itchy face. Dry or sensitive-skinned girls, you probably only need about 5 minutes with a clay face mask on. Anything longer is just too intense.

5. Rehydrate everything. I'm talking everything: drink a large glass of water and smother your face, neck, and hands with a thick nighttime moisturizer. My sister and I used plain olive oil and let me tell you, our skin felt amazing, and looks even better this morning. Hop into bed, and since you're now too oily to lay your face down on the pillow, well, looks like you'll have to break out Once Upon a Time on Netflix again. Bummer.