During these harshest of winter months, your three-minute morning skin care routine may not be cutting it. The combination of lower temperatures and humidity, harsh winter winds, and indoor heat can result in dry, dull, and irritated skin that may need a little extra TLC. One such solution that can help? Overnight masks.
These overnight beauty treatments are packed with nourishing ingredients that feed your skin as you sleep. Whether you’re looking to deliver a burst of moisture, brighten your complexion, improve your skin’s tone and texture, or smooth fine lines, an overnight mask may be just the answer. Read on to see how these creamy concoctions can transform your glow.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
What Is An Overnight Mask?
Overnight masks work as the perfect complement to the reparative processes your skin goes through as you sleep, explains Dr. Mona Gohara, M.D., a Hamden, Connecticut-based dermatologist. Namely: The blood flow to your skin increases as you’re asleep, which helps to deliver a refreshed glow, and your body makes new collagen as it repairs damage from UV rays without any distractions from external elements — all of which make your skin more primed for utilizing beneficial ingredients you apply topically. “The term ‘beauty sleep’ comes from the fact that our skin regenerates, or restores, naturally at night. So, adding a little extra help with actives in an overnight mask may nudge the process along,” says Gohara.
“Overnight masks are usually balms or gels that get absorbed into the skin and are meant to be on for extended hours, during the recovery phase of the sleep cycle,” adds Dr. Chris Tomassian, M.D., a Kansas City, Kansas-based dermatologist. Compared to traditional face masks that are meant to be rinsed off after 10-15 minutes, overnight masks are formulated to treat your skin for the roughly eight hours you’re snoozing.
Ingredients To Look For
The kind of mask to look for all depends on your skin goals. Most are formulated to either exfoliate, hydrate, or plump the skin. And, because they’re designed to be safe for overnight wear, many formulations tend to be heavy on the mild, hydrating ingredients and lighter on the active ingredients that could cause irritation, explains Dr. Papri Sarkar, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Boston, Massachusetts.
If your skin concern is smoothing fine lines, Tomassian recommends masks that contain retinol, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), hyaluronic acid, or vitamin C. “If you want to focus on texture and tone, look for exfoliating acids like glycolic or lactic acid,” he says. “If you need a mask for intense hydration, find one with ingredients like glycerin, squalane, and hyaluronic acid.” Sarkar also cites mandelic acid as well as salicylic and lactic acids as great actives for treating clogged pores and breakouts.
How To Use An Overnight Mask
Tomassian says an overnight mask should be applied as the last step in your nighttime routine. That said, he recommends scanning your product’s ingredient list to make sure you’re not “double-dosing” on potentially irritating ingredients like exfoliants or retinol if you’re using them elsewhere in your regimen.
Sarkar suggests starting with a once-a-week approach and then working up to using more often depending on how your skin reacts. “I don’t think most patients need [to use] an overnight mask more than twice a week, but I definitely have patients who prefer to use one nightly because it’s part of their self-care routine,” she says. Her tip? Pay attention to how your skin is feeling at the moment. “Most people find that their skin feels different based on their location or the season. For example, using a hydrating overnight mask daily might be fine in the winter but may clog pores in the summer, especially if your apartment is hot and humid,” she explains. “Using a mask with exfoliating ingredients like glycolic, lactic, or mandelic acid in the summer might be fine multiple times a week but cause irritation when your skin is dry and irritated from windburn in the winter.
If your skin is on the sensitive side or you’re eczema-prone, Tomassian recommends avoiding fragranced products to reduce the chance of allergic reactions. Papri suggests the same for those with rosacea. “For those patients, I recommend testing a bit of the product behind their ear or on their inner wrist for a few nights to monitor how their skin tolerates it before slathering it all over their face,” she tells Bustle.
Shop Overnight Masks
This formula contains a roster of dermatologists’ favorite skin-boosting ingredients, including vitamin C and squalane along with hyaluronic acid and maqui (an antioxidant-dense fruit). It’s a solid choice for anyone looking to hydrate or plump their skin.
Tomassian lists this hyper-hydrating mask with squalane — an ingredient that mimics the skin’s naturally occurring hydrators — among his favorite overnight formulas. It’s great for dry, dull, or uneven skin and works to deliver an intense dose of moisture.
The Skin Smoother
With its combo of fine line-smoothing melatonin, hydrating hemp seed and avocado oils, and skin-balancing shitake mushroom extract, this overnight cream will quench thirsty complexions as it helps quash redness.
The Fragrance-Free Moisturizer
This fragrance-free hydrating mask with squalane and glacial glycoprotein comes highly recommended by Tomassian. Perfect for dry skin types, it locks in moisture overnight while strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier.
Lackluster skin is no match for this nighttime face mask. Its star ingredient is the multitasking niacinamide, which regulates oil production, evens the skin’s texture, and combat redness. Your skin will also soak up hydrating panthenol and antioxidant-rich blueberry seed oil so you wake up extra dewy.
For A Major Moisture Boost
Got dry skin? This moisturizing overnight mask works its magic with a long list of hydrating staples: hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, microalgae, glycerin, and squalane, to name a few. And it works on all skin types.
For A Lightweight Treatment
Rihanna’s overnight beauty concoction packs a punch with ingredients like niacinamide, aloe vera, and wild watermelon oil (a rich antioxidant), all while feeling incredibly light on the skin. If you have a penchant for gel-based formulas, this one’s for you.
The Skin Multivitamin
Another gel-based option is this one from WLDKAT, which contains a plethora of vitamin-packed essentials that repair your skin overnight — think fatty acids, snow mushroom, shea butter, and rice bran extract.
Mukherjee, S. (2006). Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699641/
Papakonstantinou, E. (2012). Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. DermatoEndocrinology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583886/
Pullar, J. (2017). The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
Green, B. et al (2009). Clinical and cosmeceutical uses of hydroxyacids. Clinics in Dermatology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0738081X09001564
Dr. Mona Gohara, M.D., board-certified dermatologist based in Hamden, Connecticut
Dr. Papri Sarkar, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in Boston, Massachusetts
Dr. Chris Tomassian, M.D., Kansas City, Kansas-based dermatologist