The Overnight Mask: Yay Or Nay?

By Minji

  • An overnight mask is worth incorporating into your routine, but not as a substitute for core moisturizer
  • Use as the final step to your nighttime skincare ritual, 2-3 times a week 
  • Pick the right one with the boost you’re looking for

One of the products out in the market today that confuses me the most but also temps me the most is the overnight sleep mask.  It’s the mask that’s cream based (versus in the form of a sheet) and doesn’t need to be washed off before sleep.  As someone who values efficiency is all aspects of my life, this sounds perfect.  I don’t have to get myself out of bed again after 10-15 minutes like those pesky clay masks, and also unlike a sheet mask, I don’t have to worry about having it get all over my pillow or dry out as I sleep.  Sounds lovely in so many ways… but then again, how is this different from my nighttime moisturizer and do I need it?

I once asked a sales associate at a brand known for their overnight masks, and he couldn’t answer the question.  His recommendation was that I should use both and not substitute the mask for my nightly moisturizer (which I was tempted to do, as for some reason the mask was half the price of the night cream and sounded more potent).  But he couldn’t really explain why.  I’ve done some in-depth research.  I compared the ingredients list of several products; I’ve scoured the web; and I’ve asked the experts.  My conclusion is that generally, an overnight mask should not be used in lieu of your moisturizer and should only be used as an add-on as the last step in your nighttime routine.

I'm sure every brand is different, but I was generally surprised to find that the ingredients lists looked very different for nighttime moisturizers and overnight masks, even for products made by the same brand under the same line of products.  I was secretly hoping that it would turn out that an overnight mask and night cream are the same thing.  That would have been an amazing “gotcha” moment (it’s all just packaging and advertising…!), but that wasn’t the case. If you look at the ingredients list, masks usually don’t have a lot of stuff (good active ingredients) that a solid overall moisturizer has.  Masks have other ingredient – but basically, they are formulated to be gentle enough so you can have on all night, and boost a certain area of concern.  I’m guessing this is why they are typically cheaper than the night creams under the same line.  They work mostly to lock in moisture and help boost a specific element, but they’re not the hero night cream that really goes to work for you during the daily night shift. 

The next big question I had was whether to put this on before or after my face oil which is the last step in my daily nighttime ritual.  Since the general advice is to use oil at the very end due to the barrier it creates for water-based products, I was wondering if the mask should go under the oil…which just didn’t seem right.  There’s still some conflicting information out there on the right order of oil, but I think the best rule to follow is go from light to thick.  My opinion is that most face oils feel lighter than an overnight mask and so my recommendation is to finish your basic routine with the oil per the usual, wait about five minutes, and then complete with the overnight mask.  On this one, I'm sure there could be varying opinions so do what feels the best for you.   

Considering how important sleep time is for skin, I personally don’t mind adding an overnight mask to my routine 2-3 times a week.  It can only help, it’s so easy to use, and usually more affordable than a night cream.  I’ve been doing this for a while now and like how it feels.  Give it a try – at the minimum, it’s an easy way to score extra moisturizing points!