What’s Better: Natural vs. Synthetic Face Masks



Luke Osborn winding down with a Glossier face mask.


It’s midterm season, and putting on a face mask is a healthy and restorative method of relaxing after a soul-crushing study session. Face masks can help you de-stress and rejuvenate your skin. Some are better than others, and skincare companies, beauty gurus and environmentalists see naturally-derived face masks as superior to their chemical counterparts.

If you’re interested in going against the grain with a more chemically-derived face mask, a Korean face sheet mask from The Creme Shop can do the job. This company sells masks in the form of a fabric-like material soaked in perfumes, essential oils and preservatives. In particular, their Roses are Red, Violets are Blue mask contains rose water and violet oil, yet these oils are among the few natural products in the mask.

Some of the chemicals listed on the back of the package are isolated from plants or occur naturally in the body, but others are synthetic preservatives and additives to enhance the mask’s moisturizing effect. Most significantly, it contains the preservative EDTA, a possible carcinogen often used industrially in textiles and paper. Nevertheless, the International Journal of Toxicology claims that EDTA should be safe for use in cosmetics, so one try won’t hurt.

In terms of effects, the mask will leave your face with a signature dewy feeling. The package advises that you rub in the chemicals after wearing the mask for 15 to 20 minutes, but unless you’re interested in having a wet face for another five minutes, it is best to rub off the excess moisture.

If you want a more natural alternative to sheet masks, Lush sells face masks that are entirely derived from natural products. Lush tries to make their products as natural as possible, and the company refuses to test their products on animals. Moreover, all of their products are vegetarian. Some, for you purists out there, are even vegan.

One product you could try is the Mask of Magnaminty. Lush commends the product as “exfoliating and calming;” the coarsely ground aduki beans and primrose seeds help the mask achieve this exfoliating effect, especially when removing it. The peppermint oil, African marigold oil and limonene all contribute to a refreshing rather than calming effect.

In contrast to the sheet mask, the Mask of Magnaminty leaves your face feeling fresh and cleansed almost to the point of dryness. Nonetheless, those with oily skin may prefer this mask to the sheet mask, because it leaves no sign of oiliness after you take it off.

If you have a penchant for do-it-yourself activities you can also make your own face mask at home with just a few simple products. 

One option is the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. The formula for this mask contains natural calcium bentonite which is great for reducing the appearance of your pores and absorbing excess oils. Additionally, it does not contain any additives, fragrances or animal products.

To prepare the mask, you need to mix equal parts of the clay powder and apple cider vinegar or water to create a thick paste. If you have acne-prone skin, you can add a few drops of tea tree oil, which has anti-inflammatory properties that alleviate acne. In addition, if you have dry skin, you can add glycerin to moisturize to the mixture.

Unless you have sensitive skin, you can leave it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Those with sensitive skin should remove it after five. One downside to this mask is that when it begins to dry, a severe tightening sensation occurs. However, upon removal, you will instantly feel the detoxifying results of the mask. Your skin will feel smooth and fresh.

You can also make numerous face masks with products found in your local grocery store. Equal parts turmeric and milk with one teaspoon of honey creates a silky paste ready for application. All three agents have healing properties that reduce dryness and moisturize your skin. Additionally, turmeric pastes have been used for centuries to minimize scarring and even out skin tones.

Corporations often add unnecessary synthetic elements to skin care products. These chemical agents recreate the desirable effects many natural ingredients already produce. With their anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and moisturizing effects natural face masks are superior to their chemical counterparts.