Behind the Mask Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

How to use a face mask Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

Okay, so I’ve jumped on to a new skincare bandwagon. Happens every week, NBD. This time I got inspired by my aesthetician, Anna, at Concepts Salon & Spa in Toronto. She does my pedis every month, and sometimes manis… and lately brows (!! but I’ll talk about those later).

Weirdly, considering this post is all about skincare, she’s never given me a facial, because I generally don’t bother with them. But no matter! I still think her skincare advice is pretty much spot on.

Last time I was in, I decided to multi-task. I needed a pedicure. And I needed a source for a skincare article that I was working on for FLARE. So yes, I went there—I did an interview while she was clipping my toenails. (Sorry, fact-checkers! The background noise you’re hearing on the tape is her…um… filing my feet.)

Have I totally grossed you out? No? Then keep reading—because I want to tell you about Anna’s whole skincare philosophy. The first step is to…

Do a peel before you apply a face mask

Anna is very big on “masking” (don’t you love making it a verb?). But she is adamant that you can’t mask without proper exfoliation first. It makes sense when you think about it. How are all the ingredients in the mask going to penetrate if you’ve got a layer of dead skin cells on the surface blocking them?

So. If you’re not a regular daily exfoliator—and you don’t necessarily have to be, FYI—at least do it every time you apply a face mask. (Which should be once or twice a week.)

You can use a gentle scrub—Anna’s absolute favourite is this Dermalogica one, which I have yet to try:

Dermalogica Multivitamin Thermafoliant Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

Or use one of those two-step peeling pad thingies, like this one from Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare:

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

Apparently when alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids are combined in one formula in low percentages, they’re not as irritating as when they’re on their own.

And now it’s time for step two!

Apply your face mask

Do you mask? I don’t mask nearly enough. But I vow to change, damnnit! Anna makes me a believer. She calls masks “food for the skin,” and says they’re absolutely essential for keeping the skin plump and well-hydrated. Let me give this next point its own line… and a bold and an underline for good measure.

Hydration is KEY.

It’s key because you can use all the high-tech anti-aging ingredients in the world, but your skin is still going to look like crap if it’s dehydrated. You know all those before and after photos that every skincare company in the world uses to demonstrate the efficacy of their products? Yeah, the befores are all taken sans moisturizer. OF COURSE the cream is going to make the testers’ complexions look way better. Dry skin shows more wrinkles! So even just by moisturizing well, you’re anti-aging yourself already. Yay!

So like I said, this masking business should happen one or two times a week.

And you should have in your rotation a few different options. Such as a hyaluronic acid-based one, for hydration. My go-to is SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Masque:

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Masque Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

Anna also says you should have a multivitamin mask. Of course, when anyone says that you automatically think of Dermalogica’s power mask:

Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

But I also have Masque No. 1 from Yonka and it’s equally rich and creamy, if not expressly labelled as “multivitamin.”

Yonka Masque No. 1 Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

Both the Dermalogica and the Yonka are fantastic for deep moisturization, repair and just generally giving you that spa glow.

You may also want to consider other masks for your mask wardrobe: clarifying, cloth, clay, calming, etc. (What’s with all the c words? I’m not sure.) Here are some of my favourite cloth (sheet) masks.

And now it’s time to…

Moisture after your mask

This isn’t just for post-masking, it’s for every day, twice a day. And there are actually two parts to it.

The first is using a serum. They’re only my favourite skincare category. I think of them like little tiny magical potions that I can mix ‘n match depending on my skin’s needs. Because they’re in a liquid—not cream—format, they’re able to pack a punch: the molecules are smaller and therefore better able to penetrate into the skin to do their good work.

I don’t go a day without my SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF, of course (which is not for moisturizing but warding off free radicals).

SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

Lately I’ve also been layering on a hyaluronic acid serum, such as Pure + Simple’s Collagen Elastin Serum:

Pure and Simple Collagen Elastin Serum Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

After you let your serum sink in (ideally wait 10 minutes), put on a moisturizer. The function of a moisturizer is to hydrate, yes, but it’s not going to penetrate anywhere near as much as a serum. It’s more to sit on top and protect the skin, along with other functions like controlling shine, balancing your pH, repairing the skin barrier, soothing redness or whatever—depending on what you buy.

Right now, because of the warm weather, I’m using this lightweight gel moisturizer from Boscia:

Bosica Revitalizing Black Hydration Gel Peel, mask, moisturize: Maybe you should make this your new skincare mantra

It’s actually black, which is pretty cool in itself (obvi it disappears once you rub it in). And it’s just enough to moisturize underneath your sunscreen, which you should most definitely be applying on top after you do all of this.

Oh! And if you REALLY want to supercharge this routine, add in the facial misting that I talked about in this post.

Get the products

Have your say

Do you PMM? (It’s like GTL, but cooler.)
What masks do you keep in your rotation?
Are you on board with hylauronic acid as, like, the greatest moisturizing ingredient evah?


Monday, June 11/2012 at 11:50 am

If wish my face could sustain this sort of treatment. I tend to be nervous about trying new products because of my rosacea (ya, ya, like everyone!) But all these products seem so cool (hello BLACK cream – that’s awesome!) Maybe you will tempt me to try something new… In the meantime, here are my go-to products:

Cheers, Emily


Monday, June 11/2012 at 12:06 pm

What’s the justification for using a mask vs. just using a good moisturizer everyday? Theoretically, if your moisturizer isn’t hydrating enough such that you need a mask, shouldn’t you just be using a richer moisturizer?


Bev Frederickson
Monday, June 11/2012 at 1:51 pm

I’m totally with you. This kind of skin care is necessary and worthwhile. I’m 62 and am regularly receive compliments and questions about my skin.
I’m big on exfoliating as well. I use Neo Strata exfoliant, Yonka masks are great, Nars mud and of course serum and moisture. And yes, I’m big on hylauronic acid.
Most important is to stay out of the sun. Also use eye cream and remember, your neck goes to you collarbones. Take care of it all and you’ll be grateful in you later years.
I love your blog!


Melissa C
Tuesday, June 12/2012 at 9:52 am

In response to Laura’s question about the reason to use a mask….Think of it as a booster for your skin. A weekly, intensive treatment (much like a masque that you would use on your hair) focusing on whatever the need of your skin is, whether it be hydrating, clarifying, brightening or firming. I don’t necessarily agree that you should have a rotation of different masques though, one is enough :)


Tuesday, June 12/2012 at 11:19 am

I see what you’re saying, Melissa, about the value of some masks, like clay masks, or masks that have ingredients with weird colors/textures, or special exfoliating ingredients that can’t be left on the skin for more than 5-10 minutes. However, for some of these other masks, like the moisturizing ones with hyaluronic acid, or antioxidant masks, I just feel like it’s just marketing. Daily use of a well-formulated moisturizer with hyaluronic acid, or a well-formulated serum with antioxidants, should take care of those needs. You shouldn’t need an extra “boost,” and, if you do, I think that means your moisturizer or serum isn’t doing its job, right?? And also, what is the line between a moisturizing mask and a heavy moisturizer? With some of these moisturizing masks, they work better the longer you leave them on, and you’d get the best results if you left them on overnight… just like a night cream. I dunno, I’m all for clay masks and exfoliating peels, but I’m just not buying it for these other types of masks. The same thing for hair masks: when you have a good shampoo that doesn’t strip your hair, and a good conditioner that moisturizes adequately, you don’t need a hair mask. I think people just want to sell us more products.


Tuesday, June 12/2012 at 11:36 pm

LOve hylauronic serums and masks!
Do you recommend peeling and masking at night or in the morning?
Do you still continue with skincare or just moisturize?
I also love skinceutical sunscreen. Do you use primer after sunscreen before makeup?
You have the best blog ever. Don’t miss a day!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, June 22/2012 at 3:59 pm

@Emily – I hear you! My skin goes red at the slightest provocation. You actually might like that black cream because it has a cooling sensation… it kinda tingles for quite a while after application. And I feel like hyaluronic acid stuff wouldn’t be irritating, although with rosacea it’s always trial and error.

Love your product picks!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, June 22/2012 at 4:03 pm

@Laura – The way Anna explained it is that moisturizers are more for daily protection, whereas masks are “food for the skin” – they penetrate more deeply and are way more hydrating than your moisturizer could ever hope to be. That said, you could do a rich moisturizer AND a rich mask… it’s just that you’re getting more benefits from the mask as a weekly nourishing treat.

I don’t know how this adds up scientifically but I say what the heck – more moisture can never hurt, and I do know my skin always looks worse when it’s dehydrated. Also there’s something to be said for the ritual of masking… even just forcing yourself to relax and pamper yourself is good for you, it releases tension that can make your skin look better as well!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, June 22/2012 at 4:07 pm

@Bev – That’s amazing! I love everything you’ve mentioned – and I need to do a story on the neck because you’re right, that area is soooo important. I feel a bit guilty but I’m only lately remembering to diligently cleanse/tone/moisturize there along with my face. And sunscreen of course! At least I don’t have sun damage to worry about there – because of my long hair my neck is crazy white compared to my freckly face :( But hopefully that’ll pay off for me in the future. Sadly living in Australia really did a number on my cheeks – I need to get IPL to get rid of the pigmentation.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, June 22/2012 at 4:09 pm

@Melissa C – well said! Thanks :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, June 22/2012 at 4:18 pm

@Laura – Responding to your comments in order here…
Serums are way different to moisturizers. It’s because they’re liquids and not creams, so they’re able to penetrate the skin much better and also carry a higher proportion of active ingredients than you can put in a cream. They’re also doing different things than moisturizers, which are primarily meant to (ha) moisturize. With a serum yes some are hydrating, but others are for attacking pigmentation, warding off free radicals, firming the skin, anti-wrinkle… etc etc. And for all of these things they’ll do a better job than if you were to buy a cream promising to do the same thing. It’s not marketing BS at all… I did a story on this years ago for ELLE and confirmed this with several dermatologists. So I’m of the belief that everyone needs at least one good serum in their rotation, in addition to moisturizer and a weekly mask. :)

As for the difference between a heavy moisturizer and a mask, I’d have to find out for sure. I’ve definitely noticed a new mini-trend of “overnight masks” which I really like. (Origins makes a great one.) I don’t know if you can compare this category to hair because hair masks are depositing on the hair cuticle… but yes with all beauty stuff the amount of products you could buy is never-ending so you do need to pick and choose what works for you.

Anyway these are all really good questions! I’m making a note to ask my experts for a future post.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, June 22/2012 at 4:25 pm

@Barb – aw thank you! I’m glad you are enjoying it – although I have missed many days here while this site has been under construction. Still working out a bunch of technical glitches with the new design, but will be returning to regular posting soon…

As for your questions, it doesn’t really matter but I like to do masking in the evening so that you can leave the product on your skin (just rinse off). Depending on the mask you probably don’t need moisturizer afterward, although I find with the SkinCeuticals hyaluronic acid one that it’s a bit sticky if you don’t wash off. (In that case yes I do moisturize after.)

That said, masking is an AWESOME pick-me-up if you want to look more glowy before you go out, or to rehydrate after a flight.

Yes, I use primer after sunscreen and before makeup. Thanks for the questions!


Monday, June 25/2012 at 2:06 pm

I can’t wait to hear about your eyebrow experience with Anna! I’m currently looking for a new eyebrow lady in Toronto.


Thursday, July 19/2012 at 2:09 pm

I know you posted this about a month ago but hopefully it’s not too late to ask you a question. Is there a sunscreen that you can recommend that doesn’t feel weird/gross on top of your moisturizer?


Monday, June 16/2014 at 12:24 am

Michelle Villett It’s look like you work for Dermalogica or SkinCeutical.
Why don’t you promote Retinol SkinCeutical?
Or you pedi-esthetician have not try yet?
I am owner of the Spa in Florida and have to sale this “empty” products because of people like you and mass media. You are follow stupid trends like a herd.
Sorry about all of you who use Dermalogica and especially SkinCeutical

Nothing personal just observation.


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