The beauty industry is responding to your lack of time and high-demand for results with fast-acting, ingredient-driven formulas that work in five minutes or less.
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If you're crazy busy, trying to pare down your skin-care routine, or just want spa-like results in mere minutes, there's a fix: Micro-masks. As the name suggests, it's the antithesis of time-consuming multi-masking—or using multiple different masks at the same time to address different skin concerns. Instead, these cool new formulas deliver potent hits of active ingredients with innovative combos (think: cleansers and scrubs that can be used as masks, and vise versa). And best of all, nothing stays on longer than a super-short five minutes.
It's also derm-approved. "Micro-masking can be a great solution for when you want to limit exposure to an acid, clay, or scrub," says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. In fact, she explains, it's the very brevity of their exposure to our skin that can boost their effectiveness, especially given that they often feature ingredients we want on our skin, but not for long anyway. (To that point, she notes that you really should listen to the instructions and not leave the mask on for longer than directed!)
You can expect the best results with a scrub or acid, Dr. Engelman explains, as these will work to "reduce flakes and dry patches, breakdown dead skin cells, sebum, and p. acnes bacteria and reveal healthy new skin cells." The key is to find the potent, targeted ingredients best for your skin type and concerns.
Photo: Getty Images/bernardbodo
Aenea Fruit Acid Exfoliator
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While technically a cleanser, it packs a powerful 7.5 percent AHA blend, so you can expect a tingling sensation as it goes to work exfoliating your skin. There's glycolic acid, which has a small molecule size that allows for penetration in the deeper levels of the skin, Pyruvic acid, which removes dead skin and is especially beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin, and lactic acid, which exfoliates, softens, and helps lift pigment and protect against environmental damage. Rinse with cool water and reveal brighter skin—a very productive 60 seconds!
M-61 Fast Blast 2-Minute Vitamin C Mask
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The quickest, mask-only formula on the list, this product hydrates and brightens in just two minutes thanks to skin-care superstar, antioxidant Vitamin C. But it doesn't work alone; it also contains hydrating Vitamin B5, firming seaweed, and soothing aloe vera.
Naturopathica Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel
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This jelly-esque, fruity mask takes just three to five minutes (keep it on for just three if you've got sensitive skin!) to help fight a slew of skin concerns, including acne and oiliness, hyperpigmentation, and fine lines and wrinkles.
Sweet cherry is the hero ingredient which helps prevent discoloration and refine more mature skin. It smells natural and delicious too, not like the artificial stuff. It also boasts lactic acid for a one-two punch of exfoliation and moisturization; resveratrol to fight free radicals; and acne-fighting ingredients like witch hazel, honey, and salicylic acid.
Clark's Botanicals Dual Charcoal Detox
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This "detox" in a bottle is a scrub, mask, and cleanser in one. The "golden pearl spheres" burst and melt on the skin as you massage it in, releasing hydrating jojoba oil. It also boasts not one, but two types of charcoal; Binchotan Japanese charcoal powder and activated charcoal powder work to absorb impurities and oil without stripping the skin. Just three minutes of scrubbing and you've gone from a black gel with scrubbing beads, to a white, frothy gel.
Photo: Clark's Botanicals
Ursa Major Bright & Easy 3-Minute Flash Mask
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Another three-minutes and done formula, this "flash mask" is a gentle but effective way to increase cell turnover, enhance luminosity, firmness, and elasticity—no irritation necessary. The gel mask has a just-barely-there tropical scent and is made exclusively from natural extracts like pomegranate enzymes (rich in antioxidants and omega fatty acids), alfalfa (which has retinol-like anti-aging properties), and hibiscus (a natural source of AHA to exfoliate and brighten)—to name just a few of the hero ingredients in this packed formula.
Photo: Ursa Major
Pixi In-Shower Steam Facial
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This cleansing mask is meant to be used in the shower, which as you'll see once you've tried it, is the treat you didn't know your shower was missing. This thick gel transforms into a warm, heated oil when it's massaged on your face and rinsing it off feels spa-worthy. But, according to the brand the heating action has a function too—it opens and de-clogs pores to detoxify and revitalize. Acacia collagen plumps and boosts elasticity leaving skin plump and fresh.
Allies of Skin Fresh Slate Clay & Manuka Purifying Cleanser and Masque
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Like many products on this list, this product can be used two ways, as its name suggests. For a deep cleanse, simply spend one to two minutes massaging the creamy formula into the skin; give it 10 minutes to sit for use as a mask. The natural ingredients in this twofer are excellent for purifying without over-drying the skin.
You've got rhassoul and kaolin clays, both rich in minerals and vitamins and stellar at gently removing impurities. Medical-grade manuka honey contains biologically active enzymes, and is antibacterial and healing—plus manuka is a humectant, so skin stays hydrated and soothed. Rounding out the formula is replenishing hemp seed oil, 1 percent salicylic acid to banish acne and hydrating hyaluronic acid.
Photo: Allies of Skin
Osea Black Algae Face Mask
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This mask—another "flash" mask for it's quick three to five-minute wear-time—contains fig, pineapple, and pumpkin for a kick of enzymatic exfoliation, plus jojoba beads for gentle physical exfoliation, too. Though this product is active and not intended for sensitive skin it won't leave tough skin high and dry either—hematite (an iron-rich mineral) and organic algae work to replenish moisture.
Dr. Roebuck's Byron 2-in-1 Mask + Scrub
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Like many other products on this list, this mask-and-scrub duo from clean, vegan Australian beauty brand Dr. Roebuck's contains superhero jojoba beads. (If it seems like they're everywhere, that's because 1. They kind of are, and 2. They're an eco-friendly exfoliant.) The mask is created from a blend of kaolin clay, which soaks up extra oil and impurities, antioxidant-rich white tea, and peppermint oil, which adds an aromatherapeutic kick, especially in the mornings.
Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Rescue Mask
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This multi-benefit mask was designed to offer a five-minute respite from overscheduled lives. It fights dullness, rough texture, uneven skin tone, dryness, and congestion to combat both internal (think: diet and lack of sleep) and external (hey, sun exposure and pollution) stressors. The red algae particles gently physically exfoliate while sea fennel extract is rich in fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to nourish the skin.