Wake Up Winter Skin With These Expert-Approved Hydrating Face Masks

Kiss dry skin goodbye.

By Langa Chinyoka
Sanetra Logno face mask_winter well being

‘Tis the season for cozy clothes, all things hygge, and… dry skin? Unfortunately, the happiest season is a nightmare for your skin. For all the good vibes and cheer winter brings, it also ushers in chapped cheeks and a chronically flaky visage. From the colder weather to the hours on arid planes to all the holiday travel, your skin goes through a lot—and so do you! You deserve to take a break, indulge in some self-care, and apply one of the best hydrating face masks to soothe your tired skin.

Applying a face mask is a ritual that always reminds me to take ten minutes for myself—even during the busiest time of the year. Why not wake up your mind and your skin at the same time? Even experts agree. “Masks force us to slow down and wait—great for self-care and reflection,” says Xochitl Cubero Renteln, PA-C at facile Skin.

Hydrating masks, as luxe as they are, can also be deceptively simple. It’s easy enough to slather on any old creamy goop, but how do you know it’s actually doing the job? I spoke to Renteln and celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, founder of Joanna Vargas spas and skincare, to discover the best hydrating face masks for all skin types and concerns.

Featured Image by Michelle Nash.

Stella Simona best hydrating face masks
Image courtesy of Stella Simona

The Best Hydrating Ingredients to Look For

According to Vargas, you’ll want to keep an eye out “for masks with hyaluronic acid or oils like avocado oil. Avocado oil is essential because it’s loaded with B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which keep the skin hydrated from the inside out. Extremely dry skin does well with a mask made with ceramides.”

Renteln recommends hydrogel or bio-cellulose masks. “Unlike traditional sheet masks, this format can hold even more hydrating ingredients and allows those ingredients to penetrate the skin better.” Bonus: they’re also convenient for travel.

  • Ceramides, oils, and fatty acids. Improve skin barrier, smoothing and softening the skin.
  • Hyaluronic acid and sodium hyaluronate. Retains moisture, amplifying hydration and improving the plumpness of the skin.

Renteln also suggests calming ingredients such as:

  • Oatmeal
  • Arnica
  • Chamomile
  • Green tea
  • Cucumber
  • Centella asiatica
  • Allantoin
laura lee how often should you use hydrating face masks
Image of Laura Lee by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

How often should you use hydrating face masks?

The golden rule of skincare applies: listen to your skin. Dry skin types might need to use a hydrating face mask more regularly. You might also reach for them more in the fall or winter to curb flaky skin.

“You can really target to when your skin needs it,” says Vargas. “I use a sheet mask every night that I exfoliate.” Hydrating after exfoliation is a solid skincare habit to develop as it helps replenish your moisture barrier.

Do hydrating face masks work for all skin types?

Hydrating masks can be beneficial for almost everyone. But depending on what your skin needs, you might be better suited for other masks or treatments. “If you have acne, then I would focus more on a clay mask rather than hydration,” says Vargas.

If you have active breakouts, be cautious. “Those with active acne, perioral dermatitis, or flare-up of a chronic condition such as rosacea or psoriasis should wait until their condition is controlled before incorporating a hydrating mask,” advises Renteln.

Image of Inge Theron by Teal Thomsen

How to Use a Hydrating Face Mask

Step 1: Deeply cleanse your skin.

“Hydrating masks can be occlusive, trapping bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells,” says Renteln. “This can trigger the formation of milia or acne. This can also irritate sensitive skin.” To avoid triggering breakouts, make sure your canvas is clear before applying a mask.

Step 2: Exfoliate

“Exfoliate first to prep the skin before masking,” advises Vargas. Exfoliation also allows your skin to absorb more moisture and clear away those dead skin cells to avoid trapping in excess oil and bacteria. Skip this step if your skin is more sensitive or if you are using hydrating masks to replenish your skin barrier.

Step 3: Apply your mask—but not for too long!

Be careful you don’t leave your mask on too long, says Renteln. And as fun and as satisfying as they are to wear, you don’t want to use them too frequently either (doing so can wreak havoc on your skin!). Leaving your mask on for too long puts you at risk of clogging your pores or activating breakouts. A word to the wise: less is more.

Image of Sanetra Nere Longno by Michelle Nash

Discover the best hydrating face masks

Though some skincare steps can feel gimmicky, hydrating face masks aren’t one of them. “Hydrating masks can be a helpful addition to a solid skincare regimen,” says Renteln. “They are especially effective for dry and mature skin, during fall/winter weather (when the conditions are typically cold, windy, and arid), or when combating dry environments like planes.”

Shop the best hydrating face masks to help your skin stay glowy and fresh through the harsh winter months.

Every product is curated with care by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Joanna Vargas Twilight Face Mask

u003cpu003eIf you’re a sheet mask fan, Vargas advises going with an epidermal growth factor. This mask from her own line is u0022super soothing, increases the feeling of hydration in the skin, and restores the skin after exfoliation.u0022u003c/pu003e

Biologique Recherche Masque Visolastine

u003cpu003eRenteln loves this top shelf hydrator. She calls it u0022a luxurious and rich mask that instantly moisturizes and replenishes the skin with fatty emollients such as macadamia nut oil.u0022u003c/pu003e

PCA Skin Hydrating Mask

u003cpu003eu0022This is a soothing mask that contains calming ingredients such as arnica, cucumber, and oat milk extract. Ingredients such as glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, and panthenol work to reduce moisture loss and hydrate the skin.u0022 u003cemu003e— Xochitel Cubero Rentelnu003c/emu003eu003c/pu003e

Neutrogena HydroBoost Mask

u003cpu003eWho doesn’t love a dermatologist-approved drugstore fave? It’s budget-friendly and packed with everyone’s go-to: hyaluronic acid. This mask is effective but gentle, making it safe for even the most sensitive skin types.u003c/pu003e

Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask Extreme Detoxifying Hydrator

u003cpu003eKeep your skin soothed and cool as a cucumber with this gel mask. Papaya extract leaves skin extra soft, making it perfect for hydrating sensitive or irritated skin.u003c/pu003e

Pai Skincare Resurrection Girl

u003cpu003eInfused with blue tansy and hyaluronic acid, this gel mask is instantly soothing and nourishing. It restores your skin for a bouncy feel and blemish-free complexion.u003c/pu003e

Bliss Mighty Marshmallow Bright u0026 Radiant Whipped Mask

u003cpu003eThis airy, whipped texture glides over your skin for a hydrating fix and lit-from-within glow. The pillowy marshmallow mask limits water loss while brightening with marshmallow root.u003c/pu003e

First Aid Beauty Mini Ultra Repair® Cream Intense Hydration

u003cpu003eOatmeal is a miracle moisturizer that provides instant and long-term hydration for dry, distressed skin and eczema. This repair mask heals flaky skin without irritation.u003c/pu003e

Klur Supreme Seed Purification Mask

u003cpu003eThis purifying mask drives in nutrients and draws out impurities to gently decongest your skin of environmental debris. It purifies while moisturizing, soothing, and improving the appearance of redness and irritation.u003c/pu003e

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Facial Barrier Mask

u003cpu003eSheet masks drench the skin in intense moisture, cocooning dry and damaged skin in hydrating serums. This ceramide-rich mask supports the skin barrier with strengthening peptides.u003c/pu003e

ESW Beauty Plant-Based Milk Sheet Masks

u003cpu003eLike a fruit smoothie for your face, this beats the DIY avocado masks of old. u003cspan style=u0022font-size: revert; color: initial; font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, u0026quot;Segoe UIu0026quot;, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Cantarell, u0026quot;Helvetica Neueu0026quot;, sans-serif;u0022u003eInspired by avocado-flavored banana milk, this plant-based blend deeply moisturizes for baby-soft skin.u003c/spanu003eu003c/pu003e

Paula’s Choice Super Hydrate Overnight Mask

u003cpu003eAntioxidants and plant oils nourish the skin in this emollient-rich mask. Vitamin-based antioxidants help calm redness and deminish dehydration.u003c/pu003e

Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

u003cpu003eA cult-favorite for a reason, the Laneige sleeping mask is a water-based mask that strengthens your moisture barrier while boosting brightness and clarity. Squalane is the secret to its featherlight, smooth texture that never feels heavy.u003c/pu003e

COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask

u003cpu003eA moisturizer and mask in one. Slather this lightweight powerhouse all over as the last step in your morning or nighttime skincare routine for deeply penetrating and mattifying moisture.u003c/pu003e

Youth To The People Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask

u003cpu003eYouth to the People’s viral Dream Mask is worth the hype u003ca href=u0022’ve confirmed it)u003c/au003e. Loaded with hydration boosters squalane and hyaluronic acid, it’s lightweight enough to avoid clogging pores. It also brightens with vitamin C and antioxidant-rich superfoodsu003cspan style=u0022font-size: revert; color: initial; font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, u0026quot;Segoe UIu0026quot;, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Cantarell, u0026quot;Helvetica Neueu0026quot;, sans-serif;u0022u003e to combat free radicals.u003c/spanu003eu003c/pu003e

Beneath Your Mask Illuminate Clarifying Face Mask

u003cpu003eThis clarifying mask doubles as a clay mask for blemish-prone skin with hydrating properties. Formulated for sensitive, reactive skin, it gives you a clear, glowing complexion without risking further breakouts.u003c/pu003e

Topicals Like Butter

u003cpu003eThis dermatologist-tested mask glides onto the skin just like (you guessed it) butter. Its fast-acting formula sinks in to relieve parched skin and soothe irritation.u003c/pu003e

Plenaire Skin Frosting Hydrating Mask

u003cpu003eI’d try anything that promises to frost my skin, and this creamy mask delivers. This rich blend of natural oils relaxes and hydrates by binding your skin in its occlusive formula.u003c/pu003e

Tatcha Luminous Deep Hydrating Lifting Mask

u003cpu003eAn anti-aging dream, this mask lifts and firms as it locks in hydration. It’s a bio-cellulose mask that combines green tea with hyaluronic acid and rice extracts.u003c/pu003e

Dermalogica Skin Hydrating Masque

u003cpu003eWake up your skin with this refreshing fix for dehydrated skin. It combines botanical bitter orange, hops, rosemary, and horsetail in this oil-free gel formula to brighten and hydrate without clogging your pores.u003c/pu003e

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Mask

u003cpu003eWith a highly concentrated formula of B vitamins and a unique hydrating complex, this mask is a soothing balm for dehydrated and stressed skin. u003c/pu003e

Sisley Paris Black Rose Cream Mask

u003cpu003eYou can truly relax with this mask specifically formulated to give skin an instant youthful and energized glow. The perfect fix for the stressors of the holiday season.u003c/pu003e