Skin School: Can You Leave a Face Mask on Overnight?


Skin School: Can You Leave a Face Mask on Overnight?

Who doesn't love the decadence of slathering a truly luxe face mask on their skin? Washing them off can be a chore. So, can you leave a face mask on overnight? We take a look at which types are best for overnight skincare.

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Published: October 2022

Origin: Australia

Who doesn't love the decadence of slathering a luxurious face mask on their skin in the evening?

Face masks can hydrate, brighten, and refresh your skin, as well as absorb excess oils, unclog your pores, and soothe inflammation and redness. 

Plus, they feel amazing - there’s nothing quite like that fresh and dewy post-face mask feeling. They offer a little indulgence from the comfort of your couch; no trip to the salon is required.

Washing it off after 20 minutes can be a bit of a chore once you've settled in with Netflix.

Whether you're after an extra long injection of hydration, or are time poor and hoping for a mask that does double duty as your overnight skincare, you may find yourself tempted to sleep with your face mask on. 

So, can you leave a face mask on overnight? 

The short answer: Yes, but it depends on the kind of mask you’re using.

In this guide, we share what you need to know about wearing face masks overnight. 

Sleep and the Skin

Getting enough sleep is essential for your overall health, but also for the health of your skin. Generally, it is recommended that adults sleep for seven to nine hours each night.

The hours we spend asleep are actually some of the most important hours for our body. Certain areas of our brain are working overtime while we sleep. Similarly, our skin is best able to repair itself while we sleep. 

Research shows that our skin cells actually regenerate in line with our circadian rhythm. 

Circadian rhythms are periods of biological activity controlled by the way our bodies respond to light and dark. 

During the daytime, our skin cells operate defensively to protect us from UV exposure and damage from free radicals. 

After dark, our brains and bodies start to work regeneratively, repairing the damage done during the day and boosting the production of cells that protect and renew our bodies.

As we sleep:

  • + Our brains clear waste products, such as amyloid beta which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease

  • + Our brains consolidate our memories to increase creativity and problem-solving skills

  • + The production of melatonin begins (melatonin is known for its antioxidant, anti-ageing properties)

  • + Levels of cortisol - the body’s stress hormone - decreases, which aids skin reparation and damage

  • + The body begins to produce more collagen, which has anti-aging properties for the skin

  • + Our bodies secrete more human growth hormone, which in turn increases collagen production and strengthens the skin 

This is all to say that maintaining a regular, healthy sleep and wake cycle helps to ensure healthy skin recovery and repair. 

We know that sleep is essential for the health of our skin, so how can you capitalise on these skin-restorative powers? 

Enter: the overnight face mask.

Can You Leave a Face Mask on Overnight?

Yes, you can leave a face mask on overnight — however, not all face masks are suitable for overnight use.

Using a face mask overnight helps to accelerate the restorative process your skin undergoes while you sleep. You’ll also be giving your skin plenty of time to absorb all those hydrating nutrients, which can be particularly game-changing for dry and dull skin.

The next morning, you may find that your skin looks brighter than normal and feels ultra-smooth and baby-soft. 

While many hydrating, nourishing, gentle face masks (and, of course, overnight-specific face masks) can be left on while you sleep, not all masks can be safely left on overnight.

Below, we outline how long you should leave a face mask on, depending on the type of mask you’re working with.  

How Long to Leave a Face Mask On For 

The packaging for your face mask will outline how long it should be worn.

You might be under the impression that keeping your mask on for longer than recommended will leave your skin extra clean and refreshed, but doing this can actually have adverse effects on the skin. 

It all comes down to the ingredients within your face mask. Some ultra-hydrating masks can be left on overnight, while more potent formulas containing active ingredients should not be left on longer than recommended.

Let’s break this down. 

Clay Masks 

A purifying clay mask is perhaps the most time-effective mask to use, as it is not intended to be worn over long periods of time. 

Ingredients like clay and activated charcoal are typically too drying to use overnight. 

Clay masks are designed to draw out impurities from the skin. If you keep them on for too long, the clay can start to draw out the goodness from your skin as well. 

Rather than having a decongesting effect, leaving a clay mask on for hours will upset your skin’s pH balance, causing more problems than you started with.

As a general rule of thumb, let your clay mask dry for three minutes, and definitely no longer than 20 minutes.  

Cream/Gel Masks (Without Acids or Enzymes)

Provided your cream or gel face mask doesn’t contain acids or enzymes, you can leave it on for as long as you like. 

The lack of potent ingredients means a hydrating mask can be kept on without harming the skin.

In fact, many hydrating masks can be left on overnight to lock in moisture and maximise their benefits.

Just be sure to check that there are no intense resurfacing ingredients or high concentrations of brightening agents in the ingredients list. 

Masks with Acids or Enzymes

Masks containing active ingredients such as acids and enzymes should not be left on for any longer than recommended.

10 minutes is generally considered the limit, but may even be too long for your skin.

Retinol and acids can irritate the skin, especially if you’re layering the mask on top of other skincare products containing similar active ingredients. 

When you’re using an active mask, follow the directions closely. 

Of course, some overnight masks contain retinol and fruit acids. These are safe for extended overnight wear.

We also recommend avoiding alcohol-containing masks and sheet masks overnight. These masks can be very drying and will try to source moisture from your skin once they have dried out. This will leave your skin drier than before.

Ideally, you would opt for a mask intended for overnight use. Otherwise, only wear a hydrating, gentle mask overnight.

Should I Sleep with a Face Mask? The Benefits

Sleeping with an overnight-specific or hydrating mask has a range of skin-loving benefits. 

This practice was originally a Korean beauty trend and has now won the world over — and for good reason. 

Many overnight face masks are the same thickness and consistency as your regular nighttime moisturiser but contain special ingredients that work together to repair your skin while you sleep. 

When you sleep with a face mask on, your skin will reap the benefits. 

Overnight masks can be especially hydrating, which is ideal for moisturising dry skin, and soothing sensitive skin. 

The ingredients also have longer to absorb into the skin, which is particularly helpful for older people, as our skin loses moisture as we age. 

We know that our skin cells replicate and renew overnight and a face mask helps our cells do this effectively. 

Some overnight masks contain a sealant that locks in moisture and acts as a barrier from dirt and other pollutants. 

Sleeping in a face mask can also be helpful if you’re busy. The mask takes care of your skin while you catch up on sleep, working its magic overnight so that you can wake up feeling refreshed and clear. 

Multitasking at its best!

What to Look for in an Overnight Face Mask

When purchasing an overnight face mask, look to ultra-hydrating, moisturising ingredients. 

Collagen peptides and ceramides are especially effective and will help to give your skin a plump, dewy, and youthful appearance. They will also help to brighten dullness and even your complexion.

Masks containing ingredients such as Vitamin C, skin-loving oils, and Aloe Vera are also ideal. They are designed to soothe and calm the skin, warding off redness and irritation. 

How to Apply an Overnight Face Mask

We recommend applying your overnight mask as the last step of your night-time skincare routine.

Pop it on after you’ve applied your cleanser, toner, serum, and night cream. This will help to form a barrier against environmental pollutants and seal in the products that were applied before it. 

Most store-bought masks will have directions, so follow them closely for the best results.

If you’re using a face mask for the first time, do a quick patch test to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction.

Allow your mask to set or harden before heading to bed. If your mask is runny, slip a towel over your pillow to avoid contact with your linens.

In the morning, wash off your mask. If it’s absorbed into the skin, then you’re good to go!

Best Overnight Face Masks

Now that you know which face masks you can leave on overnight, let’s take a look at some of the best overnight face masks to incorporate into your routine. 



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