Sleeping Mask vs. Moisturizer: Is There a Difference?

Sleeping Mask vs. Moisturizer: Is There a Difference?

To the uninitiated, a moisturizer and sleeping mask might sound like the same thing. After all, they’re both creams that bookend a skincare routine, keeping your face happy by sealing up all the nourishment you’ve built up in layers. They’re quite different when you look a little closer, however, offering varying degrees of efficacy and ingredient potency. I like to think of the difference between them as akin to a comparison of serums and ampoules. Both work great, but when you want a little more oomph and in a shorter amount of time, you opt for the one that can offer better results because it’s been specially formulated that way.


So What Is a Sleeping Mask Exactly?

Whereas moisturizers come in a variety of thicknesses and textures to benefit different skin types, sleeping masks tend to fall more frequently on the thicker side of things, even when they come in gel form. They’re created that way to infuse skin with a higher, deeper-penetrating level of moisture that lasts through nighttime cuddle sessions with your pillowcase and other factors, like drying central air systems, that can leech your skin of hard-earned hydration while you sleep.


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One of my all-time favorites is the Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask EX. It perfectly straddles the line between gel and cream, gliding smoothly over the skin and sinking it with no trouble. It’s got a rich, earthy scent that sells you on the promise of skincare founded on the tenets of holistic herbal medicine. All of that, and you wake up to soft, bouncy skin that glows like you just got the best sleep of your life. Compared to your favorite buttery cream or gel moisturizer, a sleeping mask does a far better job of rehydrating and protecting your skin overnight.


AM vs. PM

One very obvious difference between sleeping masks and moisturizers is that the latter is designed for AM and PM use, while sleeping masks are created to take advantage of your skin’s nightly regeneration cycle, boosting the natural repair process to reveal better skin after a sleep cycle.


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The addition of an overnight skin mask like Origins Drink Up Intensive Overnight Mask or the Sulwhasoo Radiance Energy Mask will act as the helping hand that boosts the cell turnover that occurs during restful sleep, as your body works to repair the damage done by environmental stressors and UV exposure during the day. Think of overnight masks as a targeted restoration system for whatever your particular skin concerns might be.


Winter Power Tool

Sleeping masks are a very popular addition to skincare routines in the winter months. A sleeping mask works as an occlusive barrier that keeps everything locked in, preventing evaporation and dehydration overnight. They help to seal in all the hydrating, emollient, and humectant layers that you’ve layered on after cleansing, so you don’t wake up after an intense 8-step routine with a face that feels like someone stuck a straw in it and hoovered up all the moisture. If you’ve ever woken up in the morning, confused as to why your face feels tight, maybe what your routine has been missing is an overnight mask. Sometimes, just the addition of one product can make a world of change and help get you one step closer to healthier skin.

bedtime routine

A sleeping mask will offer you far better occlusivity than you’d get adding a few drops of oil to your moisturizer. Oils work great with sleeping masks, so if you want to reap the benefits of your choice of oil while you seal in moisture, feel free to drop some in before you slather it on.


More Than Moisture

In addition to moisturizing and repairing configurations, sleeping masks also come in formulations designed to treat skin conditions and even exfoliate. These days, it’s commonplace to find an overnight face mask that comes with ingredients like retinol or glycolic acid, which offer much gentler exfoliation than the brute force you’d usually get with acid products in serum or peel form. There are also some that include concentrated amounts of ingredients proven to soothe and heal skin issues like acne, such as the SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Masque. Whatever your skin concerns are, there’s probably a sleeping mask out there that’s designed to fix it. So take your pick!


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