Wednesday 13 December 2017

Emergency Efforts - the best beauty masks and serums

When all else fails and your skincare resolutions have flopped, says our beauty expert, it's time for some urgent care

Pictured, from left, Clarins Shaping Facial Lift; Guinot Instant Eye-Mask; Thalgo Ultra Hydra-Marine Masque; Chanel Blue Serum; SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Masque. Kip Carroll
Pictured, from left, Clarins Shaping Facial Lift; Guinot Instant Eye-Mask; Thalgo Ultra Hydra-Marine Masque; Chanel Blue Serum; SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Masque. Kip Carroll

Sarah Caden

By now, the diet-and-exercise overhaul should be showing in your complexion. Or not. Particularly not if the diet-and-exercise overhaul lasted about 10 minutes before you lapsed into old habits. If that's the case, then your skin might instead be showing all sorts of sluggishness. Your lack of motivation in the personal-improvement department isn't entirely to blame, of course.

The toll taken by leftover party-season toxicity, cold weather and central heating are all contributors to a dull complexion. What it needs, then, is an urgent hit of help, for which you need to look to masks and serums. Both will go that bit further to bring your skin back from the brink; one immediately, the other over time. So if you want to put the best face forward as you resume a social life, or simply fancy a bit of home pampering, help is at hand.

Once, masks were muddy creams that dried to a hard crust. Such masks still exist. They're good for over-oily skin or clogged pores, but there's more to modern masks. Hydration boosts and doses of anti-ageing ingredients are all the go, while our favourite serums for this time of year offer relief from environmental damage and, more importantly, a bit of TLC.

Best Overall

Clarins Shaping Facial Lift, €57, Clarins counters nationwide

We're never going to claim that a serum can give you a facelift. Only a knife can give you a facelift, and if that's your thing, then off you go. Targeted massage won't defy gravity, but it can help the tone and texture of your skin. Clarins includes massage instructions with this serum, covering various skin issues. And further, the serum contains soothing caffeine, as well as guarana and ginger, which claim to help to tighten and de-puff the complexion. "The texture of this serum is lovely, and I do think I look brighter after a month of it," said a panellist. "It helps, too, when I commit to the two-minute massage."

Best Bag Buster

Guinot Instant Eye-Mask, €44, selected salons, or see

Horse chestnut is the key ingredient among the "decongesting plant extracts" in this eye mask, and it is highly regarded as something to help with regulating circulation. Eye bags and dark circles under the eyes are often a result of sluggish circulation, so every little helps. With a nice, soothing feeling on the skin, it's a relaxing mask to use on a quiet night in, or as prep for eye make-up. "There is an instantly cooling sensation to be had from this mask, which is lovely on tired eyes," a panellist said. "Anything that makes me look less wrecked is a winner, so two thumbs up."

Best Sleepover

Thalgo Ultra Hydra-Marine Masque, €32, for stockists, see

Dehydration shows up as tiny lines. They are not to be confused with wrinkles, but are almost like stretch marks on the skin's surface. Drinking water helps to rehydrate from the inside, but a boost of hyaluronic acid, which this mask has in abundance, is like A&E for the face. Hyaluronic acid, combined here with moisture-rich sea algae, fills up cells with water and smooths away dehydration lines. "I'd describe my skin as perky after using this," a panellist said. "A top tip - leave it on overnight."

Best Ongoing Help

Chanel Blue Serum, €95, Chanel counters nationwide

It's nice to see a skin product that makes no bones about its inability to hold back time. This is such a product, eschewing the notion that it can stop or prevent ageing, but emphasising its promises to make you look the best you can at any age. It contains three key ingredients, drawn from "blue" zones where the world's greatest longevity is enjoyed. All that's promised is smoother, rehydrated, more even-looking skin. "Fair claims are made for this delicious-feeling serum," said a panellist, "which felt lovely under my moisturiser and seemed to give it a performance boost."

Best Hydration Helper

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Masque, €58, for stockists, see

This mask is great for hydration, but also brilliant for soothing redness or sensitivity, to which we can be prone, thanks to cold winds and heated homes. The gel gives instant calming coolness, as well as a little tingle, which we often enjoy as a sign that something is happening. "Smoother skin is always the result of this, as well as a little welcome springiness," said one panellist. "It's amazing for overnight, or if your skin looks jaded before a night out."


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