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Skin Care Face Masks: Are They Safe for Everyone?

Woman with face mask

Face masks are commonly used for skin care treatment, claiming to fight acne, soothe skin, and provide a glow. Many face masks also claim to contain natural ingredients—but does that mean they're safe to use? And what if they cause your face to tingle?

That tingling usually comes from natural flavors in fragrances. Douglas Powell, MD, who specializes in allergic skin disease in University of Utah Health's Department of Dermatology, compares it to the tingling sensation in toothpaste. He refers to a book written by Charles Duhigg called How Habits Work, which talks about how toothpaste companies in the early 20th century added fragrances that created the tingling sensation we're all familiar with. Early adopters of toothpaste came to expect that tingle and categorized it with cleanliness.

"Most fragrances are natural," Powell says, "and are the second-most cause of contact allergy." If a product claims to contain all-natural ingredients, that doesn't mean it's safe, Powell adds—anyone can have a reaction. "It's like trying to guess who's going to have an allergic reaction to a chemical or not," he says. "Unless you reacted to that chemical before, you're not going to know if you'll have a reaction or not."

Powell suggests testing products before using them on your face. "Cut a small piece, put it behind your ear, and give it about ten to fifteen minutes," Powell says. "If it doesn't cause any tingling or burning, then it might not cause that on the face." You can also perform this same test on cosmetics or any other products used on your face.

If you use a face mask and it causes a reaction, Powell recommends applying over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to relieve it. If the cream doesn't work, you should see a dermatologist.