The term "face mask" has taken on new meaning over the last couple of years. Of course, when you're talking about using one across your whole body, it's pretty clear that you're talking about the chemical kind of face mask meant to exfoliate, deeply cleanse, and beautify your skin. Unless you mean something like this, but we doubt it.
At first blush, the answer might seem simple. Skin is skin, right? Why wouldn't you be able to use your chemical face mask on your body?
Face Masks are Generally Body-Safe
The truth is, skin is skin. Sort of.
You probably know that different parts of your skin have different levels of sensitivity. Parts of your back are generally not as sensitive as parts of your face, your palms are more sensitive than the backs of your hands, and so on.
Your face is one of the most sensitive parts of your body. Not only are there a ton of nerve endings, but there are many muscles that mean the skin is constantly stretched and moving in various directions. Your face needs to be sensitive to help keep it safe.
What this means is that products designed for use on the face are generally some of the softest and least harsh products on the market. Now, sure, a prescription-level anti-acne cream might be pretty strong, and there have always been chemical peels and other extreme treatments meant for the face, but these are exceptions.
In fact, just about the only risk of using a face mask on your body is that it won't be effective enough. Parts of your body tend to have thicker skin in a way that a milder product won't be able to penetrate the way it can on your face.
Fortunately, you don't have to rely on just theory, because there are plenty of people out there more than willing to use themselves as test subjects. For example, Zoe Weiner slathered herself with a face mask for Bustle and wrote about the experience.
The verdict: the face mask does what the face mask does to skin, on all of your skin, though it's more noticeable in certain areas. Go figure, right?
The thing is, this doesn't necessarily tell the whole story. There are a few other aspects you might consider, such as…
Using Face Masks on the Body is Wasteful and Expensive
Depending on the kind of face mask you use, you could be looking at a pretty significant expense and amount of waste for the value you get out of it.
Consider this: what is the purpose of a face mask?
It's there to clear up your facial skin, lift it up, firm it up, exfoliate and moisturize, and so on. It will tighten up the skin, reduce small wrinkles, lighten blemishes, and do all sorts of good.
How much of that do you need on the rest of your body?
The reason so many skincare products focus on the face is because your face is the most visible, most prominent part of your body. People spend most of their time looking at your face, after all. Most of the rest of your skin is typically hidden under clothing (though how much clothing tends to depend on where you live and the weather.)
So, your face gets more treatment than, for example, your upper thighs or your lower chest. Sure, if you're shaping up a bikini body for the coming summer, then those parts of your skin will be more visible too, but even then.
Consider, too, that your face has over 40 different major and minor muscles working under the skin. Compare that to places like your stomach, which has four. Your body skin is under a lot less stress and develops wrinkles much more slowly than certain parts of your face.
Back to the matter of waste and expense.
With a face mask, you're typically spending $20-$40 for a tube or jar, which might range from 1.5 ounces to maybe seven ounces for larger-volume products. Compare that with body creams, where you're usually spending somewhere around $10-$20 for 20 to 40 ounces of cream.
Since body creams have fewer potent, expensive ingredients and are meant to be used in larger volumes at a time, you'll find that they're cheaper per ounce. It's not like a facial cream lasts longer, right? You still need enough to cover your body, and that's a lot of product.
It's even worse if you use masks that come in individually-wrapped sheets instead of just a cream or lotion. Those masks are designed to fit over your face, so to use them across your body would take dozens. That's a lot of waste!
Your Body Has Different Effective Treatments Available
Skin is skin, but that doesn't mean it should all be treated the same.
Your body is subject to different pressures and different concerns than your face. Thus, the products you use on your body should be different.
You might want a gentle exfoliating cream. You might want a moisturizing lotion. You might want something to target cracked skin and calluses on your feet and elbows. You might have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis that needs a specific kind of treatment. You might even have acne that requires a more intense spot cleanse.
The truth is, facial products and body products are not the same. Even if they have the same ingredients, they generally have different concentrations of those ingredients.
You also should recognize that your body skin is slightly different than your facial skin. Your face has a lot of close-packed oil glands and pores, while your body skin tends to spread those further apart. That leaves more open stretches of unbroken skin, which can get dry and flaky depending on the treatment you use.
Of course, this all highly depends on the face mask or skin cream you're using. There are hundreds of different products on the market, often with vastly different compositions, so it's hard to generalize.
It's a Bigger Investment
Think about the difference between a face mask and a body cream.
A facemask is generally meant to be applied, left in place for 10-15 minutes, and then removed. It might harden and peel off, or it might just need to be washed away with water. Either way, it doesn't really limit you. You can still go about your home tasks, sit and watch TV, or check your email. When you want to apply it, all you need to do is give your face a quick wash, and you're ready to go.
A body cream, meanwhile, is often a leave-on product. You slather it on, rub it in, and let it be. Your skin absorbs it, any faint residue left will wear off quickly, and you're good to go.
Now imagine using a face mask on your body.
- You need to cleanse your skin first, which means a full shower, which is more time-consuming and less convenient.
- You need to leave the mask on, undisturbed, for the best effect. That means you can't sit down, you can't do anything that could work up a sweat, and you can't get dressed.
- You need to peel or wash off the mask afterward. That often means a second shower, which can take at least 15 minutes to scrub the mask residue off.
Way less convenient, right?
Sure, you can do it in stages if you want, but then you're investing even more time into it. It's just not worth it for the relatively minor benefits you get over just using a traditional skin treatment.
Don't forget, too, that a mask works best on smooth, slightly damp, warm skin. You might already shave your legs, but do you shave your arms, your belly, your chest? Even if it's tiny and largely invisible, you do still have hair across your whole body, and that hair can get in the way of a skin treatment like a mask.
It Doesn't Work in Reverse
Another consideration is that, while facial creams can work on the body, body creams often aren't ideal for your face.
For one thing, they tend to be "larger" molecules, which can clog pores and cause problems with redness, swelling, and acne.
Body creams are formulated for the body, and face masks are formulated for the face. Since the body is less sensitive, body creams can be harsher or meant for a different purpose, and they won't do well on the face.
So, sure, while you can use a face mask on your body, using a body cream on your face is less than ideal.
What Should You Do?
There are three answers to this question.
The first: do what you want! Experiment with different products on different parts of your body, find a routine you like that satisfies your desires for soft, supple, beautiful skin, and roll with it. Don't let anyone, health blog or otherwise, tell you that you're doing it wrong. Just don't be afraid to re-think your regimen and try out new products or routines based on new information.
The second answer is to stick with what the products are designed to do. Use your face mask on your face. Use your body creams on your body. Let them overlap a little on your neck and upper chest if you want. But, generally, you'll be best served by following the instructions on the product you buy.
Our general recommendation, though, is number two. If you really want to enhance your skin across your chest, your tummy, or your rear, there are products for that. A face mask isn't really the ideal option. It can work in a pinch, but how often are you going to be in a pinch where tonight's skincare routine makes or breaks a social interaction?
As always, we have to mention the risks of using products in ways they aren't intended. If you want to use a face mask on your body, go ahead, but we highly recommend testing it on a place like the back of your hand or a patch of your stomach first. Make sure it isn't going to cause a rash or leave your skin dried out and flaky. The last thing you want to do is go whole-heartedly into coating yourself head to toe, only to find you've left yourself itching and miserable.
Remember, too, that there are a ton of different products on the market. Some of them might work wonders on your bum or your chest in addition to your face. Some of them won't show all that much difference since they work in different ways.
Make sure to take the time to learn what the ingredients are in your product, what they're meant to do, and what you want to get out of them. It does you no good to use an anti-acne cream on clear skin; you're just going to irritate it and dry it out. Likewise, using a moisturizer on oily skin can just make you break out or look weirdly greasy, and no one wants that.
There's nothing wrong with using a face mask on your body if it's what you really want to do. The truth is, though, there are better products meant for your body that won't be as inconvenient, expensive, or wasteful as a face mask.
When in doubt, try it out! Or, talk to your local dermatologist or aesthetician to see what they have to say. They might have some unique advice for you that you won't get anywhere else. Plus, of course, it's hard to generalize in a blog post applicable to everyone. Getting that personal touch with someone who can see and understand your skin is pretty beneficial.
Have you ever used a face mask on the rest of your body? If so, what were your thoughts on the experience? Did it feel like it had much of an impact? Be sure to leave all your thoughts and stories in the comments section down below! We'd absolutely love to hear from you all!