If you’ve wondered whether it’s better to apply a face mask before or after your shower, you’ve likely seen conflicting information online. The key to this answer depends on the type of mask you use, as well as your skin type — it’s not necessarily based on timing.

Learn more about what types of mask work best before or after a shower so you can be on your way to a clearer, smoother complexion.

The purpose of a face mask depends on its type. Some masks are designed for drying out excess sebum (oil) in combination and oily skin types, while others replenish lost moisture in dry skin. Some face masks treat uneven skin tone and others may contain exfoliants that help remove dead skin cells.

Regardless of the type of mask, there are some key steps to applying it properly:

  1. First, clean your face with your usual cleanser.
  2. Apply the mask in a thin, even layer around your entire face. Be careful to avoid your eyes and lips. You can also extend the layer to your neck and décolletage.
  3. Some masks require that you massage the product into your skin for a few seconds — these mostly apply to exfoliating products. Read the product instructions beforehand if you’re unsure.
  4. Wait 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the product instructions. In general, drying masks for oily skin are left on for a shorter amount of time, while hydrating and antiaging masks are left on longer — sometimes overnight.
  5. Rinse with warm, not hot, water. Use a soft washcloth for easier removal.
  6. Follow up with your normal toner, serum, moisturizer, and sunscreen.

How often you apply your face mask depends on your skin type. Anti-aging masks may be used a few times per week, while masks for oily skin are used two to three times. Hydrating masks may also be used a few times per week. If you have sensitive skin, you may only need to use a face mask once per week.

While a weekly-plus face mask can be important to your overall skin care routine, adding it as an extra step can seem time-consuming. You might have heard that you can cut down on time by incorporating your mask into your shower routine, especially with a liquid or mud mask. This is certainly a viable way to get your face mask in — however, there are a few catches.

First, you still need to make sure you cleanse your face before applying the mask to remove surface dirt, oil, and makeup. This can be done a couple of different ways. You can wash your face at the sink and apply your mask before getting in the shower. Or, you can wash your face in the shower and apply your mask there and keep it on while you do the rest of your showering routine. The caveat with the second approach, though, is that you won’t be able to see how evenly you’ve applied the mask in the shower, and water may run through it before it’s finished setting.

Another option is to take a shower and then wash your face and apply your mask. This method works particularly well with deep cleansing masks for oily and combination skin, such as those made from mud and charcoal. Showering first allows your pores to open up from the warm water and steam, prepping your skin for a deeper cleansing experience.

If you have drier skin, you may be better off applying your mask before taking a shower. This helps to seal in the moisture from your mask and the shower. Be sure to follow up with an emollient-rich moisturizer immediately after getting out of the shower.

When you want to apply a mask without showering, simply follow the product instructions as well as the steps above.

Sheet masks are used a bit differently. These should always be applied before the rest of your skin care routine. However, the product that remains after you remove the mask is intended to be massaged into your skin, so you’ll need to do these after your shower so you don’t accidentally rinse it away.

Another exception is an overnight treatment mask. True to their name, these masks are intended to be left on overnight and rinsed off with your morning face cleansing. To use this type of mask, you can do your normal skin routine and then apply the mask last. Sometimes an overnight mask is used in place of your nightly moisturizer — this depends on how dry your skin is. Overnight masks are thicker and creamier and usually designed for dry to normal skin types.

Using a face mask before or after your shower depends on your skin type and your time constraints. The answer also has a lot to do with the type of mask you’re using. By knowing a few rules of thumb, you’ll be better able to add your mask to your skin care and shower routine and gain all the skin-brightening benefits.