Have you caught on to my affinity to Asian Beauty yet? While I’m not strictly obsessed with it (I also love some natural beauty products and DIY skincare), I think there are some really incredible skincare innovations coming out of East Asia – especially South Korea. The one I’m talking about today is sheet masks, and I hope I’m not late to the game. After all, celebrities like Chrissy Teigen, Lady Gaga, and even Cristiano Ronaldo are already on to the trend.
I’m sure you are already used to (maybe even bored to death of) your average mask that comes in a jar or a squeeze-tube. You spread it all over your face, leave it on for 15 or 20 minutes, and then rinse it away.
Sheet masks, on the other hand, are a totally different (and much more instagrammable) experience. In this article, I’ll tell you all about what sheet masks are, what’s so great about them, how to use sheet masks (including a few sheet mask hacks!), and lastly, I’ll tell you about the best sheet masks you can find easily in the West for each skin concern.
What Are Sheet Masks?
Sheet masks have two components. The first one is the sheet itself. This is the piece of paper or fabric that you apply to your skin. The sheet is cut out in an oval or circular shape, to fit the face, and has holes cut into it for the eyes, nose, and possibly mouth.
The second component of a sheet mask is the “essence”, the skin-saving liquid that the sheet mask is soaked in. As the sheet mask sits on the skin, it totally occludes it, preventing product evaporation and making sure that a maximum amount of the skincare essence soaks into the skin.
Why Is Everyone So Obsessed with Sheet Masks?
I think there are a few reasons why people are loving sheet masks so much. The first one is purely experience based and aesthetic. Sheet masks look really funny (perfect for posting pictures online), and putting them on can be a really fun experience.
Additionally, many people these days are ready and willing to try new K-Beauty trends, since they are often phenomenal. Take, for instance, the success of BB creams, cushion compacts, double cleansing, and many other Asian beauty trends!
The next reason is simple – many sheet masks are simply excellent skincare products. They are filled with active, useful ingredients, and thanks to the sheet itself, the skin takes in as much of that nutritious goodness as possible.
Lastly, sheet masks are popular because they are perfect for customized skincare routines. The philosophy behind this is that on different days, our skin needs different things.
Instead of having to commit to that one moisturizing mask for the next two months, you can opt one day for a moisturizing mask, another day for a brightening mask, and the following day for a soothing mask.
What Are the “Sheets” in Sheet Masks Made of?
The most common sheet masks are made of cotton, which is wonderfully gentle and absorbent. You really can’t go wrong with a cotton sheet mask. There are also sheets made of plant cellulose, or paper.
What Are the “Essences” Made of?
Well, the essences in sheet masks can be made of just about anything, as long as it’ll help the skin. The essences are types of serum, with a fairly thin texture. In a true to Asian beauty fashion, they are usually made of natural extracts, and occasional cult ingredients like propolis and snail mucus.
Depending on your skin type, you should opt for sheet masks with different ingredients. For example, choose willow bark extract if you have oily skin, aloe vera and snail slime for dry skin, or liquorice root extract or plant ferments for dull or pigmented skin.
How Often Should I Use a Sheet Mask?
Since sheet masks are all about nourishing the skin, they can be used as often as you like. Whether that means just before special occasions, or twice a day… that’s fine! Truthfully, a few times a week is likely the best way to go. The key here is to listen to your skin, and see how it responds to different usage frequencies.
What Is the Best Way to Use a Sheet Mask?
You can introduce a sheet mask into almost any beauty routine, regardless of whether you want to use it at night or in the daytime, regardless of whether you have an Asian beauty routine with 10 different steps, or a simple cleanse and moisturize routine, and regardless of your unique skin concerns. I make it pretty easy in this sheet mask guide:
1. Start with a clean slate. Whether this means washing your face with a basic Cetaphil-type cleanser, doing a double cleanse, or just following the oil cleansing method is totally up to you. Asian beauty gurus would urge you to use a cleanser with a low pH, however.
2. If you wish to, you should exfoliate your skin, but it’s not mandatory. If you are keeping true to the Asian beauty philosophy, you should opt for a gentle chemical exfoliant made of either glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid. However, using a physical exfoliant is still okay, as long as it is gentle and not overly abrasive.
3. Next, it is time for lighter skin essences and serums. The great thing about sheet masks is that they really improve overall ingredient absorption, including that of whatever you apply below them. However, you want to make sure whatever serum you use is oil-free and non-occlusive, or else it’ll prevent the essence in your sheet mask from penetrating. This step is optional, as well.
4. Sheet masking time! Open up the package, and gently pull out the mask, making sure not to make a mess or allow any product to drip off. Line up the mask, so that the eye, nose, and mouth holes line up with your own features.
Starting with the center of the face, gently pat and smooth the mask over your skin, making sure that it covers your face evenly and without too many folds. If there is any excess essence left from the sheet mask, massage it into your neck and chest. Sit back and relax for the next 15-20 minutes.
5. Once your skin has absorbed all of the essence-y goodness, remove the sheet mask, and lightly massage any remaining product into your skin. If there is too much product left on your skin, you may gently wipe it away, or splash your face with water to remove it.
6. Now is the time for occlusive layers that will lock all the moisture into your skin, and provide additional protection. You may now use any thicker or oil-based serums, as well as creams and moisturizers. If your routine is more minimalistic, just a layer of moisturizer will suffice.
Sheet Mask Hacks
• Instead of storing your sheet masks in the cupboard, store them in the fridge. The colder temperature will really invigorate your skin and make the whole experience extra refreshing. This is especially nice on hot days!
• If there is still a lot of essence left in the package, boil your used sheet mask to sanitize it, and place it back inside the package and seal the top. This way you can get double the use out of the mask. However, if you suffer from breakouts, you should skip this sheet mask hack because it could worsen the situation.
• Since a lot of essence is left in the package, you can use it for the next few days as a serum, before moisturizing.
• Take a mask with you when travelling, and use it for on the go pampering.
• If you are concerned about the cost associated with sheet masks, you can try making your own. You can buy reusable packs of cotton masks, and simply soak them in your favorite oil, serum, or essence, and use them like you would any other sheet mask.
• If you are also concerned about wastefulness and environmental impact, make a reusable sheet mask by cutting eye, nose, and mouth holes into a muslin cloth. Soak it in your choice of essence, and apply like a sheet mask. When you are done, instead of throwing it away, wash it and save it until the next use!
Are Sheet Masks a Mandatory Skincare Product?
While sheet masks can have an incredible effect on the skin, I still see them as a luxury product, since they are not really reusable. The sheer amount of waste regular sheet mask use can produce makes my hippie soul sad.
If you are okay with a basic cleansing and moisturizing routine, or if you are fine with using regular masks, then you don’t have to try sheet masks. However, if you are dealing with dry or dull skin, or if you are simply in need of some skincare entertainment and extra relaxation, then a sheet mask is the perfect solution.
What Are the Best Sheet Masks Available in the West?
The hardcore sheet mask users often buy sheet masks straight from Asia through various online services. However, there are some really excellent sheet masks that can be easily purchased in the US! These are the best sheet masks you can find, no matter your skin type or concern:
Best Sheet Masks for Dry Skin
TonyMoly I’m Real Avocado Mask Sheet
This simple sheet mask is made of thick cotton, and is loaded with nourishing ingredients. Almost everyone who tries this mask raves about how soft and moisturized their skin feels after use.
In addition to avocado extract, this sheet mask also includes emollient macadamia oil and antioxidants like vitamin C and E. Since this mask is quite rich, only those with normal and dry skin should give it a try. It’s available at Ulta for $3.75 per mask.
Best Sheet Masks for Acne-Prone Skin
Yes to Tomatoes Clear Skin Acne Fighting Sheet Masks
This paper-based sheet mask is everything you need to truly pamper yourself while fighting acne. This mask includes the classic acne fighting ingredient, salicylic acid, at a 0.5% concentration – just enough to slough away a bit of dead skin and prevent the acne bacteria from spreading, but without irritating the skin.
Thanks to an additional collection of powerful anti-inflammatories like willow bark extract, tomato extract, chamomile, and witch hazel, this sheet mask is excellent for soothing recently broken out skin, for immediate redness relief and overall improvement. You can purchase this mask at Ulta for $3.29.
Best Sheet Masks for Oily Skin
Sephora Green Tea Face Mask
Sephora’s addition to the sheet mask market is surprisingly not just great, but also very true to Korean style formulations. It includes green tea extract, as well as willow bark extract, mushroom extract, and bu gu zhi extract. This combination of ingredients soothes redness and inflammation, mattifies the skin, and makes it look wonderful.
This sheet mask was certainly made for those with oily skin, since it totally eliminates shine, but it is also perfect for anyone with sensitive skin, since it is extremely soothing and totally free of skin irritants. At can be found at Sephora for $6.00.
Best Sheet Masks for Aging Skin
Karuna Age Defying+ Face Sheet Mask
Karuna masks may seem like they are on the pricey side, but once you look at their ingredient list, you understand that it is for a good reason. Made of natural plant fibers, this mask is soaked in the best of the best anti-aging ingredients out there: niacinamide, wild yam extract, and a combination of peptides.
After using, the skin is noticeably improved: it is more hydrated, and both fine lines and pores seem much less visible. This mask is a perfect pick me for all skin types, but the focus is certainly on preventing signs of early aging. It can be found at Ulta for $8.00.
Best Sheet Masks for Dull Skin
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask
Available at Nordstrom, this sheet mask is simply incredible. This luxury mask might be best saved for those special occasions when you need to look really amazing, because it can be as effective as a salon facial.
This thick cotton sheet mask is enriched with a large amount of Pitera, a yeast ferment with the remarkable ability to soften, hydrate, plump up, and brighten the skin. The level of glow and luminosity that this sheet mask can give to your skin is unparalleled, so you should definitely consider giving it a try, the second you find a good excuse.
Best Sheet Masks for All Skin Types
Too Cool for School Egg Cream Mask Hydration
Made of a microfiber sheet, this sheet mask is a lovely indulgence that will improve the appearance of anyone’s skin. While this mask’s primary purpose is to hydrate the skin, it is actually gentle and non-comedogenic, so even those with oily skin will enjoy it. For those with dry skin, it will nourish and hydrate.
Those dealing with signs of premature aging will enjoy the large quantity of niacinamide, which is a potent anti-aging ingredient. Oily skin will be hydrated, and acne-related redness will be calmed down.
Lastly, thanks to egg whites and coconut water, this mask leaves the skin bright and glowing. It can be purchased at Sephora for $6.
Best Sheet Masks for Pigmentation
Dr Jart+ Brightening Infusion Hydrogel Mask
So this one is technically a hydrogel mask that is made of a thick and sleek material. This mask contains ingredients that help especially with hyperpigmentation, but also help hydrate the skin and combat signs of aging.
It is loaded with more of one of my favorite skincare ingredients, niacinamide, as well as skin brightening vitamin C and liquorice root extract, and a skin hydrating and plumping Galactomyces Fermented Extract. As long as you can get past the slightly slimy texture, it is a wonderful mask. You can pick it up at Sephora for $7.50.
Have you tried sheet masks? Do you use them regularly, or as a special treat? Do you have your own favorite sheet mask that I haven’t mentioned here? Comment and let me know!
Photos courtesy of @samiiryan, Instagram, Youtube
Don’t miss: What Is Multi Mask Layering and How to Master It