History of sheet masks go way back, it was claimed to be discovered by Parisian Women in 1857 where they used slices of beef to avoid signs of ageing and wrinkles. Fast forward to today, thanks to technological advancement we don’t have to put beef on our face to keep our skin looking hydrated and plump. Water-absorbing materials such as cotton are nowadays used to soak in ingredients-packed essence or serum called the sheet mask.
The obsession in Korea towards smooth glass-dewy-looking skin makes it the fastest and leading country to create advanced innovations in sheet masks. If you ever come and visit beauty drugstores in South Korea, you can see an aisle full of sheet masks with different types of materials, essences and at ranging price points. It is believed that women in Korea use sheet mask every single day and that’s what keeps their skin looking young and hydrated.
With the ever-growing industry and innovation, it is not uncommon for us to feel overwhelmed by all the options and make you wonder what the differences are and which one will suit your skin type and concern best. You don’t have to worry because in this article we will give you an A-Z guide on sheet masks.
What do Sheet Masks do?
A sheet mask is like a pack of serum but better. Sheet masks are infused with hydrating and active ingredients which will allow your skin to absorb moisture and actives better. The sheet prevents the water and the serum from evaporating into the air which makes them more effective.
What do you have to take into consideration before getting yourself a sheet mask?
- The materials of the sheet mask:
- Determines how long it is able to retain moisture for.
- Determines how soft and comfortable it feels on your skin.
- Determines the price.
- The ingredients of serum / essences liquid in the sheet mask:
- Determines which one is most suitable for your skin type and concern.
- It also determines the price. The more concentrated it is, the pricier it can get.
First let’s talk about different type of sheet mask materials:
Cotton sheet mask
- Microfiber Sheet Mask
This is the most commonly used materials in a sheet mask. It feels similar to cotton and can be usually called cotton sheet masks. Their raw materials are pretty affordable making them the cheapest and readily available option in the market. The materials feel thicker and able to hold a lot of the serum in it. They have a pretty good fit and absorption capability. However it may not be the best out of all the other cotton-based options.
- Tencel / Lyocell Sheet Mask
If you’re worried about the waste from using a cotton sheet mask, tencel is the way to go. Tencel is made of fibers that are biodegradable and naturally derived from tress. It is usually thicker and white in colour and feel soft and silky on the skin. It is usually more expensive than a regular cotton sheet mask but it can hold moisture a lot better and for a longer period of time.
- Cupra / Bemlises Sheet Mask
A cotton-derived material from short fibers of a raw cotton. It is softer and thinner than regular cotton sheet mask materials. It allows better moisture retention and prevent the essence from dripping down and it is also a more expensive options from the cotton department.This type of materials has almost the same quality in terms of moisture absorption and retention to the microfiber sheet mask.
Biocellulose Sheet Mask
A mask that is made out of fibers from good bacteria. It feels like a thin layer of jelly and feel like a second-skin. This type of sheet mask is very durable, able to retain moisture, adheres pretty well making it the best option if you like to multi-task while you use your sheet mask. You don’t have to worry anymore of it falling and dripping essence all over. Moreover, biocellulose masks are biodegradable and can be your other eco-friendly option. However, it also does come with a price, this type of sheet mask is usually retailed at a higher price point.
Hydrogel Sheet Mask
Sheet mask on the go without scaring anyone? Hydrogel, it is! This sheet mask material is so thin and almost transparent once applied on the skin. The hydrogel type doesn’t usually absorb much moisture in them although they can retain them for longer than cotton mask. It adheres pretty well and leaves you with an instant cooling sensation. However, be careful when applying them because they easily tear apart. Make sure not to scratch them with your fingernails.
Foil Sheet Mask
Makes you look like you came from the future. Foil masks consists of two layers, cotton sheet mask on the inner layer and foil mask on the outer layer. The cotton mask that touches your skin will provide and deliver essences deep down into your skin while the foil prevents the mask from drying out as fast. The foil part actually gives more time for your skin to soak in all the skincare goodness that comes with your sheet mask. This will let your face shine, literally!
Rubber Sheet Mask
Rubber mask were developed to hydrate and soothe the skin for an instant pick-me-up. The hydrating rubber mask wraps around the skin to prevent active ingredients from evaporating, allowing for more complete penetration to visibly improve the appearance of fine lines and pores and make skin look supple and dewy. The rubber mask is derived from algae and lowers skin temperature to cool and calm your overheated skin.
Clay and charcoal Sheet Masks
The black colour on a clay or charcoal sheet masks usually contains microparticles of clay / charcoal in a low percentage. Depending on the percentage of the microparticles, they are able to absorb excessive oil and sebum out of your face at the same time while you are adding hydration to your skin.
Each of the sheet mask materials come with their own pros and cons and it is not an easy task to identify the material used unless it is clearly stated on the packaging. Better, higher quality materials that are more laborious during productions are more expensive but it doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from the more affordable options. It’s a matter of preferences and your budget for sheet masks.
Next thing that you should be considering is the essences / serum in your sheet mask
You can definitely get more than just hydration from a sheet mask (although anyone can benefit from extra hydration no matter what you skin type is). Knowing which sheet mask best fits your skin concern is the key on getting the most out of a sheet mask. Look at the ingredients list and see whether it is something that your skin is craving for.
The amount of active ingredients or type of extracts blended in the essence can also play a big part on the final price of the sheet mask. The more concentrated it is, the more expensive it may cost you. So make sure you’re getting what you need when you want to splurge, especially for a special day.
Most liquid in sheet masks are referred to as essence but you may have found some claiming them as serum or lotion. This term is rather unregulated, but it may actually give you a better picture of the consistency of the liquid and concentration of actives they are soaked in. The serum may have more concentrated actives and extracts in it while the lotion may have a thicker consistency to it. But again, it is not definite but something you can keep in mind before buying your sheet mask.
Here are benefits of some ingredients and a cheat sheet you can use for each of your skin concerns. Of course this doesn’t include all types of ingredients, but you can look through our skin library ingredient dictionary to find out more about other ingredients’ benefit!
Brightening sheet mask (for Dull skin)
- Niacinamide (BLITHE Blue Zone Marine Intensive Sheet Mask – Sea Cucumber)
- Pearl extracts (KEEP COOL Shine Sheet Mask)
- Licorice root extract (ABIB Mild Acidic pH Sheet Mask Heartleaf fit)
- Vitamin C (HELLO SKIN Jumiso Brightening mask)
Exfoliating sheet mask (for Pore-care)
- Salicylic acid
- AHA, Alpha Hydroxyl Acids (LEADERS 7 Wonders Mediterranean Olive Brightening Mask)
- Papaya extracts (LEADERS Break up with your EX-skin cells)
Hydrating sheet mask (for Dry/Dehydrated skin)
- Hyaluronic Acid (ABIB Mild Acidic pH Sheet Mask Aqua Fit)
- Sodium Hyaluronate (GLOSOME All Day Glow Solution Tencel Mask, ABIB Gummy Sheet Mask Heartleaf Fit)
- Bamboo extracts (KEEP COOL Soothe Mask)
Calming and soothing (for Sensitive and Irritated skin)
- Panthenol (ABIB Gummy Sheet Mask Aqua Sticker)
- Centella Asiatica (BENTON Goodbye Redness Centella Sheet Mask)
- Chamomile extracts (LEADERS Daily Wonders Break up with your EX-skin cells Mask)
- Honey (ABIB Mild Acidic pH Sheet Mask Honey fit)
Anti-ageing sheet mask (for Wrinkle)
- Snail mucin (BENTON Snail Bee High Content Mask)
- Adenosine (LEADERS Wrinkle Tox Skin Clinic Mask)
- Ginseng Root Extract (HELLO SKIN Jumiso Rich Nourishment Mask)
- Collagen (LEADERS Collagen Lifting Skin Renewal Mask)
Acne care sheet mask (for Acne-prone skin)
- Tea-tree oil (LEADERS Tea Tree Relaxing Skin Renewal Mask)
- Witch hazel (LEADERS Daily Wonders Break up with your EX-skin cells Mask, OKA Buckle up the Pore Sheet Mask)
How to use sheet masks properly
If you’re still wondering how to put on a sheet mask the right way, we got you covered with this instructional video.
- Use it on a cleansed face (either day or night). You can prep your skin with either serum / toner as well depending on your preferences before application,
- Open the packaging and fit it around the contours of your face,
- Let the sheet mask hug your skin and the ingredients soak into your skin for 10 – 30 minutes (depending on the instruction, don’t forget to read them on the back of the packaging),
- Set your timer and relax,
- Remove the sheet mask and pat the remaining essence into your skin or other parts of your body that need extra hydration!
Librarian tip: Gua Sha can elevate your sheet mask experience to another level. You can use them while you have your sheet mask on. While the sheet mask provides enough slip, the Gua Sha helps to release muscle tension and improve fluid retention. Try it yourself!
DIY sheet mask [ How to make your own ]
Are you running short of sheet masks? Worry no more since all you need is a compressed sheet mask or regular cotton pads to create your own DIY sheet mask. Soak the compressed sheet mask or cotton pads with your favorite essence / toner until fully soaked. Put them on areas that need extra hydration. Leave it for 20 minutes, and then remove and you can move on to your other skincare routine steps! The sheet mask or cotton pad will help your toner or serum penetrate deeper into your skin and deliver the beneficial ingredients.
Frequently asked question about sheet masks:
When is the best time to use a sheet mask?
You can use a sheet mask anytime during the day, either morning or night depending on your preferences. Remember to read the instructions to get a general idea on how long you can keep the mask on. It usually ranges between 10 – 30 minutes with 20 minutes being the average time.
In terms of the way to incorporate them into your routine, you can use a sheet mask on either a cleansed bare face or after your serum / essences. If you don’t think that the hydration is enough for your skin, you can top it off with a moisturizer to seal everything in and don’t forget to use your sunscreen during the day.
Librarian Tip: If you have been experiencing dry or cakey makeup no matter what moisturizer you’ve been layering on top of your skin, you may want to give sheet mask a try. It deeply hydrates your skin rather than layering the surface of your skin. Many makeup artists have been applying sheet masks to prep supermodels skin before their photoshoot to prevent caking which accentuates fine lines and texture.
How often should you use a Sheet Mask?
With the exception of exfoliating sheet masks, that contain chemical exfoliators, you can use other sheet masks daily. It’s just like a serum in a sheet form! What’s even better is that they let your skin get the most out of it by preventing the good stuff from evaporating and providing extra moisture on your skin. Glossy skin is just a sheet away.
For exfoliating sheet masks, you can use them one to two times in a week. Remember to moisturize afterwards and don’t put them on top of other exfoliating products.
Do you have to use other essences or other toners before using a sheet mask?
There are two things that you should consider:
- The active ingredients and purpose of each serum and sheet mask you’re putting in one routine. It greatly depends on the type of serum or essence that you incorporate them with. If they have different actives that are targeting different skin concerns on your skin, you can definitely layer them on top of other serum / essences.
Example: Serum for brightening and sheet mask for hydration, vice versa
- The essence thickness and finish that you prefer. If you think that the essence in your sheet mask is not hydrating enough, you can put them on top of other products for a boost of hydration. However, when you’re using a sheet mask with a creamy texture to begin with, we do not recommend you to layer them on top of many different things or it may leave your skin feeling tacky.
Can I reuse a Sheet Mask?
Unfortunately, no. A sheet mask in general does not contain as much preservatives in comparison to other products in the market since they are formulated for a one-time use. You may be wondering, what can you do with the leftover essence in the packet? Feel free to pat the remaining essence on your face or any other part of your body that needs extra care and hydration. You can keep the serum and apply it on the next day but make sure to not leave it for too long until the next application. Make sure the texture, colour and scent hasn’t changed when you’re using the essence on the following day. Exposing them to the air may change the effectiveness of the actives and it may go bad without you even noticing.
Can you store sheet masks in the fridge?
Yes! You can definitely store in the fridge if you want to. Or you can just put them in the fridge 20 minutes before use to make your sheet masks more cooling and it will help to bring your skin temperature down. Who doesn’t love a cold and chilly hug right after a long tiring day, right?
How long does it take for a sheet mask to expire?
A sheet mask mostly last for 36 months (3 years) from the day of the production. Don’t forget to check the date of expiry of your sheet mask before you use them. It is usually printed or embossed at the back and bottom part of the packaging as EXPYYYY/MM/DD or YYYY/MM/DD 까지 which means until.
Is it okay to put on a sheet mask while you are in an airplane?
We all know that air in an airplane is super dry and it can stress out your skin a little too much, hence the dullness and flaky skin once you are off the airplane. That’s why some people like to use a sheet mask in the airplane since they are super convenient and it can replenish the water content on your skin. But, remember that due to the extreme condition, just a sheet mask may not be enough. You should make sure that you seal all the moisture in with another occlusive and creamier moisturizer.
Takeaway: There’s a sheet mask for everyone no matter what your skin type and concern is. You just have to take that extra step to determine which ingredients and sheet mask type that suit you most. Skin library is a UK online retailer based in London and ships worldwide. We curated some of the best K-beauty sheet mask on the market that can do more than just hydrating your skin. What is your favourite sheet mask and how do you like to use it?
- By Claudia Christin (@funskincare)
Seoul based Dermatology Post Graduate Student