Happy New Year everyone! Can you believe it’s 2017 already?!?! It was two years ago, around Christmas time, that I thought to myself: “why is everyone obsessed with sheet masks? Are all Korean sheet masks the same? Are the cheap $3 ones really as good as the expensive ones?” …… A week later, there were boxes and boxes of sheet masks from TonyMoly, Etude House, Innisfree, Nature Republic, Skinfood, Faceshop and My Beauty Diary on my floor. So I dumped everything into a pile and tried to figure out how I’m gonna get through all 70+ sheet masks.
In the end, I categorized them by ingredients and my “Ingredient/Sheet Masks Highlight” series was born:
The series covered 25 ingredients, 70+ sheet masks and 7+ brands. Since one of my original questions/goals is to compare the cheap sheet masks with higher end ones, I’ve also tried 20-30 sheet masks from When, Karuna, Farmacy, Dr. Jart+, Shiseido, Wei, SK-II and Tatcha. I can’t say I’ve tried EVERY single good sheet masks out there, but I’ve tried enough to be confident in my conclusions and don’t expect my favorites to change again.
First of all, why sheet masks?
Sheet masks are sheets of paper cloth or cellulose materials soaked in serum or essence. I didn’t realize how much serum/essence a single sheet contains until I tried to reuse my Wei Mung Bean mask and the dry sheet absorbed almost .5 oz of liquid! Because each sheet contains so much good stuff and you are leaving it on for 20-30 minutes at least, sheet masks provide deeper hydration than traditional masks. Because most of them are individually packaged, they are travel friendly and sanitary. Jars of face masks may be exposed to dirt, oil and bacterial from repeated opening/usage. Exposure to air may also make it spoil faster while most sheet masks have a 2-3 year expiration date.
That doesn’t sheet masks are the only way to go. The sheets are mostly the same size, so if you have a larger face the edges won’t be covered and if you have a smaller face the sheet goes into your hairline. Individual masks may be cheap but it adds up, so it can be wasteful and expensive. Sheet masks are meant to be used in one setting right after opening (most don’t work well if you want to reuse/save the still damp mask for later, I tried). And lastly, it may not be that sanitary since some brands’ sheet masks are folded in dirty factories, read here for more details. But if you ask me, the sanitary issue is the same for all beauty products, sheet masks or not. And if you buy from Asian countries, there’s the added worry of bad chemicals in fake products.
Are all sheet masks the same?
There are two important components to a sheet mask: the sheet itself and the liquid (serum or essence). Let’s talk about the sheet first:
- Paper – they are what majority of sheet masks use since they are cheap. Most are smooth and sturdy paper cloth. How well it adheres to the skin depends on the thickness and cut of the sheet.
- Hydro-gel – this type is thicker than paper, sometimes it is just gel and sometimes it is fabric covered in gel. I’m not a big fan of this since it’s sooo slippery and I have to lie down the whole time.
- Coconut cellulose – this is a milky white sheet that look and feels gel/jelly like, but thinner and more flexible than hydro-gel. It definitely feels like the skin absorbs the liquid better when using this rather than paper masks, almost as if it pushes the liquid into the skin. This is the best sheet if you have dry skin but it’s also rare.
In terms of the essence or serum used, it really depends on the ingredients and the skin type the product is targeting. Some are very lightweight and leaves the skin clean afterwards, so you can use it even if you have oily skin. Others have a more gel serum type of liquid that takes awhile to absorb and are great for dry skin. In the list of ingredients I linked above, you can read up on what each ingredient do as well as what skin type it’s best for, and reviews for the corresponding masks I tried.
What sheet masks are the best?
If you are just looking for basic hydration with a little boost from vitamin or antioxidants, then it’s indeed true that a cheap $1-$2 Korean sheet mask will suffice (and there are fun patterns like lace or cartoon animals!). But if you are looking for brightening, anti-aging or something beyond that, then you will get better results with a slightly more expensive mask.
In general, My Beauty Diary masks tend to provide lightweight hydration and absorbs quickly/cleanly so it’s great for all skin types, including oily. TonyMoly, THEFACESHOP and Innisfree are great for all skin types, depending on the ingredients, while NatureRepublic usually has a richer serum so it’s better for dry skin. Etude House masks are generally very fragranced, I feel like there’s a little more filler ingredients in them than other brands.
For less than $2 each, my favorites are My Beauty Diary Pearl or Hyaluronic Acid masks for hydration and Innisfree Tea Tree or Manuka Honey sheet masks to calm breakout prone skin. If you are willing to spend a little more, I recommend When and Karuna, they are my holy grail and I promise you won’t regret it. For serious hydration during the winter when my skin feels dry and flaky no matter what I put on it, When sheet masks (Snow Angel and Travelmate) will make my skin hydrated, plump, smooth but clean as if nothing happened. And when I have a breakout or irritated skin where it’s sensitive, flaky, itchy and bumping, Karuna Clarifying Mask calms the irritation and bumps after one use while leaving the skin hydrated and clean. I have tried a handful of $10+ sheet masks and do like a few (SK-II and Wei), but there’s no need when there’s When and Karuna.
And with that, I’ve wrapped up my 2 year series with cheap (<$2) sheet masks. Of course I’ll still try new sheet masks and talk about ingredients, at very least I still need to tell you about that donkey milk mask. However, looking back on all those ingredients I researched made me remember that I haven’t done any DIY in a long time. So instead of lots of sheet masks, let’s look forward to some fun DIY this year. Cheers!