At a glance
In this complete guide, I explain how I choose my sheet masks, how I use them and I also tell you about the ones I have tried and recommend!
Sheet masks are one of the steps that I really appreciate in my skincare routine. They are efficient, easy to use and there is now a huge choice of sheet masks available! It can be a little overwhelming at first! Today, I’m going to help you figure it out and better understand how to choose between all these different sheet masks.
If there’s one Korean product that really intrigued me before I knew more about K-Beauty, it was definitely sheet masks.
I tried regular sheet masks before (I think they were from Sephora, but I’m not even sure anymore), but they didn’t impress me.
I found them difficult to put on, they didn’t hold in place well and finally I wasn’t really convinced by the result either.
In short, I thought that it wasn’t for me, that it was just a gimmick and useless anyway. It was mainly a funny mask to show in a selfie on Instagram, but nothing more.
But when I went to Korea in 2017, I told myself that maybe I was missing something… They seemed to be so popular there!
There were tons of different ones in Seoul’s shops, at all prices, it was insane! And I saw people buying it in bulk there (I’m not even exaggerating, if you’ve ever been in the Incheon/ Seoul airport duty-free, you know what I’m talking about 😉 people buying hundreds of them).
During my stay, I spent a little time browsing in the shops, and I played it safe by first figuring out which were the best-selling sheet masks. I bought a few of them and in the evening, I tried them on in my hotel room to get an idea and decide which ones I liked best.
You’ve probably already understood it, it was an eye-opening experience! I finally understood why sheet masks were so popular. And I became an addict myself.
In this article, I’ll tell you a little more about this category of products that is still quite unknown in the West or misrepresented. I’ll explain how I choose my sheet masks, how I use them and I also tell you about the ones I have tried and would recommend!
What’s a sheet mask:
A sheet mask consists of two elements:
– a pre-cut face-shaped material with holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth, made of various materials (fibers, cotton, bio-cellulose, coconut pulp, hydrogel…). It’s the “sheet” of the sheet mask.
– this material is infused with a liquid solution or essence (depending on the formula, it can be more or less thick) made with different skincare ingredients. This solution is generally quite similar to an essence or a serum when you look at the composition. Depending on the mask, this essence can be moisturizing, anti-aging, lightening, nourishing, purifying, etc.
When placed on the face, the sheet mask is directly in contact with the skin. In fact, the material allows the essence to stay in contact with the skin longer and without drying.
A sheet mask is for single use only and is usually individually packaged, to be practical and easy to travel with.
Clearly, this is not the most environmentally friendly product category, because it’s a lot of packaging for a product that is thrown away after one single use… That being said, cosmetics brands are increasingly committed to offering more environmentally friendly packaging, with the use of recycled materials for outer packaging and biodegradable materials for the sheet masks. More and more brands have taken note and less wasteful options are definitely coming!
Where do sheet masks come from?
Sheet masks come from South Korea, a country known for its big obsession with cosmetics and skincare.
They’ve been around for less than 10 years and have been very popular for about 5 years. So they’re still relatively new to the market.
Today, sheet masks are very popular throughout Asia, but not only. Sheet masks can also be found all over the world!
The vast majority are still manufactured in South Korea because where the factories with the latest innovations in this field can be found.
In this product category, innovation is constantly happening! There are sheet mask “trends” and from one year to the next, you’ll find tons of new ones in the shops.
A person I know who lives in China told me that she tried to start a sheet masks business a few years ago and had to give up because the trends changed so often that she could no longer offer products that met her customers’ needs.
Sheet mask trends change so much that they rapidly become outdated, and the companies that produce them must have a lot of machines and associated technology to be able to meet the huge and evolving market demand!
What’s the difference with a moisturizing rinse-off mask?
The sheet mask material forms a barrier that retains moisture for longer and therefore allows more time for the ingredients to penetrate deeper into the skin. This is why the skin often looks more plumped and luminous after using a sheet mask.
The results are generally more immediate than when you use a rinse-off mask.
A sheet mask is also much more like a treatment than a rinse-off mask. Indeed, it’s recommended to leave the essence of the sheet mask on the skin. A rinse-off mask only works for as long as it’s left on the skin. A sheet mask, on the other hand, works when it’s on the face, and also afterward.
Sheet masks allow you to give your usual skincare routine a boost whenever you feel the need.
Why use a sheet mask?
A sheet mask is:
– very relaxing (if you are not claustrophobic, of course 😉 ),
– easy to use (you can really do it anywhere),
– extremely effective (results are visible immediately after removal),
– and generally, it’s also quite affordable!
The benefits for the skin:
Sheet masks are generally very moisturizing, and they allow the skin to take full advantage of the product’s active ingredients. While you leave the sheet mask on your skin, it’s really saturated with moisturizing, lightening or anti-aging ingredients.
Sheet masks allow you to give your usual skincare routine a boost whenever you feel the need. Indeed, for me, it’s more like an extra treatment.
In Korea, some people recommend using them every day for a deeper treatment. I personally find that it’s a lot, but sometimes, if I feel that my skin needs a little bit of help, I like to apply a sheet mask daily for a week and I must say that the results are indeed quite impressive!
The types of skin that will benefit the most from sheet masks are therefore dry, dehydrated and mature skins. In short, all the skin types that need a lot of hydration!
But a combination to oily skin can also benefit from them, especially if it’s dehydrated.
And of course, the sheet masks are totally gender neutral (my husband loves them, especially when I prepare them for him 😉 ).
What’s in a sheet mask?
The material (= the sheet):
A good sheet mask material must be:
– large enough to cover the entire face (same for the openings for the eyes, nose, and mouth),
– soft on the skin (if it stings or itches, the waiting time seems very, very long),
– flexible and stretchy enough to be able to adhere properly to the skin. If the mask is too rigid, it will fold, won’t completely cover the skin and will, therefore, be less effective,
– it must also remain wet long enough. A good sheet mask remains wet for at least 20-30 minutes. If it’s dry after 10 minutes, it’s generally not good a good sign!
There are many different materials for sheet masks. This is one of the key factors that will affect the quality and also the price of the final product.
Some examples of different sheet masks materials:
– Non-woven fibers (or microfibers):
Non-woven fibers masks have a quite rigid texture, which feels a little like paper, resulting in them not being the most comfortable on the skin. They generally don’t have the stretch necessary to adhere properly to the skin and they can fall off easily if you don’t lie down. They dry rather quickly. However, they’re very inexpensive. Most low-end and very inexpensive sheet masks are made of this material. You probably understood it, they’re not my favorites!
Cotton masks are made from natural cotton fibers. They have a finer texture than non-woven fibers masks, but they have the same characteristics. They don’t adhere very well to the skin and aren’t very flexible. They also dry rather quickly, but not as fast as with non-woven fibers masks. Cotton masks have a slightly better ability to correctly deliver serum to the skin. They’re also quite cheap.
Bio-cellulose masks are made of woven cellulose fibers. They’re made from natural materials, such as fermented coconut water for example, and are generally biodegradable. They’re softer than the two previous materials and therefore adhere better to the skin. They generally remain wet long enough, which allows them to be more effective. However, they’re a little more expensive to produce, so the final product is a little more expensive.
Hydrogel masks are mixtures of cosmetic serums with gelatin, which gives the mask the sensation of a very fresh gel-like film. They’re generally more effective than cheaper masks made of non-woven fibers and cotton. They’re easy to apply and adhere very well to the skin. They also don’t dry too quickly during the waiting time. On the other hand, they’re quite fragile. Generally, they’re rather thin and therefore rip quite easily. To counteract this inconvenience, they’re usually delivered with a separate lower and upper part. The main disadvantage of hydrogel masks is that they’re generally quite expensive.
– Foiled sheet masks:
Don’t worry, foiled sheet masks don’t consist of one single sheet of foil that would be super uncomfortable on the skin! They’re generally made up of several layers, and the outer layer is the foiled one. The layer that adheres to the skin is usually made of bio-cellulose or cotton. The advantage of these foiled sheet masks is that they keep moisture longer than other materials and also able to slightly heat the skin. They therefore have a greater “insulating” power and heat can also be beneficial to promote the penetration of active ingredients! Of course, they’re also quite fun because you get to look like a C-3PO robot in no time at all 😉
They often consist of a separate lower and upper part. They tend to be a little stiff at first, which makes them slightly less comfortable than other materials. But generally, with the heat, they become more comfortable to wear. They’re quite expensive to buy, they’re often top-of-the-range masks.
– Infused with charcoal or clay:
These sheet masks are a little confusing. They’re indeed quite similar to the classic purifying rinse masks, often containing the same ingredients. On the other hand, they’re much more practical than the latter because the rinsing is really very fast. They dry less quickly than a conventional clay mask, so they are less drying than these. In general, they’re recognizable by their black or dark grey color. Price and quality vary a lot depending on the brands.
– Bubbly sheet masks:
A variation of the previous ones, they also often contain coal and detoxifying ingredients, with sparkling water. They also contain foaming ingredients such as those found in cleaning products. When applied to the face, they start to form a foam on the top of the mask, which should be used to massage the skin at the end of the mask application time. These masks must be rinsed and used at the beginning of the routine, instead of your cleansing product.
Depending on the brands, they’re more or less drying, it’s not recommended to use them every day. These are probably the most “fun” sheet masks because the foam really looks quite impressively on the face, creating a pretty funny effect to look at! Price and quality levels vary according to the brands.
– Micro-current sheet masks:
One of the latest trends in the market. On each side of the mask there is an electrode, there are small circuits that conduct the micro-current to stimulate the facial muscles and optimize the penetration of the active ingredients. Clearly, it’s still fairly confidential and of course, they’re rather expensive sheet masks (it’s quite technical!). I’m not sure you can find them outside Korea at the moment.
I probably forgot a lot… In this product category, innovation is constantly happening and there are tons of new releases all the time!
The material of the sheet masks can also be printed, for a more funny effect. There are sheet masks with cat faces, cartoon characters, floral motifs, lace… The possibilities are endless!
The essence is the product that impregnates the material of the sheet mask.
I’m not even going to try to make a list of all the different categories of essence that can be found in a sheet mask because it’s almost endless! Each sheet mask has its own particularity, this essence can be moisturizing, nourishing, anti-aging, lightening, calming, purifying…
Essences can be very liquid and light or much thicker, almost like a liquid cream or even an oil in some cases.
The amount of essence in a good sheet mask is generally between 20 and 30ml. Less than that and the sheet mask may dry too quickly.
Note about the essence quantity in sheet masks:
At the moment, I see more and more advertisements indicating that the sheet mask contains the equivalent of “one month’s worth of serum”, or even “a whole bottle of serum” with a demo to support it where you see a person pressing a sheet mask over a bottle to show that it will fill it.
Technically, if you refer only to the weight of the product, it’s true that a sheet mask contains as much product as a bottle of serum.
But this argument is very far-fetched and often used by some brands for its psychological impact. In reality, this information is of little interest: it’s not really possible or interesting to compare a single-use product which purpose is to have an immediate effect on the skin with a product that is used on a daily basis, and is a long-term treatment.
It’s not really a piece of interesting information to give, IMO. It would probably make more sense to measure the skin’s hydration level before and after using the sheet mask if you want to provide impactful data.
So, in short, check that your sheet mask contains a minimum of 20ml of essence (it’s indicated on the bag) to be sure that it will not dry too quickly and forget about the serum bottle information which is useless anyway 😉
The ingredients list for these essences is often indicated in English on the back of the sheet masks packaging.
Personally, I avoid sheet masks that contain a concentration of alcohol and/or fragrance that is too high. Alcohol, when present in large quantities (= in the first three ingredients), can be irritating, even for the fragrance (in addition to being suffocating in this format). A little bit is fine, but a lot is definitely not great for the skin.
But honestly, especially if you buy Korean sheet masks, it’s usually OK. In Korea, these are highly regulated and the ingredients lists are generally intended for the most sensitive skins.
How and when to use it:
You apply your sheet mask on a cleansed, ideally exfoliated skin.
– Open the mask package and before taking out the mask, pour the essence that is often at the bottom of the bag into the palm of your hand. Apply the essence on your face.
– Then remove the mask from its packaging.
– Unfold the mask and place it on your face, aligning the holes with your eyes, nose, and mouth. If the mask is on a grid because it’s very thin, use the grid to apply the mask more easily and remove it once your mask is correctly placed on your face.
– Smooth out air bubbles and mask folds. A mask that is not properly applied will not perform as well. The mask is only effective if it’s in contact with the skin 😉
– If there is still essence left in the bag, you can apply this additional essence onto your neck, arms, elbows, knees, etc.
– Relax for 15-25 minutes. Or you can just get on with your own business (I often cook with my sheet mask on my face 😉 ). Some masks can be kept longer (maximum 45 minutes) but if you feel that after 20 minutes, it’s already starting to dry, you should remove it. Keeping a mask on your face for too long can have a dehydrating effect; less is often more with sheet masks!
– Remove the mask from your face and discard it (sheet masks are always for single use).
– Gently tap the essence on your face for maximum absorption.
– Personally, I don’t think you should rinse out your sheet mask. It’s a treatment, it would be a shame not to keep it on the skin for as long as possible!
– Then apply a cream moisturizer and/or a facial oil to seal the moisture provided by the sheet mask. This step is optional if the sheet mask you applied is rich enough (oil or cream texture). In this case, you can stop there.
Et voilà, look at your beautiful plumped skin in the mirror!
You can use a sheet mask at any time: morning, evening, during a flight (I have done it many times!)…
The only condition is to have clean skin underneath!
I prefer to do my sheet masks in the evening, they replace my essences and even some of my serums! It allows me to simplify my skincare routine a lot 😉
Generally, I use a sheet mask once or twice a week but if my skin is very dehydrated or if I want a boost, I use one every night for a week!
There are no real rules in this area. You can use a sheet mask when you feel the need! 🙂
The different types of sheet mask:
Generally the price and brand of sheet masks are really a quality indicator, especially for the Korean ones!
Very affordable sheet masks:
There is usually a huge choice in these shops and their sheet masks are usually very affordable, often at $1 each.
They’re not the most qualitative. You have to look at the list of ingredients because they’re sometimes very rich in alcohol and fragrance, with a poor quality material, not flexible enough and that dry too fast. They don’t contain many active ingredients, so their effects are quite limited.
That being said, some of them are very good and at this price, it allows you to try a lot of different ones!
In this category, I liked the ones from Missha, a Korean brand I like a lot.
Middle range sheet masks:
My favorites ones! You can definitely find gems in this category if you look around a bit.
Their price is a little higher, usually between $5 and $10 for one sheet mask.
In Korea, they’re usually made by brands specialized in sheet masks, who do only these kind of products and who have a monumental choice in their catalog!
There is something for everyone and it’s generally in this category that you can find the most innovative ones. Trends change very frequently and it’s often these brands that offer a lot of new and original formats.
In Korea, you can find them in drugstores like Olive Young, or Lobh’s, which are a kind of mix between Sephora and a pharmacy (for me, it’s heaven lol). Fortunately, they can also be found quite easily online!
The choice is so huge that it’s quite overwhelming at first. So personally, when I was there, I played it safe by first trying the most popular of them.
Korean consumers are so highly-educated in cosmetics that the products they enjoy are often very good. So you don’t take too many risks when you go for the Korean bestsellers.
Then I tried everything I thought was funny, innovative or interesting and in general they were pretty good too! As I said earlier, in this category, you can just go to town and try everything!
I haven’t explored much the western options of these sheet masks so I don’t know if they’re good or not. But some of them look great!
Luxury sheet masks:
High-end sheet masks are generally those made by luxury skincare brands.
Generally, they are quite conventional, but the essence makes the difference here regarding the quality of the finsih product.
The prices are clearly higher in this category, it can go up to $25-$30 for a single sheet mask.
These masks are rather a treatment to used on special occasions, given their price!
I have bought and used some of them, I’ll try to do detailed reviews in the future!
Organic sheet masks:
A fairly recent category that responds to an increasing demand from consumers!
These sheet masks are generally made from natural material (like coconut pulp or seaweed leaves for example) and are also completely biodegradable, from the material to the packaging.
For me, this is THE category that will probably grow a lot in the future.
Other sheet masks (body, eyes, lips):
There are also more and more specialized sheet masks for other parts of the body: neck, eyes, feet, hair, boobs (yup!)…
I haven’t tried many either in this category but I must say that I’m quite a fan of the hydrogel patch masks that you can use for your eyes contour. I think they work well, especially if I use them in the morning after I have just woken up!
How to choose a sheet mask?
I choose my sheet masks the same way I choose the rest of my skincare products: I always look at the list of ingredients and I try to find reviews from people who tried them already.
Regarding the list of ingredients, I’m not a fan of sheet masks that contain too much alcohol and synthetic fragrance that can be irritating. So if the alcohol is in the first 5 ingredients and/or the perfume is too high on the list, I’ll pass.
Ideally, I prefer that my sheet masks contain ingredients that are interesting for the skin (natural or not, I don’t mind, I just want them to be effective). If I see that most of the essence is made up of water, alcohol, perfume, silicone, with a tiny bit of glycerin and hyaluronic acid for good measure, it doesn’t make me want to try it…
When the sheet mask material is made of cotton or microfibers, I’m not very keen on trying either.
I also trust the specialized blog reviews for sheet masks. There are not many of them and they are run by passionate people who test a lot of them!
And when in doubt, I just try it! This is still the best way to know if a sheet mask is right for you. And as I said earlier, I mainly focus on Korean sheet masks at the moment, but I know there are plenty of cool options out there!
Where to buy sheet masks?
If I can’t go and get supplies on the spot (it’s ideal but I don’t spend every weekend in Seoul, unfortunately lol), I usually shop a lot online.
5 sheet masks brands to try:
I focused on Korean brands, they’re the ones I used the most in the recent years!
You know, I have a thing with honey. So a range of honey-based sheet masks, obviously, I couldn’t miss it!
They are super moisturizing, full of natural active ingredients, they smell so good that you could eat them and they give a pretty glow to your complexion. What more could you ask for!
There are several variations of these honey masks.
Mediheal is an institution in South Korea. The brand is known to be specialized in sheet masks and they’re among the market leaders in this field. Chinese customers love them and in duty-free, they are by far the best selling masks!
As its name suggests, Mediheal is a dermo-cosmetic brand, the company that produces them is a pharmaceutical company.
The products are mostly distributed in drugstores but also in dermatology practices (in Korea, dermatologists/ plastic surgeons practices are absolutely everywhere!).
If you count the limited editions of their best-sellers, they have not far from 80 different sheet masks references. Now that’s a wide choice! There is something for everyone, clearly!
Regarding the ingredient list, they are fairly well balanced with many active ingredients, and relatively little or no alcohol and fragrance. These are probably the most effective masks I have ever tried!
I haven’t tried them all (but I will someday 😉 ) but I really like their 3 best-sellers:
: this one is perfect if your skin is acne prone. It calms and purifies the skin while moisturizing it. It contains Tea Tree essence, chamomile extract and Centella Asiatica. I try to always have some on hand for one of these days! 😉
– : one of the most effective brightening masks I have tried (it contains a lot of niacinamide). I totally understand that it’s a best-seller in Asia!
JayJun Cosmetic is a skincare brand founded in 2014 by a team of dermatologists, cosmetologists and plastic surgeons to offer a solution for people with skin issues.
The brand is famous for its products made with very high quality materials and ingredients. They are a little more expensive compared to other brands.
Fun fact, the American actress Drew Barrymore teamed up with the brand for a collection of exclusive sheet masks a few months ago!
I discovered them more recently and I haven’t had the opportunity to try them all yet but if I had to recommend one, it would have to be their best seller, the . In Korea, it’s a cult favorite for its anti-aging and radiance action.
Concentrated in mineral-rich Jeju mineral water for a deep hydration, it also contains betaine, beta-glucan, ceramides to smooth and moisturize the skin, as well as niacinamide and adenosine to give radiance. It’s super effective and brightens the complexion immediately!
A nice thing about it: it also contains a cleanser and an essence that you can use before applying your mask. This is the perfect sheet mask if you’re traveling!
JayJun sheet masks are usually a little more expensive but online, you can find them at very good prices!
23 years old:
One of my big crushes this year!
23 years old is, as its name suggests very subtely, a brand that is rather oriented towards anti-aging. But apart from this ridiculous name, the products are really worth discovering.
The brand has a rather professional aspect IMO with masks that remind me of those you could find in beauty salons.
Its material is super thick and stretchy, it’s really comfortable to wear (it weighs 90g and is made of microfibers, it’s much more than the average sheet masks but it still fits on the skin and doesn’t fall when you wear it).
There is no hole for the mouth, which can be a little bit weird at first but it’s so effective that it doesn’t bother me (and if really, you don’t like it, you can make a notch with a pair of scissors, and it’s fixed!). It’s also larger and covers more skin surface area. I just love it!
Dr Jart +:
This Korean brand is probably the most famous of the lot, its products are distributed all over the world!
Rather innovative brand, it offers in its catalog a lot of sheet masks I like. I left out their creepy rubber masks that I don’t find very practical (they’re not very flexible) and instead focused on the classic fabric masks that I find very good. My husband is an absolute fan, by the way; the stock of Dr Jart + masks that is at home belongs to him, I’m not allowed to go near it!
From time to time, I manage to convince him to leave me one and in this case, it’s necessarily the which is very effective in moisturizing, repairing and nourishing the skin without weighing it down. I like it very much in winter, it’s great to comfort my skin which is no longer used to the cold!
It is rich in shea butter, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and essential fatty acids… In short, only good skin repairing ingredients!
Dr Jart + sheet masks aren’t the most affordable but at least they’re easily accessible (you can find them at Sephora) and the quality is definitely there!
The essential in summary:
– a sheet mask is an extra treatment to your usual care routine, once or twice a week,
– it can be used as a treatment, one a day for 1 to 2 weeks if you feel the need,
– a sheet mask is for single use only, it cannot be reused several times,
– if you have sensitive skin (or even in general), avoid formulas that contain a lot of alcohol and fragrance,
– don’t forget to smooth your sheet mask on the skin. If there are too many folds and/or air bubbles, it won’t be in contact with the skin as well as it should be and will be less effective,
– feel free to use the remaining essence in the bag by applying it on the neck, décolleté, hands, arms…
– don’t leave your sheet mask too long on your skin. If it starts to dry, it may dehydrate your skin,
– do not rinse your sheet mask (except for cleansing sheet masks). It’s a treatment so it can continue to work after the waiting time,
– in general, it’s better to apply a cream and/or a facial oil after the sheet mask to properly seal the hydration provided by the latter. But if the essence of the sheet mask is already very rich, it is not necessary.
If you’re still here, you definitely deserve a pat on the back!
Sheet masks are definitely a very inspiring topic for me, I definitely appreciate them for their practicality and great efficiency.
Of course, I’m well aware that sheet masks are not the best regarding respect for the environment, and brands must continue and increase their efforts to offer packaging that is easier to recycle. Some brands now offer packages containing several sheet masks in a biodegradable material, but these initiatives are still quite rare.
There’s a lot of innovation in this category, so let’s hope that the consumer pressure will push brands to be more ethical in the future!