What is a sheet mask? What are its benefits? Do sheet masks work? Do we really need sheet masks in our skincare routine? Let’s break it down here.
While they used to be predominantly part of Japanese and Korean beauty and skincare culture, sheet masks have now become so popular that even Hollywood a-listers post selfies with a sheet mask on.
But do we really need them in our skincare routine? Are they effective or is it all hype? What’s the proper way to use them? How often and when?
Let’s find out all about sheet masks here.
What is a sheet mask?
A sheet mask is literally a sheet (a thin piece of cotton or other material) that you put on your face (mask).
It’s shaped so that you can easily place it on your face, with holes for your eyes and mouth, and slits so you can easily fit it to the contours of your nose.
Sheet masks usually contain a higher concentration of active ingredients than regular serums.
And because the mask stays on skin longer, with the sheet acting as a barrier sealing all that goodness in, skin gets saturated with all those nutrients and can absorb them better.
What are sheet masks made of
The sheet itself is made of fibre, cotton, cellulose, rayon, coconut pulp or bamboo. Some are even made of paper that’s thick enough to carry all that product without falling apart.
You can also find many brands that offer organic sheet masks.
Sheet mask ingredients
All sheet masks deliver hydration and moisture. Skin soaks in all the serum in the mask (hyaluronic acid is usually included in the list of ingredients), which helps relieve dryness.
And depending on the kind of sheet mask you have (often also called treatment masks), they also contain other active ingredients that target specific skin concerns, like:
- Centella asiatica extract to calm irritated skin
- Collagen and ceramides that deliver anti-aging benefits and help with fine lines
- Niacinamide, which helps with hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone
Sheet mask vs. face mask
It’s important not to confuse sheet masks with face masks.
Face masks are applied on skin then rinsed off with water, unlike sheet masks where the serum is meant to sink into the skin after the mask is taken off.
Face masks come in many forms, like scrubs (I’m From Fig Scrub Mask), gels (AXIS-Y New Skin Resolution Gel Mask), and clay. You can even make your own face mask using everyday items like honey, coconut oil or oatmeal.
How to use a sheet mask
To use a sheet mask, simply remove from packaging, unfold, and place gently on your face.
Note that some masks have 2 pieces — 1 meant for the upper portion of your face and the other for the lower portion.
Whatever kind of mask you have, ensure the mask lays flat on your face with the holes aligned to your eyes, mouth and nose. Done properly, it should stay put and not slide off.
Wait 10-20 minutes (depending on the mask; each one has a recommended application time) then gently peel the mask off and discard the sheet.
Gently pat the extra serum on your face for maximum absorption and extra nourishment. Do not rinse.
And that excess serum left on the packaging itself? Don’t throw it away. You can apply it to your neck and other parts of your body — like elbows — that need extra TLC.
When to use sheet mask in routine
Sheet masks should be applied after cleansing. You can use it in the morning; I normally use it at night.
Some brands recommend prepping the skin with a toner first but others don’t, so read the package instructions.
What to do after sheet mask
I find what to do after a sheet mask depends entirely up to you. Personally, I don’t follow up with any other serums. My skin feels nourished enough.
And as for moisturizers, it depends on the mask that I used, or the weather that day.
Some are so hydrating I don’t feel the need to seal it off with a moisturizer. Or maybe it’s a very dry and cold day that I want and need an extra boost of moisture.
Listen to your skin and see what it needs.
How often to use sheet masks
In an ideal world, we should use sheet masks at least 2-3x a week. The more we use them, the better for our skin.
That’s not always in the budget, however, and we don’t always have time to spare. So use sheet masks as often as budget or practicality allows.
Or just use them when your skin needs something extra, like after a day at the beach or a day spent too long out in the snow. It’s really not something I would worry about too much.
I would suggest being mindful of the ingredients in the masks you’re using, though. Some masks include exfoliating acids, which are too strong to use daily.
Sheet mask benefits
There are many benefits to using a sheet mask.
- Intense hydration. All sheet masks promise to deliver deep and intense hydration. Skin feels soft and supple after application. And a lot of times, I find it’s not necessary to follow up with a moisturizer to lock in that hydration.
- Packed with the good stuff. And they contain as much as 3x the amount of serum we’d normally use, and usually in a higher concentration.
- Wide and varied. There’s also so many kinds of sheet masks available. So whatever your skin needs at the moment — from improved skin elasticity to a brighter complexion— you’re sure to find a sheet mask made just for it.
- Gentle. From my experience — and I’ve used a lot of sheet masks — I find sheet masks so gentle on my sensitive skin. In the years that I’ve been using them, my skin has had no bad reaction to any I’ve tried.
- Easy to use. Sheet masks are incredibly easy to use, too. Unlike face masks where things can get a little messy, you simply need to place the sheet mask on your face, wait a few minutes, then take it off.
- Immediate results. The results are immediate. Your skin is instantly smoother, brighter, more radiant after using a sheet mask.
Disadvantages to using a sheet mask
On the downside:
- One size. Our faces are all shaped differently but sheet masks are cut the same. So sometimes I’ll come across a mask where the holes for the eyes or mouth don’t align exactly where mine are. I need to constantly adjust for it to stay in place.
- Not all masks are made the same. Like all skincare products, not all sheet masks deliver the same quality of hydration. Some masks are gentler than others. And some use a higher quality type of sheet.
- Costs add up. Sheet masks are relatively inexpensive. Prices range from less than a dollar to $5 each (excluding the Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Sheet Mask which retails for $12-$20 depending on where you are). To see permanent and long lasting effect though, you’ll need to use them regularly and consistently so it can really add up. Compare that to using a small bottle of serum which you can buy for $20 and use daily for months.
- Application takes time. Sadly, we don’t always have the luxury of time. We’re often tired at the end of the day or hurrying out the door in the morning. Sheet masks need 10-20 minutes to work their magic and that’s not always practical or available.
- May not be suited for acne-prone skin. Because a sheet mask sits on the face directly, it can block pores and potentially irritate acne-prone skin.
- Serums work well too. And let’s face it, serums work too. They don’t feel as luxurious to use but the right serums (like Rovectin Clean LHA Blemish Ampoule or Melano CC Vitamin C) get the job done.
Are sheet masks necessary?
Given all this information, the question remains: are sheet masks necessary in our skin care routine?
Frankly, they’re most likely not. We can get the same benefits at a fraction of the cost using regular serums. And serums are also quicker to apply.
But will we want to use sheet masks anyway? I definitely would.
I use sheet masks weekly, which is not as often as recommended, but that works for me, my schedule and my budget.
It’s not ideal but I still love how I get to slow down once a week while waiting for the sheet mask to do its thing. And I especially love how my skin feels after.
I’d say it’s pretty hard to beat that instant nourishment and the immediate skin happiness that sheet masks bring.
So while it may not be a necessary addition to your skincare regimen, it’s great for a self-care day, a girls’ night in, or before a special occasion. Sheet masks are a great complement to an already good, solid basic skin care routine.
Try and see how you like them! Make sure to find one that suits your skin type and specific skin concern.
Some of my favourite Korean sheet masks include (affiliate links):
- Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Sheet Mask – soothes and calms skin
- Etude House Moistfull Collagen Sheet Mask – delivers intense hydration and anti-aging benefits
- Soonjung Panthensoside Sheet Mask – perfect for healing damaged and sensitive skin
As always, remember that every person’s skin and skin type is different so what might work for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
So before trying a new product, it pays to do a little bit of research first. Pay special attention to ingredients that you might have a reaction to.
And doing a patch-test is always a good idea. Unsure? Best to consult your dermatologist.
Happy skin experimenting!