Perfect for a spa night or a weekly treatment, or simply to give your family or roommates a refresh, sheet masks are one of many Korean beauty (also known as K-beauty) trends to take hold in the United States. And for good reason. “Sheet fabric creates a barrier on your skin, which allows your pores to fully open up and dilate to take in the serum deeply,” says Linda Wang, founder of natural beauty company Karuna Skin. “A sheet mask is like a supercharged magnet, allowing your skin to take in a bottle of serum all at once.”
Known for their elaborate beauty regimens—which can include ten or more steps—and willingness to try interesting natural ingredients, Korean women are shaping how we approach our skin care. The range of K-beauty treatments—masks, serums, blemish creams and much more—often feature plant-based ingredients formulated with top performance in mind. We have reason to believe the hot-now trend of sheet masks will be a mainstay for those looking for a convenient, effective facial treatment. So here are a few tips for choosing and using single-use face masks.
Face the (ingredient) facts
As with any skin care product, not all sheet masks are created equal. Be sure to read the ingredient list carefully and select a mask that employs science-backed, nontoxic ingredients. According to Katie Sobelman, known online as the “Organic Esthetician,” the most common no-no’s that pop up in sheet masks are dimethicone, mineral oil, glycols and synthetic fragrance.
Next, look for ingredients based on your skin care need, whether it be soothing irritated skin, hydrating or providing a healthy-aging boost. “My favorite sheet masks tend to include hyaluronic acid (HA), which is an amazing skin hydrator that holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water, and lactobacillus ferment, which helps healthy collagen synthesis, intensifies ingredients and can reduce inflammation,” says Sobelman. Also look for plant-based actives such as plant stem cells to help rejuvenate.
Use clean sheets
One potential downside of sheet masks is that they can be pretty wasteful, from the wrapper to the mask itself. “It’s wise to consider both the ingredients in your sheet mask and the sheet mask material,” says Jolene Hart, certified beauty and health coach and author of Eat Pretty Every Day (Chronicle, 2016). “That material affects how the product is delivered, its breathability on your skin and the health of the planet, based on how biodegradable and sustainable the materials are.” Hart recommends finding masks that are biodegradable and compostable and come with minimal packaging materials. She notes that cotton and bamboo can also more effectively deliver the ingredients to your skin. Sobelman recommends pure cellulose and sea kelp as an excellent sheet mask base.
Adjust to fit your needs
Sobelman loves how convenient masks are, but suggests steps you can take to make the mask even more effective. “I always like stretching out the eye and mouth holes before I apply my sheet masks. This makes them a little more comfortable to hang out in,” she says. Another thrifty tip: Get extra mileage from your mask by massaging some of the extra serum into your neck and chest—and then save a little something for later. “Every mask I’ve used seems to have extra liquid left over,” she says. “This liquid can be used for days after as a serum in your normal skin care routine. Just seal up the top so it doesn’t evaporate.”
Don’t stop there
K-beauty trends leverage a variety of plant-based ingredients and relaxing rituals that can be incorporated every day. Try skin care products that use antioxidant-rich birch sap or green tea, apricot for its enzymes or probiotic-packed fermented ingredients, which may have antiaging benefits. Of course, hyaluronic acid remains a go-to (and not just in K-beauty). And remember: Though the Korean regimens may be lengthy, taking up to 15 or more minutes to pamper yourself morning or evening can be an excellent way to clear your skin—and your mind.