Sheet masks. The breakthrough genre that made #masking a verb comes with its own set of challenges.
When to use a sheet mask? Which one to use? How to make it stay on the face? Do I rinse afterwards or not? What about moisturising afterwards — yes or now? Should I really #sheetmask everyday? Can I skip moisturiser if I use a hydrating sheet mask? Can sheet masks replace all other face masks? Are all sheet masks good?
So. Many. Questions.
Let’s start looking at the answers.
PS: While it’s wider assumed that sheet masks started with Korean skin care, they were actually invented by Japanese Geishas. They would soak the leftover silk scraps from making kimono gowns in flower water and put them across their faces while resting, as part of their elaborate beauty routine.
Start with a clean canvas for your sheet mask
It sounds like the most common of logic but I know at least two friends who regularly slap on sheet masks without washing their face first, unless they are wearing makeup.
But makeup or not, you need to start with a squeaky clean canvas so that skin can best absorb all the active ingredients.
Plus, without a good wash you also run the risk of trapping in impurities and forcing them deeper into the skin. So, wash with a gentle cleanser right before putting on a sheet face mask.
One sheet face mask does not fit all
Like traditional masks, different varieties of sheet masks solve different skin issues. So take a look at the ingredients and pick out the right mask for the best results:
The most hydrating sheet mask is one that contains hyaluronic acid, which helps skin retain more moisture. And skip anything with alcohol or synthetic fragrance, which will further dry out your skin.
Best sheet masks for dry skin (click to buy it now): Lancôme Advanced Génifique Hydrogel Melting Mask, Dr. Jart+ Dermask Water Jet Vital Hydra Solution, La Mer Treatment Lotion Hydrating Mask, Estée Lauder Micro Essence Infusion Mask, SK-II Pitera Facial Treatment Mask
Dull or tired skin
To bring back the glow, look for brightening ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide and pearl powder in your face mask sheet.
Best sheet masks for dull or tired skin (click to buy it now): Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Sheet Masks, Shiseido White Lucent Power Brightening Mask, SK-II Brightening Derm Revival Mask, 111Skin Y Theorem Bio Cellulose Face Mask
Sensitive or irritated skin
Anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide, glycerine, camellia sinensis leaf extract, centella asiatica extract, aloe vera and soothing botanicals will help calm down your skin and strengthen its protective barrier.
Best sheet masks for irritated or sensitive skin (click to buy it now): Dr. Jart+ Dermask Water Jet Soothing Hydra Solution, Knesko Nano Gold Repair Collagen Face Mask, Farmacy Coconut Gel Sheet Mask, Avene Soothing Sheet Mask
Anti-aging (think: fine lines, wrinkles or sagging skin)
Opt for nutrient-rich masks, especially those which list collagen or vitamin B12 as a prime ingredient. These help firm up the skin’s contours, boost elasticity, and plump away fine lines.
Best sheet masks for fine lines, wrinkles or sagging skin (click to buy it now): Lancôme Rènergie Lift Multi-Action Ultra Double-Wrapping Cream Face Mask, Tatcha Luminous Deep Hydration Lifting Mask, Dr. Jart+ Dermask Intra Jet Wrinkless Solution, JLo Beauty That Limitless Glow Sheet Mask
Look at the ingredients…
While sheet masks are a super-potent way of getting maximum skin benefits in minimum time, they are not perfect.
Many of the generic versions contain chemicals that are damaging both for the skin and our overall health. Some to avoid: alcohol, parabens, synthetic dyes and mineral oil.
… and the sheet itself
Sheet masks come in all forms, from paper and fiber to tin foil and bio-cellulose.
Those made from “clingy” ingredients like hydrogel, coconut, sea kelp and bio-cellulose adhere to the skin most tightly, forming a tight seal and delivering the ingredients most effectively. They are also the easiest to apply, as they don’t keep slipping off the skin like the fiber and foil versions.
Even if you’re going for fiber, try and make sure it’s unbleached and 100% cotton, to minimise toxic materials from touching your skin and leading to toxic issues.
Super-charge your sheet mask
How and where you store and apply your sheet face mask may double or triple its benefits.
If your skin is irritated, inflamed, over-heated or simply needs a hefty pick-me-up, chill your mask in the refrigerator before applying.
Or if you want to make a hydrating sheet mask more effective, pop it on while you’re in the shower (or sauna). The water-charged steam particles will intensify the moisture retaining capacity of your skin.
Tweak your technique
To make a facial sheet mask adhere most effectively and sans air pockets, start applying it from the forehead, then line up with the eyes and work downwards towards the chin.
But don’t stop there: For dull skin and anti-ageing benefits, lightly massage the sheet upwards to boost blood flow; for puffy skin, go downwards and outwards to encourage lymphatic drainage.
Customise your sheet
How many times have you struggled with a hydrating sheet mask that simply refuses to conform to the contours of your face?
Know that it’s perfectly fine to snip or tear off tiny bits to make it sit flush against your face. I usually end up enlarging the mouth area as sheet masks tend to irritate my lips, which have some of the most fragile skin anywhere on the body.
Max out the essence
It’s the fluid in a facial sheet mask that holds all the skin boosting goodness. So, don’t waste a drop of this precious essence!
Scoop out any remaining essence in the packet (there’s always some!) and slather it all over your neck, chest, hands and feet to spread the love.
Leaving it on for longer is NOT better
Always, always check the instructions on the back of the pack. If it says you should apply the mask for 15-20 minutes, don’t assume that leaving it on for longer will increase the benefits.
On the contrary, once the mask starts to dry, it will start sucking out moisture from your skin.
And it will also increase skin temperature, which can increase the bacteria count, leading to acne and other skin issues. So, make sure you watch the clock!
If one sheet mask is good, are two better? When paired prudently, most definitely.
Experts advocate starting with a purifying clay or mud mask to open up the pores and cleanse them of debris; then rinse it off and follow with a sheet mask to flood the skin with beneficial ingredients.
This will super-charge the efficacy of the facial sheet mask, while also deep cleansing the skin, the latter being something that sheet masks rarely achieve (more on this in a bit).
Pair a sheet face mask with an eye mask
In a similar vein of multitasking, pop on an eye mask under your sheet mask. Not only will it cut your masking time by half, it will also super-charge your eye mask with some hefty hydration and extra TLC.
Perfect options: Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Eye Treatment Mask, Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Pure Luxury Lift & Firm Hydra-Gel Eye Patches, 111Skin Cryo-Depuffing Eye Mask, Wander Beauty Baggage Claim Eye Masks
Don’t wash it off!
Unless you have super acne-prone skin or have to head out of the house (that’s why I usually apply a sheet mask right before bedtime), don’t wash off the leftover essence after lifting away the sheet.
It may seem a little sticky at first but the extra essence is potent with beneficial nutrients and is meant to be absorbed into the skin — especially for a hydrating sheet mask.
And for maximum benefit, don’t just pat it into the skin. Instead, use this as an opportunity to give yourself a mini facial massage — the creaminess of the serum will help the massage, while the massage will help the serum sink deeper into the skin. Double whammy!
What comes after a sheet mask?
Remember that a face sheet mask is serum based. So, follow it up with a moisturiser to seal in the treatment and multi-charge the benefits.
I repeat: Even using a hydrating sheet mask is NOT a substitute for a moisturiser.
But… remember that sheet masks can’t replace all other masks
While face sheet masks are the super-heroes of skincare, there’s one thing that they can’t do well: Deep cleansing or purifying the skin.
That’s because they are loaded with serums that sink into the skin rather than, say a clay-based mask, that draws impurities out of the skin.
So, a hydrating sheet mask or brightening sheet mask is always a better promise than one that pegs itself on deep cleansing.
And… they can’t replace your daily serum
Unless you’re using a sheet mask twice a day, every single day — and not only will that get seriously expensive, you’re at risk of overloading your skin and clogging your pores by doing this — you still need those daily serums and moisturisers in your skincare routine.
So, think of facial sheet masks as more of a booster rather than a replacement for your daily skincare rituals.