The Horrifying Truth About Sheet Masks
Alicia Yoon, founder of Korean beauty e-commerce boutique Peach & Lily, describes sheet masks as the most "quintessential" K-beauty product there is. In the skincare community, we've been using them, praising them, and recommending them for years. But a new report reveals that many sheet masks are manufactured under shockingly unsanitary conditions.
According to a revealing new exposé from Racked, there is a decent chance the sheet masks sitting in your bathroom were folded and packaged by an underpaid human employee at his or her private home, not a machine. These employees often use their bare hands. One set of photos shows someone using a recycled piece of cardboard as a guide for folding the masks.
A number of Korean brands have been identified for illegally employing people without manufacturing licenses for years. This past weekend, a Seoul-based Korean woman with experience in the beauty industry brought this issue to the public's attention by way of a Reddit post.
The details of the at-home packaging process are as follows: First, dry masks and envelopes are dropped off to mask folders' homes. Employees use a guide to fold the stacks of masks ("much like the sort used to fold shirts in a retail shop," says Racked); then they insert them into the mask envelopes. This labor earns them about $5 an hour.
The masks sit in their open envelopes until they are picked up and taken to the factory. There, they are sterilized and filled with product. Because of their unregulated manufacturing, "sterilized" masks are sometimes still found to contain hair and other debris.
What's equally unsettling is that sheet masks made in factories are not necessarily more hygienic. According to PopSugar, a Korean blogger who claimed to work part-time for a sheet-mask brand described workers smoking cigarettes as they folded masks at the factory.
K-beauty customers have reported instances of purchasing sheet masks that were filled with debris, smelled of cigarettes, and caused irritating skin reactions. Brands that have been explicitly implicated so far include SNP, Mediheal, Forencos, and Sooryehan.
If this news turns you off to sheet masks for the moment, we understand. Instead, shop our favorite American-made non-sheet masks below.
Shop USA-Made Masks
Want more inside info on K-beauty? Take a look inside the mind-blowing skincare routine of a Korean model.