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It’s a well-known fact that Korean skincare is, simply put, on a whole other level than anything else. The entire approach is different from what we’re used to stateside. “Korean skincare is different from American skincare not only in terms of trendy packaging and innovative formulations but also in the approach to thinking about skincare itself. It’s a daily way of life,” explains New York City board-certified dermatologist Dr. Y. Claire Chang. “K-beauty emphasizes hydration, nurturing your skin, and preventing damage rather than treating damage that has already occurred,” she adds, noting that that’s why hydrating, soothing ingredients are so popular in these formulas.
And while mimicking the oh-so-famous 10-step Korean skincare routine can feel daunting, reaching for a K-beauty mask is one of the easiest ways to reap these benefits, fast.
Ahead, the best Korean face masks out there.
Best Overall: Glow Recipe Watermelon Sleeping Mask
You’d be hard-pressed to find ANY brand, Korean or not, that consistently launches products that sell out at the rapid rate that Glow Recipe does. Their newbies sell out, quite literally, within hours; this is one of the OGs, well-worth all of the hype. The overnight treatment works while you snooze, loaded with hydrating watermelon extract and hyaluronic acid, as well as an AHA blend. The result? Smoother, plumper, bouncier skin.
Best Drugstore: Missha Airy Fit Sheet Mask
Prefer to shop for skincare at the drugstore? Don’t miss this wallet-friendly pick, made of, wait for it, rice paper. As compared to many other sheet masks, it’s super thin and extremely lightweight adhering perfectly and feeling virtually undetectable on the skin. It also comes in three variants, so there are choices for whatever your skin needs.
Best Brightening: Mediheal Vita Lightbeam Essential Mask Ex
“I love the Mediheal line of sheet masks, which stay moist for a long time and stick well to the skin’s surface,” says Chang. This one, in particular, is one of her favorites, a cellulose mask that contains vitamin C and salix alba bark extract to brighten and nourish the skin, she says.
For this, or any sheet mask for that matter, Chang recommends applying any remaining liquid in the pack to your neck, chest, and arms.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Mediheal Tea Tree Essential Healing Solution Mask Sheet
Per our point above, Chang also recommends this option from Mediheal. “It’s ideal for red, inflamed, or acne-prone skin,” she says, citing the use of ingredients such as naturally antibacterial tea tree oil and extra-soothing, healing Centella Asiatica. The formula is hydrating as well and touts protective antioxidants also.
Best Customizable: Innisfree My Real Squeeze Mask
No matter what your complexion concern may be, this brand makes a mask for it. “The 100%, naturally-derived cellulose sheet masks come with a variety of ingredients to suit your skin needs,” says Chang, who adds that tea tree (for purifying), aloe (for soothing), and manuka honey (for moisturizing) are some of her top picks.
Best Overnight: Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
It may be the overnight lip mask from this brand that gets the most buzz, but don’t sleep on (pun intended) this face mask. The gel-based mask is like a tall glass of water for your skin, packed with hyaluronic acid and water infused with moisture-maximizing minerals. On top of all of that, it also uses an exclusive technology to trap all of this hydration in your skin for up to eight hours, AKA while you get a good night’s rest.
What Our Testers Say
"By the second usage of the Laneige Water Sleeping mask, my skin felt smooth, hydrated, and refreshed." — Celeste Polanco, Product Tester
Best Soothing: Natural Republic Real Nature Aloe Mask Sheet
As the name suggests, a hefty dose of aloe is the start of the show in this sheet mask, another one of Chang’s picks. She says the mask not only helps soothe the skin but also provides long-lasting hydration, and points out that the brand also has a tone of different options that offer everything from more lightweight hydration to heavier moisture.
Best Detoxifying: Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask 2X
Clogged pores don’t stand a chance against this purifying mask, a favorite of Byrdie Editorial & Strategy Director Kathryn Vandervalk. True to its name, the superstar ingredient is hardened volcanic lava that helps absorb excess sebum. Couple that with exfoliating lactic acid, and you’ve got yourself a perfect formula to reach for when you want to give your skin an extra deep clean.
What Our Testers Say
"As I've continued to use it two weeks in a row, I can tell the difference in my skin's oiliness when I'm wearing makeup, which I love." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester
Best Skin Strengthening: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Facial Barrier Mask
We think this sounds more like a piece of military armor than skincare, but it’s aptly named, given the protective benefits it offers. The focus is on boosting your skin barrier, the secret to keeping moisture locked in and irritants locked out. At work are ceramides, which you’ve likely heard of before, as well as ectoin, a soothing and moisturizing ingredient that also helps support the skin barrier, as well as a unique peptide that bolsters a lipid in your skin barrier. The point being, this pick is ideal for those with sensitive, compromised complexions.
Best Hydrating: Sulwahsoo First Care Activating Mask
“This provides a boost of hydration to the skin, leaving it nice and glowy, thanks to antioxidant-rich green tea, soothing honey, and a JAUM Balancing Complex, a proprietary mix of herbs,” says Chang. It’s her choice for those with dry and/or dull skin, a great, fast fix pick-me-up. Sephora reviewers rave about how well it hydrates the skin, and some note that it even helped minimize the look of breakouts.
Best Value: The Face Shop Facial Mask Sheets
Ringing in at just slightly over a dollar apiece, this set of 15 different masks is a perfect way to get your hands (erm, face) on some great K-beauty goods. Each is centered around a different natural ingredient that offers a unique benefit; think olive for moisturizing, kelp for purifying, lemon for brightening...you get the picture. They consistently pull in rave reviews on Amazon, with shoppers talking about how well they work (and how affordable they are).
Best Patch: COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch
Okay, so it may not technically be a mask, but this stick-on patch from Korean mainstay COSRX is next-level good at significantly reducing the look of big ol’ red pimples—overnight. To Chang’s point of K-beauty products, not irritating skin, it doesn’t contain any harsh actives. Instead, the hydrocolloid bandage covers the skin, protecting the blemish from any additional bacteria and speeding up the time in which the skin can heal itself.
What Our Testers
"I enjoyed using these, and they offered up visible overnight results." — Bianca Lambert, Product Tester
A K-beauty mask is one of the easiest ways to experience all the benefits of Korean skincare. The Glow Recipe Watermelon Sleeping Mask is our overall top pick, an overnight treatment that hydrates and gently exfoliates. if you want to try a variety of different options, each suited to a particular complexion need, check out the InnisFree My Real Squeeze Mask, standout sheet masks that offer a little something for everyone.
What to Look For In a K-Beauty Face Mask
Consider your skin’s needs
Chang says the most important thing is to think about what your skin needs and aligning that with a mask that contains an ingredient to help you reach those goals. Many K-beauty masks center around one or two key ingredients that are meant to do particular things, and as such are best for certain skin types. For example, look for vitamin C if you want brighter skin, tea tree if you’re oily or acne-prone, and aloe for soothing.
The material of the mask
Many K-beauty masks are sheet masks, but, setting aside ingredients for a second, the material of the mask itself, matters, too, says Chang. “Cotton masks tend to be non-irritating and provide rich moisture. Hydrogel masks have a cooling effect but may rip easily, while cellulose masks adhere well to the skin, allowing its ingredients to absorb better,” she explains.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. While she admittedly will never be able to commit to a 10-step K-beauty skincare routine, she can definitely get down with working K-beauty masks into her M.O.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Y. Claire Chang is a board-certified and fellowship-trained cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. Dr. Chang is an expert in the skin of color and Asian beauty trends, and she frequently travels back and forth from Asia to bring the latest cosmetic trends to her patients.