Confession: sometimes our skincare routines can get a bit, shall we say, boring. While we know the importance of slathering on SPF daily and moisturizing our skin come bedtime, sometimes we crave something to help spice up our regimens. Cue face masks, a sure-fire way to not only reap promising skincare results instantly, but to make us feel pampered, too. Within the category of face masks are sheet masks, a single use type of face mask that comes loaded with potential beauty benefits to clear, radiate, moisturize, or refresh skin that's in need of something more than what your standard skincare routine can provide. Plus, let's be real: It's a lot of fun to take a selfie while wearing it.
Below, we're covering everything you need to know, including how to use a sheet mask as well as how to choose the right one for your skin type. With the help of board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Paul Jarrod Frank and esthetician Geneva Stockdale-Shaw, you'll be well on your way to dedicating a portion of your beauty closet to being your very own sheet mask haven.
Meet the Expert
- Paul Jarrod Frank is a celebrity cosmetic dermatologist in NYC, author of The Pro-Aging Playbook, and creator of The Pro-Aging podcast.
- Geneva Stockdale-Shaw is an esthetician and the founder of The OC Esthetician.
Keep reading to learn all about sheet masks and whether they work to enhance skin.
What Are Sheet Masks?
The sheet mask trend stems from South Korea where a lot of time and effort is spent caring for the skin. Sheet masks are an integral part of the elaborate skincare routines in Korea, and with the glow-inducing benefits it provides, it's easy to see why. Just as the name implies, a sheet mask is a serum-soaked cloth sheet that has holes for your eyes, nose, and mouth. After laying the mask on your face for 20 minutes, you toss it in the trash and enjoy the radiance it leaves behind.
Besides the feel-good effects sheet masks have, there exists one for (quite literally) every skin type and skin concern—from brightening dull skin and clearing acne to rehydrating parched skin and delivering anti-aging goodness. Sheet masks range in price from a few dollars to over $50 depending on the potency of its ingredients.
The Benefits of Sheet Masks
Do sheet masks work? Ask a crowd of skincare buffs and you'll hear a resounding yes. Below, our expert-backed roundup of benefits.
- Increases ingredient absorption: Most sheet masks contain butylene glycol, which works as a delivery agent to help infuse ingredients into the skin, says Frank. Also, sheet masks are of a thinner consistency. This allows the solution to be topically applied in a controlled setting for a longer period of time, thus increasing absorption, notes Stockdale.
- Easy to use: Unlike other masks on the market, there's nothing fancy required to do a sheet mask—no tools, brushes, or downtime. Plus, Stockdale says that they're designed to shape to your unique facial structure.
- Universally beneficial: There's a sheet mask for virtually every skincare concern, from anti-aging to redness. This makes sheet masks useful for any skin type, tone, and concern.
- Soothes post-treatment skin: Frank says that sheet masks can be a great addition to your post-treatment or post-peel routine. As these treatments can typically be drying, a sheet mask might help rev up the skin's hydration levels.
If you're using a sheet mask after a treatment or peel, be sure to check with your dermatologist to make sure the ingredients in the mask are compatible with the treatment you received, as many skincare ingredients aren't meant to be used together.
How to Apply
While sheet masks are foolproof to use, there are a few cardinal rules to keep in mind when applying. Below, a few tips on how to use a Korean face mask.
- Wash your face: Just like applying skincare products onto un-cleansed skin renders a product useless, applying a sheet mask to dirty skin is a no-no.
- Apply the sheet mask and let it sit: Less is more. Frank recommends only leaving the sheet mask on for the recommended time on the packaging (usually 20 minutes).
- Apply a sheet mask cover: Cloth sheet masks are known to slip and slide, but Stockdale says a a silicone sheet mask cover like this one from Daiso ($5) will help the mask stay put. "The sheet mask cover is applied over the mask and secures it in place," she notes. "Plus, it acts as an occlusive barrier, minimizing product evaporation."
- Continue your usual skincare routine: Frank says that sheet masks aren't a substitute to your overall skincare routine. If you opted for a daytime sheet mask, make sure to apply SPF afterwards.
If there is serum left on your skin after using the mask, gently pat the serum into your skin until it's fully absorbed.
How Often to Use Sheet Masks
For a mask containing active ingredients like glycolic acid or retinol, use once a week or as directed on the instructions—just be sure to check the label on your other skincare products for similar ingredients to avoid over exfoliation. Think of sheet masks as a targeted skin care treatment: what does your skin need now? Then choose one that has ingredients that will address that skincare issue.
Glycolic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that loosens bonds between dead skin cells. It helps stimulate collagen production and acts as a humectant, attracting moisture to the skin.
How to Find the Right Mask For Your Skin
Sheet masks are versatile and available in a variety of forms (read: microfiber, hydrogel, biocellulose, foil, knit, and charcoal). This is not to mention the different ingredients in each mask that cater to skincare concerns of every end of the spectrum. Here's how to find the right one for you based on your skin.
- Oily Skin: Masks containing charcoal, retinol, or clay can help reduce pore size and also draw out any excess sebum in the skin, says Frank. Avoid masks containing fragrance, as they can increase skin sensitivity.
- Dry Skin: For both dehydrated skin (aka skin that's lacking water) and dry skin (aka skin that's lacking oil), sheet masks can be a total game-changer. Stockdale says to look for water-based hydration—aloe, water, chamomile, ceramides, peptides, and glycerin are all hero picks.
- Post-Sun: Hydration is key post sun exposure, says Frank. "Sheet masks containing aloe and glycerine are great options," he says, adding that popping your mask into the fridge for a few minutes can offer an extra boost of cooling.
- Anti-Aging: "If you're using sheet masks for anti-aging benefits, look for ingredients like glycolic acid or lactic acid," notes Stockdale. "These AHAs will help slough off the surface layer of dead skin and provide a youthful glow."
Shop Our Picks
Vitamin C is touted for its skin-brightening qualities, and Lapcos is hopping on the bandwagon with their Daily Vita C Mask, which fuses buckthorn Extract and lemongrass extract meant to boost skin's vitality.
This bio-cellulose mask costs a pretty penny, but the spa-worthy results it yields makes it worth it. Besides the second-skin feeling it provides, it's loaded with lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, anti-microbial peptides, and apple stem cells meant for fresher, radiant, more youthful-looking skin.
On days you've spent a little too much time in the sun (with SPF, we hope), your skin may be left feeling red and raw. Cue this skin-soothing sheet mask that'll renew even the most reddest of skin, using a rose geranium essential oil blend as well as ginkgo, aloe, and chamomile extract meant to get the job done.
Think of Repêchage's Vita Cura B3 Lifting Mask as a facial in a packet. Its supercharged ingredients are meant to create an invisible film on the topmost layer of skin to immediately smooth fine lines and give a temporarily-lifted look, according to the brand.
Nix unwanted blemishes with this tea tree oil-infused sheet mask. In addition to the star ingredient's proven ability to treat acne, chamomile calms redness while centella asiatica soothes irritation, according to the brand.
van Amerongen CCA, Ofenloch RF, Cazzaniga S, et al. Skin exposure to scented products used in daily life and fragrance contact allergy in the European general population - The EDEN Fragrance Study. Contact Dermatitis. 2021;84(6):385-394. doi:10.1111/cod.13807
Al-Niaimi F, Chiang NYZ. Topical vitamin C and the skin: mechanisms of action and clinical applications. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(7):14-17.