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Sheet masks 101: Everything You Need to Know about Sheet Masks

17 Jan 2018
by S. Safa

Sheet masks are arguably the most popular Korean skincare product. For good reason, they're convenient, inexpensive, and effective. When used properly and regularly, sheet masks can have amazing effects on your skin both instantly and in the long run. Because sheet masks seem so easy and straightforward, not many people take the time to actually research sheet masks. There’s more to sheet masks than meets the eye. Today’s post is a quick 101 on sheet masks. We’re going to discuss everything you need to know about sheet masks; what are they, how are they different from conventional masks, what different types of materials are sheets made of, how to apply them correctly, and more! Maybe you’ll learn something new about sheet masks today (the more you know ‘rainbow’). Keep reading!

What are sheet masks?

For those who are new to Korean skincare and are not sure what sheet masks are, let’s start with the basics. Sheet masks are pre-cut fabrics soaked in light serums that contain a range of skin-beneficial ingredients, such as antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, hyaluronic acid, etc. These nutrients are retained by the pre-cut sheets and delivered to the skin through close dermal contact. Depending on the ingredients in the formula, sheet masks provide hydration, nourishment, vitality, wrinkle care, brightening effects, etc. Basically, whatever your skin needs, there’s a sheet mask for it.

How are sheet masks different from conventional ‘paste’ face masks?

Active ingredients in face masks need some time to work on your skin and have an actual effect. Conventional masks tend to evaporate quickly, before those ingredients can make their move on your skin. Sheet masks however, have a clever way of preventing evaporation. The sheets form a barrier that retain moisture for much longer and therefore allow ingredients much more time to penetrate your skin. This is why your skin feels much plumper and brighter after using a sheet mask. Sheet masks definitely outperform regular masks in this regard. This is one of the main reasons that they are used so much in Korean skincare.


What are sheet masks made of? What is the difference between the different sheet materials?

Non-woven fibers
Non-woven fabric masks are flat, porous sheets made of separate fibers. They have a coarse texture that feels and behaves like paper, which makes them hard to move around. They lack the mobility and contouring to fit correctly on the skin and therefore fall off easily. Fiber masks have some capacity to replenish moisture to the skin, however they evaporate very quickly. On the upside, fiber masks are very inexpensive. You'll find that most lower-end, cheaper sheet masks are made of this material. 


Cotton sheet masks are made of natural fibers harvested from the cotton plant. They have a finer texture than fiber masks, but their limitations are similar. They do not adhere to the skin too well and the fit is uneven. Moisture evaporates fairly quickly, but not as quick as with fiber masks; cotton masks have a slightly higher capacity to deliver serum to the skin.


Hydro-gel masks are blends of cosmetic serums with gelatin, which gives the mask the feel of a cool, jelly film. Hydrogel masks perform better than low-end fiber and cotton masks; they are easy to move around and adhere well to the skin. They also don’t dry out during application. Hydrogel masks are thin and prone to tearing. To avoid rupture, they usually come with a top and bottom part separately. The downside of hydrogel masks is that they’re generally expensive, and certain types of hydrogels can irritate sensitive skin.



Bio-cellulose masks are made of woven microbial cellulose. They are easier to move around, and adhere to the skin better than cotton, but not as well as hydrogel. Like hydrogel masks, bio-cellulose masks don’t dry out and they’re slightly expensive.


How to correctly apply sheet masks?

1. Make sure you cleanse your skin before applying a sheet mask, so that you start with a clean canvas for the nutrients to penetrate easier.
2. Use a toner to prep and rebalance your skin.
3. If you have any essences/serums/ampoules you like to use, you can apply those too, but it’s not necessary since sheet masks replace essences.
3. Remove the mask from the package.
4. Unfold the sheet mask and apply it to your face adjusting the holes to your eyes, nose, and mouth. If there is any remaining essence left in the bag, pat the extra essence all over your neck and décolletage.
5. Leave the mask on for 15-25 min (read the instructions for the recommended time).
6. Remove the mask and pat the remaining essence into your skin for extra absorption.
7. Follow up with your eye cream and moisturizer to lock in all the nutrients.

You can use sheet masks at any time of the day. Some sheet masks are lighter and absorb quicker, so are better for the mornings. Other sheet masks are creamier and richer, and are preferably used at night so the nutrients can really sink in while you’re sleeping. Try to use sheet masks on a regular basis -say 1-2x a week- for that healthy, radiant glow.

Tips: common sheet mask mistakes to avoid

Applying sheet masks is not as straightforward as it may seem. There’s actually a lot you can do wrong or simply not think about when you apply sheet masks. Here is a list of mistakes you might make when applying sheet masks and how to avoid them, so you can get the most out of your sheet masks:

1. Not prepping your skin properly
The ingredients in the sheet mask need to be able to penetrate the skin to have an effect. Ingredients penetrate easier and deeper into skin when applied on a blank canvas. Make sure you properly cleanse your skin to remove any excess makeup or dirt off your skin. For even better results, try exfoliation before applying a sheet mask.

2. Not removing the backing from the mask
Some sheet masks come with an extra layer of film that prevents them from sticking to themselves when they're folded up in the package. Don't forget to remove this film before applying the mask to your skin. Read the instructions to see if your sheet mask has an extra film that needs to be removed.

3. Not fitting the sheet on your skin
Sheet masks unfortunately come in one size. Because we all have different face shapes, sheet masks will never fit perfectly on one face. However, to get the most out of your sheet mask, try to fit the sheet on your face as well as you can and make sure you press the sheet onto your skin for close dermal contact. 

4. Leaving it on for too long
We all have the tendency to think that ‘the longer I leave it on, the better the results I get’. But this is wrong. In fact, leaving your sheet mask on for too long can have an opposite effect on the skin. The sheet starts getting dryer and will draw away moisture from your skin. So please follow the recommended time on the packaging. 

5. Washing your face after applying your sheet mask
Sheet masks contain bottle’s worth of nutrients. The benefits of a sheet mask can continue long after you remove it. Instead of washing away all the moisture and nutrients, pat the remaining essence into your skin to get the most out of your masks. If your skin feels sticky and you feel the need to wash your skin after patting the essence in, switch to a new mask that doesn’t leave a sticky residue on your skin.

6. Throwing away the remaining essence in the sachet
Sheet masks are drenched in essences and often there’s still plenty of essence left in the sachet after use. That’s precious and expensive liquid so don’t throw it away! Instead, apply the leftover essence to other parts of your body, or save it in a bottle and apply it to your skin as an essence the next couple of days.

7. Not moisturizing after applying your sheet mask
It’s not always necessary to moisturize after a sheet mask, but it is a good idea to do so. Moisturizing your skin after a sheet mask seals in all the moisture and nutrients you just applied to your skin and prevents them from evaporating. This way your skin can enjoy the nourishing goodness for even longer.


So these are the basics of sheet masks. I hope you've learned something new today! See you next week!

18 Jan 2018
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