Sheet Masks: For The Face Or For The ‘Gram?

Sheet Masks for real life or Instagram

Karuna Skin, Teen Vogue, The Chill Times & Girl Style

Do sheet masks really work or are they just for Instagram selfies? We enlisted some experts for their take.

Sheet masks are like the IRL version of Snapchat and Instagram filters. There are so many choices. They can be adorned and shared with friends. And they make us feel better — pretty or goofy or artsy — about our self(ies).

Though masks of many forms have more or less always been part of my beauty routine (think sharing Freeman Beauty sample packets at sleepovers, buying into Bioré pore strips and the Aztec Clay Mask beauty staple), I have been wondering where the sheet mask craze came from.

Are sheet masks as effective as we think they are, or we all just doing it for the gram?

Sheet masks originate in South Korea, (so it makes sense that in adopting all things K-Beauty lately, we have included masks). Korean beauticians have long used sheets to create a barrier that locks the moisturizing elements of masks onto your skin for absorption.

The K-Beauty-inspired trend has particularly taken off among the masses due to their affordable-facial-at-home quality. According to Decorté Director of Communications Emi Hayashi, the trend is likely to last since masks “are treatments that can be a quick fix when one does not have time to go for a complete facial treatment.”

Decorté Vi Fusion Slim and Firm Concentrate Mask
Decorté Vi Fusion Slim and Firm Concentrate Mask 6-pack $180

From sheet masks that foam and bubble as they’re working their magic to those with printed animal faces, the craze has become so much more than beauty. The variety of sheet mask options, like digital filters, create perfectly Instagrammable moments — something many social savvy beauty brands have capitalized on.

Celebrities Sheet Masks Instagram Chrissy Teigan
Instagram @officialkatieprice @myleenkass @chrissyteigan

So despite my mostly haphazard, sporadic use of masks, I wanted to know if the sheet mask thing is just that — a thing.

It feels like there’s a Cheesecake Factory sized menu of sheet masks out there. There are varieties of applicators — from bubbles to gold to cloth. They all claim to have different purposes and contain a myriad of beneficial ingredients. But do they?

Many claim scientific evidence of their positive results, and I like science.

We all do, don’t we? If something claims to be scientifically backed I tend to trust it.

We asked a couple trusted experts to weigh in, and both advised proceeding with caution — AKA, do a little bit more than blindly trusting science. So we spoke with Dr. Kim Nichols (SkinCeuticals partner dermatologist) about what science, if any, backs the benefits of sheet masks.

Skinceuticals Biocellulose Restorative Masque
Skinceuticals Biocellulose Restorative Masque 6-pack $120

“I always tell my patients to look for specific ingredients in their sheet masks,” she says. “For instance, studies show hyaluronic acid helps to retain your skin’s moisture, so a masque with hyaluronic acid can help to hydrate and plump your appearance. My recommendation is to look for scientifically backed ingredients in your masques.”

Emi Hayashi from Decorté agrees that “one should check the ingredients listed to ensure it does not damage or irritate your skin” and takes it a step further, suggesting you “try a sample to ensure performance.”

It may seem difficult to sample from a sheet mask, but you can always cut a piece to test it on a smaller area of skin before applying the whole sheet to your face. And the advice makes sense: know thyself, know thy mask.

You may be thinking: why test things out when your favorite influencer is hawking them, right? Right??

I love a good deep dive into the latest greatest mask feeds on social media as much as the next beauty geek, but sometimes it really can lead to purchasing the wrong fit for your face. Following #sheetmask can get you lost in a kaleidoscope of colors and textures, suds and peels. In terms of what you should look for when comparing sheet mask brands, definitely look beyond the digital face.

I really appreciate Dr. Nichols’ advice on crowdsourcing your mask use:

“Read up on the reviews from credentialed sites like RealSelf.com that has real physicians answering your questions. If you take the comments from a site like Sephora, you may only be getting advice from another beauty shopper rather than a professional.”

I think it’s also easy to feel conflicted about what type of mask to use.

There’s a lot to consider when assessing the motive of your masking — which occasion, for your specific skin type, for the kind of breakout you’re experiencing, or ongoing care.

Dr. Nichols says to “mask smarter” by “bring[ing] a picture to your dermatologist so she or he can match you to a mask that prioritizes your skincare goals.”

This is important, in terms of getting what you need from a sheet mask. Otherwise, in most cases, you may just be adding a layer of moisture to your skin.

Both Skinceuticals and Decorté hooked me up with a couple sheet masks to try, and I’m definitely a fan.

I love that Skinceuticals’ Biocellulose Restorative Masque touts only a few ingredients, including biocellulose fibers impregnated with water. Science affirmed: my face felt moisturized from the inside out.

Emi Hayashi shared that the Decorté sheet has “elasticity to fit the face to ensure that the saturated formula is absorbed.” Locked and loaded: it felt like the snuggest applicator.

I’m on board the sheet mask train. I would simply say to follow the experts’ advice.

Fewer, cleaner ingredients matter, application matters, skin type and personal preference matter.

Not all sheet masks are created equally, so as with your Instagram feed, use discretion.

Annette Cirelle is a writer torn between two coasts but mostly based in Los Angeles. Most days she's a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl, but you will never find her without a manicure. Instagram & Twitter @annettecirelle

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