Just walk into any drugstore or makeup retailer - and you’ll see sheet masks in a variety of shape, size and price points awaiting your perusal. Info overload? Before you simply grab one and walk away - let’s go through the things you should consider when picking a suitable sheet mask.
WHAT DOES A SHEET MASK DO?
In order to pick a good sheet mask - we’ll need to understand their function to ensure that the mask that we’re picking fulfils these functions. A sheet mask (and masks in general) has 2 main functions.
1. NOURISH SKIN WITH ACTIVE INGREDIENTS
All sheet masks come wet and soaked in a watery essence. Applying the essence-soaked masks onto your skin basically means that we’re infusing them into your skin for the 20 mins or so of mask application. This is a good way to hydrate thirsty skin and give it a nutrition boost.
2. OCCLUSIVE EFFECT
The main reason we use masks (cream, gel or sheet masks) after a facial is because masking delivers an occlusive effect. This basically means that the layer of mask creates a seal on your skin - effectively helping the active ingredients to penetrate into our skin (instead of letting them evaporate). A good occlusive mask can better improve skin’s absorption of active ingredients and increase the efficacy of the treatment. So don’t stinge when you apply washable cream or gel masks too! The thicker you layer the mask, the better the occlusive effect.
Now that we know our evaluation criteria, here are the main points to consider when choosing a sheet mask that’s right for you.
Ingredients in Essence
Material of Sheet Mask
1. INGREDIENTS IN ESSENCE
This has to do with the quality of the essence that the sheet mask promises to deliver into your skin. When choosing your mask - pick one with high-quality ingredients that target your particular skin needs. This might require a little bit of research - but well-known active ingredients include hyaluronic acid for hydration, Vitamin C for brightening and collagen synthesis, Coenzyme Q10 for antioxidant and cell-repair and Argireline/hexapeptide-8 for reduction of fine lines.
Even if you’re impressed by the advertised ingredients, take a look at the ingredients list on the packet to consider the ratio of active ingredients to other components. The most available ingredient in a product is the one that is listed first - in the case of sheet masks, this is usually water or aqua, followed by humectants (used for moisture-binding) such as glycerin or butylene glycol. These ingredients are necessary to dissolve the active ingredients, as well as to smooth and hydrate skin.
While there’s nothing wrong with the above - do remember to note where on the list the active ingredients that you’re concerned about appears. If said sheet mask boasts of hyaluronic acid as an active ingredient - but hyaluronic acid only appears at the very end of the ingredient list (say, after about 40 other ingredients), then the availability of hyaluronic acid that the mask can deliver is probably rather low.
While we’re considering the proportion of ingredients - also try to look out for information about the molecular size of the packaged active ingredients to determine if they can ultimately be absorbed by your skin. For example - we all know collagen is good for skin (it is what gives our skin the firmness and density of youth) - but collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by our pores.
So when looking at the ingredients - check to see if said ingredients have been processed to decrease their molecular size so that they can actually be absorbed. Look for keywords like hydrolyzed (ie. hydrolyzed collagen, sodium hyaluronate), liposomes, nano-encapsulated - which indicate that these ingredients have small molecular weight and will actually be able to deliver results.
Of course - the price point is one thing to consider in your evaluation of masks. Better and more active ingredients are usually more expensive to produce. So if your sheet mask is unbelievably low-priced - it can probably function as a flash-hydration booster (provided you don’t leave it on for too long), but don’t depend on it to actively heal, repair or improve your skin.
2. MATERIAL OF THE SHEET MASK
The material of the mask can affect the mask’s occlusive effect and how effectively it can deliver active ingredients into your skin. Poor quality masks can cause skin sensitivity and irritation - so consider the material and choose wisely!
There are 3 main materials used to make sheet masks:
Paper/pulp masks, cotton masks and silk masks are the most common plant-based mask materials that we see on the market. The quality of these masks can vary in terms of thickness, strength and smoothness. The fit of these masks varies as well - with the lower-priced masks often having a poorer fit (gaps, poor occlusive effect). Paper/pulp masks especially, can go from very thin (and thus unable to hold much essence) to a thicker and stronger material. Silk masks are generally lightweight and more comfortable, with a better fit and comfort level.
When using masks made from plant-based fibres, NEVER leave them on for too long. Such masks tend to evaporate faster - and if they dry out on your skin, a reverse-osmosis effect occurs. This means that instead of pushing water into your skin, the drying mask starts to draw water FROM your skin into itself - causing skin dehydration amongst other skin problems. So never ever fall asleep with your sheet mask on!
Also - as the adhesion of sheet masks depends on the wetness of the mask - these masks often start falling off once they begin to dry up - reducing the occlusive effect and also limiting your movement when masking (ie. you’ll need to lie down to prevent the mask from falling off).
One thing to note when picking plant-based fibre masks is that the pulp used in these masks would have to be processed to be turned into the mask you see. In such cases - chemicals and preservatives might still be present in the mask if production standards are low. This can cause sensitivity if your skin is fragile or reactive.
These refreshing “jelly masks” are made by blending serums with gelatin. These masks have good adhesion, are smooth and cool, and give a much better fit compared to regular plant-based fibre masks. It can effectively retain and deliver water and active ingredients to the skin - as it doesn’t dry out as easily as plant-based sheet masks.
However - the flimsy jelly texture of these makes the mask fragile and prone to tearing, so apply them carefully. Hydrogel masks usually come in 2 parts, top and bottom, to make application easier.
Bio-cellulose masks look and feel like a thin strong film. Their origins also sound vaguely sci-fi. Bio-cellulose fibres are grown in a sterile lab environment, using a strain of good bacteria that ferments glucose. During this fermentation process, bio-cellulose strands are created, collected and then spun into the thin, strong sheet masks that we call bio-cellulose masks.
Each strand of bio-cellulose is 1000 times thinner than a strand of our hair and can hold water up to 100 times their dry weight. When woven together - the density, strength and moisture retention levels of bio-cellulose sheet masks are much better than regular sheet masks. This means that they adhere to and seal the skin seamlessly - giving an excellent occlusive effect. And because bio-cellulose masks can retain water so well - there’s little danger of evaporation and the reverse osmosis effect. It also means that the mask can hold plenty of essence (to be delivered into your skin), that it stays hydrated - and stays on the skin, no matter how much you move around with a mask on your face.
Finally - these lab-grown masks are pure and toxin-free, making them a safe choice for sensitive or problem skin. The only downside, these masks are more expensive to produce - so masking daily with bio-cellulose masks might take a toll on your wallet! But if you’re indulging in a pampering mini-treatment at home, then there’s really no better way to end the experience than with a top-notch bio-cellulose mask.
So there you have it - a breakdown of all the things you need to think about when choosing a sheet mask!
If you’re looking for a good bio-cellulose mask to indulge in, here’s one of our favourite (and it's used in salon treatments too):
100% Professional Grade Bio-Cellulose Mask Action:
Check out the Regeneration Bio-Cellulose Mask
Originally published on chezmoi.com.sg