Once considered niche, the Korean skincare and beauty regime is now firmly mainstream. Korean women follow an extensive 10, or even 12-step routine to keep their skin looking young and healthy. That may sound excessive, but each step is there for a reason. Using a sheet mask is one of the steps (usually number 7) and it’s recommended to do so twice a week rather than every day. If jumping straight in to a 12-step Korean skincare routine seems a little too daunting, using a Korean sheet mask could be the perfect place to start, as they promise maximum results with minimum effort.
What are Korean face masks?
A face mask is traditionally applied like all your other skincare products – simply scoop it from the container and apply it to your face. After it has worked its magic, you wash it off. Sheet masks make the process even easier by eliminating the need to apply and wash off the mask. You may know them just as sheet masks, but they actually originated in South Korea, hence the name ‘Korean face masks’. They’re made from a sheet of cotton (though brands are now innovating with new materials) with holes for your eyes and mouth that you wear on your face – just like a real mask! The sheet is infused with an active ingredient to achieve a particular goal for your skin.
Regular skincare products evaporate after you’ve applied them due to exposure with the air. Sheet masks dry much more slowly, allowing the active ingredient to stay in contact with your skin the entire time you wear them. This gives it more time to work and delivers better results. Generally, you can wear sheet masks for up to 30 minutes. After this, the sheet will start to dry out and start pulling moisture from your skin – the opposite of what you want. If you’ve never used a particular mask before, do a patch test to save your skin from potential irritation. Use a cotton swab to apply some of the mask to your jawline. After a few minutes, see if your skin has reacted (redness, itching) and discontinue use if it has.
What types of Korean face masks are there, and which should I use?
No matter your skincare need, there is a sheet mask for you. Everyone’s skin can benefit from some extra hydration, so the Oh K! Marine Hyaluronic Acid Mask is sure to be a crowd pleaser. If your skin is dry or dehydrated, a cream mask will make your skin soft and supple. Oilier skin types may prefer clay masks, which will draw out impurities from your skin and remove dead skin cells. As a result, your skin will be tighter and your pores will be smaller, so try the BeautyPro Pink Clay Mask. If your skin is sensitive, the cooling sensation of a gel mask with soothe your skin. Particular ingredients to look out for are hyaluronic acid, which brings moisture to the surface of your skin, making it plumper and bouncier. Egg masks contain collagen and protein, which will tighten your skin, whereas milk masks are rich in lactic acid, an excellent exfoliator. We love the tropical feel of the Too Cool For School Coconut Milk Cream Mask.
Oh K! Marine Hyaluronic Acid Mask 25gS$11.50
BeautyPro Pink Clay MaskS$13.00
Too Cool For School Coconut Milk Cream Mask 50gS$11.50
Do Korean sheet masks really work?
While sheet masks are wonderful, they won’t replace your other skincare products. They give excellent results but for a limited time only. Because sheet masks are only designed to be worn for up to 30 minutes, the active ingredients can only penetrate the epidermis (the top level of skin). So, they won’t affect any underlying issues with your skin, like deep wrinkles or loss of elasticity. But they can work wonders on the top layer of your skin, by smoothing out wrinkles or tightening pores. This is why many celebrities swear by face masks before walking the red carpet.
How do I recreate a Korean spa experience at home?
Visiting a spa is a weekly ritual for many Korean women and it’s one you can recreate when you’re using your Korean face mask at home. Korean spas are famous for their intense body scrub treatments. They use special scrubbing cloths called Korean Italy towels. If you don’t have one – just use any other exfoliating washcloth. First, draw a warm bath and add some Epsom salts, such as these reviving salts from Westlab, which will help to soften your skin. Soak in the tub for about 20 minutes, which is the perfect time to apply your Korean face mask. While your mask is working, exfoliate the skin on your body by rubbing your skin in downward motions with your exfoliating tool of choice. You’ll need to apply a fair amount of pressure but little rolls of grey dead skin should be visibly sloughed off your body. And don’t forget your feet! Take a foot file and a pumice stone to smooth any calloused edges. Afterwards, rinse off your face mask and carry on washing yourself as normal. Be sure to apply a moisturising body lotion afterwards as intense exfoliation can be drying on your skin.