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When Korean beauty became a global mega-trend a few years ago, one of the star products was the sheet mask: A layer of cloth, paper, or film soaked in a super-potent serum, that you lay over your face and peel off for a one-use kick of serious skin care. Using a sheet mask also inevitably conjures jokes about Silence of the Lambs from your roommate, significant other, or airplane seatmate until they finally get used to the sight and let you beautify in peace. (Another way to get them to shush: give them one to use and they’ll be hooked.)
Sheet masks have become so popular that skin care brands across the world, and especially in Korea, are taking them to the next level. “In Seoul, there are stores that are dedicated to just sheet masks and home shopping networks will shell sheet masks in packs of 100 — it’s a part of your daily life,” says Alicia Yoon, an aesthetician and founder of Asian beauty web site Peach and Lily, who has also helped create Korean beauty pop up shops within Barneys, Bloomingdale’s, Sephora, Target, and CVS. “Now customers are asking for sheet masks that not only hydrate, but also deliver extreme brightening effects or cling in such an intensive way that even if you’re working out there is no drip at all.” Brands outside of Asia have taken the cue, too. Scroll through to see 12 clever new twists on the Korean sheet mask.
1The Face Blanket
Eco Your Skin Face Blanket Mask, $12, Peach & Lily
“The most innovative one I’ve seen lately is the Face Blanket, which is a dry mask,” says Yoon of the Korean brand Eco Your Skin. “Other dry masks activate with the pH of your skin, but this one is like a puffy sticker, filled with an essence that is baked into the mask four times at a low temperature. You can keep it on overnight and over time the sticker gets flatter and flatter as the essence soaks into your skin, but it’s not goopy. It stick on your face like those stretchy hand toys that stick on a wall when you’re a kid — it glides right off.”
Inhibit High Definition Patches, $440, Natura Bisse
The Barcelona-based brand Natura Bisse created these new patches with tiny cones that stick into your skin, similar to microneedling treatments, but shallower and painless. The cone-shaped needles are made of solid wrinkle-fighting ingredients like hyaluronic acid and over the course of two hours they dissolve to fill in lines immediately and correct them long term. Masks with microneedles are also trending in Korea, says Yoon.
3Jelly Modeling Mask
Let Me Skin Ultra H2O Water-Jelly Modeling Mask, $20, Peach & Lily
While not technically a sheet when you put it on, this DIY mask by Korean brand Let Me Skin has two sachets you mix together for a “water-jelly” that is applied onto your face “like icing,” says Yoon. After it molds to your skin, you peel it off similar to a sheet mask. (It’s also called a modeling mask.) This one is very popular, according to Yoon, not only because DIY is trending, but because this particular concoction is highly hydrating.
As we recently learned from celebrity facialist Shani Darden, it’s easier to hydrate skin if you exfoliate first. That’s the idea behind this two-step mask by American brand Murad that comes with a lactic and glycolic acid peel first applied with a cotton swab before your lay on the hyaluronic acid, aloe, and vitamin B3 sheet mask.
Shangpree Sparkling Mask, $6, Peach & Lily
Normally, sheet masks infuse skin with ingredients that should not be rinsed off afterward. But the new trend of bubbling masks — which totally took over Instagram — are intended to bring the sheet mask’s intensive powers to the cleansing ritual. This bubble mask from Korean brand Shangpree uses carbon bubbles to stimulate circulation and charcoal to deep clean. Rinse after.
Sometimes more is more, as is this case with layering masks (and pretty much all Korean beauty). This double mask from Korean brand P:rem includes two sheet masks: the first has botanical firming ingredients and the second, which you lay right on top of the first, contains hydrating ingredients that help drive all the benefits deep into your skin. The second also includes ear loops so you can strap the thing onto your face and keep both layers on tight.
The term “rubber mask” is super-trendy in Korea right now and quickly coming to the U.S. It refers to the bouncy rubber-like goo you can spread over a sheet mask or the rubber-like sheets you can apply on top of a potent serum. Aside from the Instagram bait of the awesome goo colors, a thick rubbery layer is said to seal in your skin care so you don’t lose anything to evaporation — it all goes right into your skin. The Korean brand Dr. Jart+ brought several different kinds of rubber masks to the U.S. earlier this year, including this moisturizing one, which uses plant proteins for resilient hydration.
8Peel Off Modeling Mask
Shangpree Silver Premium Modeling "Rubber" Mask, $20, Peach & Lily
Another example of a rubber mask is Shangpree’s peel-off modeling mask that mixes a silver-y gel with a collagen powder. After mixing, applying, and peeling it off after 20 minutes, your skin looks super plump and bouncy, but also brighter and fresher. Rubbery peel-off masks used to be available only in spas, says Yoon, but are now the big new thing in at-home masks.
Correct + Melting Boost, $18, Karuna
These tiny spot-sized patches are solid forms of targeted ingredients that dissolve underneath a sheet mask to help target trouble areas, hence the name “melting boost.” Karuna was the first sheet mask brand to launch in the U.S. in 2009 and frequently comes up with smart new versions. These new boosts can target breakouts, brown spots, and under eyes.
10Freeze-Dried Vitamin C
Dr. Myer's Vitamin C Ampoule Mask, $6, Peach & Lily
One benefit of the DIY trend is that some ingredients work better when freshly activated, such as vitamin C. A perfect example is this Dr. Myer’s Vitamin C Ampoule Mask. “The mask itself has vitamin C freeze-dried into its fibers and the goop is added separately, so the vitamin C is activated right when you’re about to use it,” explains Yoon.
Here’s a trend we probably should have seen coming: sheet masks + face oils. “You have to have a good ratio of hydration and oil lipids to have really well balanced skin,” says Yoon. “In Korea there is a lot of pollution coming in from China and people were finding your skin barrier gets so damaged. To get it back on track, it’s not just about hydration, but about healthy lipids for the acid mantle.” We’re listening!
Facial In-A-Flash Multi Masking Bento Set, $33, Skin Inc
The mix-and-match philosophy of Singaporean brand Skin Inc. means their sheet masks are also customizable. Their Bento Box has upper and lower face sheets with formulas for breakouts, firming, and brightening, so you can, for example, treat acne around the chin while smoothing wrinkles on the forehead.
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