Are Sheet Masks Effective?

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Let’s face it, sheet masks have become a self-care day staple. Some of us pick them up because they’re cute, and some of us just want to feel like we did something. Skincare doesn’t always have to cater to your skin concerns, sometimes it’s about how it makes you feel.

No shame in that at all.…but you’d be lying if you said you’ve never wondered if they actually work.

So we found some answers.

Sheet Masks


Sheet masks are face-shaped sheets of material soaked in a serum, ampoule or a concentrated solution of skincare ingredients that address certain skin concerns. They’re usually water-based solutions, which make the masks sopping wet but some masks do come in two steps, in which they provide the serum/ampoule and mask material separately (see Dr. Jart). Most masks usually claim to hydrate and/or brighten your skin and are generally are used once. Since they are usually individually packaged they’re easy to use on the go but also not very environmentally friendly.

In a nutshell, sheet masks and serums deliver the same and/or similar ingredients and both act as treatments. So what’s the difference?

The main difference between using a sheet mask soaked in serum versus a serum used alone is the delivery method. A serum is applied with your hands and left to dry, whereas a mask is applied and left to soak into the skin for 20-30 minutes, and then removed. The idea behind a sheet mask is to provide a seal or barrier to allow the serum to soak into the skin as much as possible before the water base of the serum evaporates. Water is an excellent delivery vessel for the actives to penetrate your skin, however, it also evaporates :( when it does, any actives left on the surface of your face will have a lesser chance of penetrating deeply.

So Although most of us choose sheet masks based on the claims / active ingredients, the mask material is actually more important when making the decision to buy. I mean, or you could just buy a serum.

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Ugh, we know, skincare is confusing enough and sheet masks can be made up of variety of materials including papers, fibers or gel types, which can be really counter-productive to getting a self-care day started. So, we’ve broken them down into three material types with pros and cons to make it easy.

Cotton Masks / Microfiber MaskS: $2-10 USD

Microfiber sheet masks are the most common sheet masks out there. As the name already suggests, they are made out of microfiber, which feels similar to cotton (that’s why they are called cotton sheet masks, too). They usually feel and behave like paper. These masks are usually the cheaper options in the market and they are drenched in a variety of botanical ingredients and vitamins to help diminish various skin conditions. Their paper-like texture sometimes lacks the “contouring” to remain in place for very long. If you use a low-end fiber mask, you will need to lie down to keep it from falling off. In comparison to the next mask materials, active solutions may evaporate faster than if using one of the next sheet materials.

Hydrogel Masks: $3-12

Hydro-gel masks offer better sealing performance than cotton masks. They are typically produced as a “mask system”, with top and bottom halves that are applied separately. Their product name is derived from the production process that blends cosmetic serums with gelatin, which gives the mask the feel of a cool, thin film layer. These masks feel a bit thicker and look more transparent when on top of your skin. Hydro-gel masks lock in moisture better and stick to your face easier. With the addition of Neutrogena’s hydrogel mask, they’ve also become more affordable. Patchology’s eye gels are also pretty amazing too.

Bio-cellulose Masks: $7-30

Bio-cellulose is a material made from (good) bacteria. Sheet masks made from bio-cellulose usually perform better than microfiber sheet masks because they adhere snugly to skin and don’t allow ingredients to evaporate as quickly. Also, depending on the fermentation medium used to create the material, the masks can be infused with other helpful ingredients, like fruit extracts and ginseng. The texture of a bio cellulose mask feels like a cool, moist gel but its underlying structure is incredibly strong and resilient. Bio cellulose masks do not dry out during application. We really love When’s bio-cellulose sheet masks.

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In the end, yes, sheet masks have a purpose.

However, the last question you should ask before purchasing a sheet mask is,

how often will you use them?

Most estheticians and dermatologists recommend using at least once a week. If you go for a higher-end mask like a bio-cellulose mask brand, plan on spending at least $30 bucks a month for your new skincare love. However, remember masks are a nice-to-have, not a need to have. Yes, they do help solutions penetrate deeper than serums, but if you don’t plan on using pretty consistently you’ll probably never reap the benefits. You can use serums twice a day, every day. Regardless of evaporation, you will consistently be delivering actives to your skin, and it will repay you.

Our advice: Use a serum consistently. Add hydrogel and/or bio-cellulose sheet masks as often and regularly as your pockets allow. If you can’t afford to use them regularly, feel no shame if they’re just a feel-good product in your regimen and choose like no one is watching.