As a person [who is not Korean but] writes a blog about Korean beauty products I was fascinated when I saw a row of $6 face masks at the Herald Square Sephora while doing some birthday shopping.
The reason the masks caught my attention were because 1) sheet masks are not yet ubiquitous in the US and 2) $6. $6. Six. Dollars. To put a $6 sheet mask in context, look at my Mask Month post where I reviewed nine different sheet masks; only three out of the nine cost $6 or more and those pricey masks had special ingredients, super luxe mask fabric, or a special ampoule intended to provide a pre-treatment boost to skin. These days I never buy a mask for $6 because there are loads of brilliant masks for $2 and under.
The exception is the incredible Mediental Snail Aquaring SOS Sheet Mask that comes with a fancy pants ampoule and feels great even on highly abused skin. I recently paid $4.50 for a few, but they’re an exception to the rule.
Why don’t I pay loads for sheet masks? A few reasons. One is that they’re a one-time thing–I don’t want to be trying to recycle a sheet mask and inadvertantly culturing nasty face bacteria in my fridge between uses. Two: unless you’re buying something truly spectacular, the ingredients for most masks are too similar to warrant high prices. Most sheet masks are Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, some other chemically stuff, and a few active ingredients to justify the name (pearl powder for a pearl brightening mask, for example) and maybe give skin a little boost. But unless your mask has some truly next-level stuff or you’re using the same mask type many times per week…your skin is mostly getting some moisture and a temporary boost from active ingredients. Maybe. I belong to the “you are what you do every day” school of thought, so I’m way more into splashing out on nice serums and essences that I’ll use every day rather than pricey one-time use face masks. Other people feel differently, but I’m guessing that those people don’t have His & Hers PhD-size student loans to pay off, just sayin’.
Part of my groaning over the $6 Sephora sheet mask is due to the fact that it’s labeled Made in Taiwan. Taiwan makes loads of great sheet masks–My Beauty Diary are fan favorites and my local Japanese grocery store sells a huge assortment for $.79 each plus tax. So you could buy 7 MBD masks, as they’re known to fans, or 1 Sephora sheet mask. This feels like a classic example of Tumblr-rage-worthy cultural appropriation topped off with a de rigeur price hike. I’m growling.
Enough about relative value, let’s talk about the mask itself.
The big selling point in my opinion is novelty and the packaging design. Since sheet masks aren’t found everywhere yet in the US, trying a trendy product or posting a sheet mask selca may be worth $6 to some folks, no judgement. The packaging is pretty cute.
The outer cardboard packing is a bright disc. Why the packaging needs a cardboard/cardstock outer coat I’m not sure (they’re not standard for Asian Beauty sheet masks).
The actual mask envelope fits inside and it’s a standard foil-lined packet in a non-standard shape.
The cardboard outer jacket is necessary to keep the packets upright in the display holders now that I think about it. The display ends up looking pretty cute and colorful.
Although a cardboard jacket isn’t usually necessary for masks it does allow for brighter colors and a nice presentation. The masks look appealing and I suspect that if they were priced any lower they would be moving quickly because they seem fun. This isn’t a terrible innovation. It’s cute without being TonyMoly cute (which might not appeal to all adult Western women–ALTHOUGH IT CERTAINLY DOES TO MEEEE!!! EEEE!).
Unlike a lot of Asian Beauty sheet masks the ingredients are listed right on the outer sleeve of the packaging in English. Rock on.
Here’s the list of ingredients (which are also listed on the product page of the Sephora website):
Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Triethanolamine, Mel Extract (Honey Extract), Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract, Piroctone Olamine, Polyquaternium-51, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Fragrance, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Benzoate.
Like I mentioned, most sheet masks are a water + butylene glycol + glycerin starring show. This is no exception–it’s a textbook sheet mask essence base. Added to the fun here is Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (skin conditioner), Honey Extract (antiseptic and soothing properties), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract (skin conditioner), Tremella Fuciformis (Mushroom) Extract (humectant and skin conditioner), and Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract (antiseptic properties). So…the active ingredients offer a bit of antiseptic stuff and a whole lot of moisture.
I’m not geeking out over this ingredient list, to be honest. Compared to the honey sheet mask that I received in the My Honey Memebox, this list is pretty basic. In comparison, that was a $1 sheet mask. For $6 I’m hoping for an explanation of why the romance in Bee Movie wasn’t weird (it was) and a list of smashing actives longer than the accounting of why St. Peter is going to be a tough bouncer when I finally make it to kbeauty shop in the sky.
I ran the ingredients through CosDNA (results here), the cosmetics ingredient analyzer, and found that this mask should be suitable for most skin. Butylene Glycol rates 1 out of 5 (5 being most serious) as a potential acne trigger and Triethanolamine rates 2 out of 5 as a potential acne trigger. Otherwise this looks good.
This mask doesn’t have parabens (although most kbeauty products don’t have parabens anyway), fragrance (I’ll talk more about that in a moment), or alcohol (plenty of sheet masks do–it can aid quick absorption of the active ingredients although plenty of people prefer to avoid alcohol). These ingredients don’t concern me, but I know that they would be a factor in the decision-making process of, say, my mom, who shops more often at Sephora than I do. So this ingredient list may be more in line with the wishes of a regular Sephora customer.
Overall, this sheet mask, based on the ingredients alone, got beat by a $1 kbeauty honey mask. If you handed me the ingredient list and asked me to put a price on this mask I’d say it’s in the $1-2 range, max.
This isn’t fragranced and it really doesn’t smell good. It’s not like it smells like pure stank, but it’s certainly not pleasant to smell while wearing. Most sheet masks I’ve tried either smell pretty good or they’re not memorable for being annoying. This just didn’t smell very good. If sheet masks are supposed to be a luxurious, pampering thing in the world of Sephora (for many women and men in Asia and in the Asian Beauty fan community they’re a regular, potentially daily thing), then I should hope that they would smell good. The sheet mask I received in the My Honey box was very lightly fragranced, but it was pretty delectable and added to the feeling of “ahhh yesss.”
Fit and Design
This is a one-piece fiber mask. It’s folded into a rather tight rectangle in the wrapper, which could lead to some issues as the mask is disentangled a few times over and the medium-thickness fabric is stretched as one figures out how to spread it out.
It’s a pain to deal with honestly.
Ultimately the mask comes disentangled and you’re left with, yes, a sheet mask.
There was a fair bit of essence in the envelope after the mask was removed, which I slapped into the fabric. The essence wasn’t overflowing, but there was plenty to top off the mask once it was on my face. It was a very good ratio.
Since Sephora began in France and is a powerhouse retailer in the West, I was hoping that the fit of the mask would be…better for my…strong European features. My giant face.
I realized while wearing this that the sheet mask fabric is embossed with the Sephora logo. urgh Am I paying extra to wear a sheet mask that covers my skin with a logo I don’t care about? GAG.
Gotta say, for a one-piece sheet mask, the fit is actually really good for my face. Yeah, the nose part never quite works, but that’s normal. The rest of the mask fits really nicely, reaching to cover most of my face. For someone with a smaller face who can’t deal with some overhang, this might actually be pretty annoying to wear.
While wearing this, the area around my mouth dried pretty quickly, leaving those parts loose (since the liquid serves to suction the mask fabric to one’s skin) while the mask generally remained in place. Other masks have done this, and they’re usually sheet masks made out of too-thin material. Thicker masks can usually hold the essence, but this mid-thickness mask lost the moisture and suction to my face fairly quickly.
Now that the mask is off and the essence has dried my skin feels really good, actually! Nothing crazy, but it feels plump and hydrated but not smothered in glycerin-y film. My skin has a nice, soft glow to it (as in it’s reflecting the light, but not like it’s a mirror or excessively shiny). I can see why people would like this mask–the results are good.
I expected to dislike this mask a lot more than I actually did. The fit, results, and ingredients were solid. The packaging was the star. In a “season 2” version of this mask I’d hope to see improved fabric, some fancier active ingredients, and a better way to fold the mask and get it out of the package without causing a tear.
The highlight was the cute package design, but the Sephora branding on the mask fabric seemed a bit obnoxious to me; please don’t emboss your logo on my skin–this leather is too fine for that sort of treatment.
Ultimately, the reason I can’t recommend this mask is because of the price: for $6 one should be getting an absolutely fantastic sheet mask that does more than hydrate skin without being annoying to wear. I’d say that most Korean sheet masks I’ve tried with few exceptions that cost about $2 will stomp this mask in all categories except packaging.
At the same time, if this is a gateway to a wider range of masks then I don’t think it’s a terrible splurge, actually. It’s quite possible that people who love this mask will get hooked, but want to cut their sheet mask bills and expand their options. And that’s where my Asian beauty blogger colleagues and I come in…
Where to buy it:
Other, Asian sheet masks to try:
Moisture + great fit + cool fabric: Mememask hydrogel: $3 (reviewed here)
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking those links before you shop means that fan-b receives a small commission, which helps to support the blog. Please see my full disclosure for more information.