Ever tried a sheet mask? A better question might be: have you ever heard of such a thing? Sometimes referred to as paper masks, a sheet mask is essentially an express facial in a packet. Composed out of sturdy paper or cloth, the sheet is soaked in a blended solution known as “essence” and packaged in individual sachets. Since placing a moist fibrous material over your face for longer than a minute would suffocate you, the sheet mask has cut-out holes for your eyes, nose, and mouth. After leaving the mask on between ten and twenty minutes, you are meant to discard it and rub any residual essence into your skin.
I was new to the wide world of sheet masks when I came across MyFaceWorks. While sheet masks are a popular beauty trend in Asia, they are few and far between among Western brands. MyFaceWorks, a Canadian company based in Vancouver, is the first to devote its line 100% to sheet masks. MyFaceWorks' product line consists of twelve total masks for the face, each designed to address a particular skin concern, and one for the eyes, all sporting a self-explanatory quippy name like “i need to firm,” “i need to detox,” and “i need the works.” I put two varieties to the test: “i need damage control” to resuscitate my skin from sun damage accrued this summer, and “i need to tame” to soothe my face from the natural inflammation that occurs with the dual change of seasons and skincare products.
I tested these MyFaceWorks sheet masks a week apart and measured them against some of my favorite cream masks, including gloTherapeutics Restorative Mask
and Chella Enzyme Exfoliating Crema Mask
. Though my stand-by masks are dependable, they are also on the pricey side, so I use them only when my skin is sending out an SOS. I know that one of the little soldiers in my mask squad will come to the rescue even if I have to let it marinate overnight. The application of a MyFaceWorks mask was foreign to me, and the soggy, clinging sensation on my skin was quite different from the nourishing layer of comfort that I was used to. But I was willing to keep an open mind if it meant discovering a new favorite way to rejuvenate my skin.
How did the sheet masks I tried by MyFaceWorks stack up? Allow me to recap:
The sealed environment protecting each mask reduces contamination, and the two-step application process prevents bacteria from passing between your hands and your face: Plus 6.
The mask’s active ingredients are evenly pre-soaked into the sheet, ensuring that every section of the face will get an equal dose of nutrients: Plus 3.
By the same token, the mask's full-face design does not permit the option of spot treatments for isolated skin issues (e.g. acne or oiliness): Minus 2.
Its self-contained design is perfect for travel, allowing you to bypass liquid restrictions and mellow out with a mask upon arrival at your destination: Plus 1.
The saturated nature of the mask foils any attempts at multi-tasking, since sitting at the computer, folding laundry, eating a snack, cooking dinner, and most other upright activities run the risk of drippings: Minus 3.
The saturated nature of the mask forces you to take a time-out from your to-do list and indulge in some dedicated pampering, just like a spa experience: Plus 5.
The mask suctions onto the skin and stays moist throughout the experience, unlike liquid masks which are quickly absorbed or clay masks which gradually dry out: Plus 1.
While beautifying, you might scare off your significant other or roommate: Minus 4.
You might also scare off that pesky door-to-door salesman or missionary: Plus 2.
You can let your mask dry out and reuse it as a makeshift Halloween costume (most appropriate for fans of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre): Plus 2.
MyFaceWorks makes its masks out of biodegradable materials such as non-woven rayon, silk, and crystal fiber (bio-cellulose), extracted from a natural plant bacterium: Plus 4.
MyFaceWorks houses this eco-friendly material in extremely wasteful packaging, which involves an air-tight pouch and a plastic layer adhered to the sheet mask: Minus 4.
The company does not disclose full lists of ingredients on the web, making it impossible to know whether there is a risk of irritants or allergens before buying: Minus 10.
Even the most gentle mask in the line - “i need to tame” (suited for sensitive skin) - contains propylene glycol
(classified as an irritant by the National Library of Medicine), potentially contaminated PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil
(labeled a sensitizer by the EWG), and estrogen-mimicking methylparaben
: Minus 20.
There is no mess or clean-up required after removing the mask: Plus 2.
You might emerge from the sheet mask more relaxed, but your face won’t feel or look dramatically different: Minus 5.
After removing my "i need damage control" and "i need to tame" masks, my skin at first looked dewy thanks to the moisture left behind from the still-soaked sheet. I felt guilty tossing the dripping used mask in the trash, but it seemed unhygienic to recycle it. Once the leftover wetness evaporated, my skin looked exactly as it did before the MyFaceWorks mini-facial. I went to bed without adding any products to my skin, and the next morning I awoke to find that a couple of blemishes had sprouted overnight. Whether it was due to the occlusive treatment of the mask or chemicals in its "essence" that were incompatible with my skin, nothing good came out of my MyFaceWorks experiment.
It seems that sheet masks in general are formed on a flimsy selling point, though one that has won over the Asian beauty market. Their benefits don’t have much weight beyond a gimmicky concept created for convenience. With their portability comes wastefulness, and with their face-enveloping design comes a diluted treatment. A spritz of antioxidant-infused face mist is probably just as effective. Though a sheet mask might moisturize and nourish the skin, there is no evidence that creating a saturated seal of active ingredients over the skin is any more beneficial than a traditional cream, gel, or clay mask that gets absorbed the old-fashioned way.
MyFaceWorks is generally three to five times more expensive than comparable brands in Asia, which might be hard to find were it not for the internet. In spite of their lofty price point, MyFaceWorks sheet masks are not imbued with enough heavy-hitting active ingredients to make a noticeable difference from a single application. Most of the sheet masks' "essence" is comprised of promising natural extracts, but not enough to justify spending $9-15 on a single twenty-minute treatment that delivers little to no results. Perhaps regular use might bring about the remedy promised in each mask's name, but incorporating these masks into your daily routine would be an extravagant habit. MyFaceWorks sheet masks are one of those true “luxury” beauty products best suited for the extremely rich, frivolous, or lazy.
Ingredients in “i need to tame” Mask:
Demineralized water, carbomer, xanthan gum, propylene glycol, marus alba (mulberry) root extract, saxifrage sarmentosa extract, vitis vinifera (grape) extract, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, sodium hyaluronate, malic acid, sodium chondroitin sulfate, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, methylparaben, dipotassium glycyrrhizinate, methylisothiazolinone, soluble collagen, rose essential oil.