Put simply, a sheet mask is a face-shaped piece of fabric soaked in a blend of liquids that help cleanse the face. You put them on, let the ‘serum’ soak in for about half an hour, then remove.
A few years ago, sheet masks began appearing on social media. They seemed like another fad making the rounds on Insta — using fabric was novel, and so was calling the moisture they were soaked in serum. But then people began regularly using them, and the customer base got comfortable. A range of male celebrities took selfies in fabric face masks, and people got serious about this new routine moving into the men’s market.
There are a ton of products now, each with their own special blend of chemicals. Some tighten the skin with molecular proteins, some are designed to clean away the grit of city life, one is literally made of kale. If you’re bearded, you can get a two-part mask that fits onto your bushy face.
Masks aimed at men? Sounds new to me.
But masks for men have been around a long while. The award-winning SkinB5 Five Minute Skin Purifying Mask gets great reviews online and fits well into the shorter male care routine. It takes as long as breakfast, or getting dressed, or procrastinating on your phone until your alarm goes off again. All-natural masks like these are made from a paste, which you lather on and peel off.
This brings us to the issue with skin masks:
They’re individually packaged and leave more rubbish than pastes once the serum is in your skin. The Internet abounds with little hacks trying to make sheet masks reusable, or to make one at home. It’s looking like young people want to get around the footprint that sheet masks could leave on the environment. Since we have to live with the earth in 50 years, for now we can only afford to use things that will be gentle on it. Maybe that’s why you’re here, looking for an all-natural solution.
Speaking of single use …
We want skin that stays clear. The idea behind skin masks is to brighten and rejuvenate your skin. It’s a noble goal, and cleansing is a great way to clear away some of the mess that damages our skin cells. Though if you’re replacing a good lifestyle with several single-use masks a day, it starts to show. You can hide baggy eyes but people can see when you’re tired. You may have the serum, but you still have to deal with the sebum. If you want to look great in the long run, you’re going to need genuine care.
On the up-side, the makers of sheet masks seem to expect people will be stressed and not in their best shape when they reach for the fabric. Many come with soothing ingredients like lavender, to let you and your skin take a moment of calm. This seems to be the theme of sheet masks — you’re not getting the moisture, nutrients and relaxation you need right now, so take some time to literally soak yourself in it.
The even better news is that if you’re looking for peace and health, there is one thing you can use right now:
Start from the inside by drinking water. You’ll moisturise and rejuvenate yourself, not just because you’re cleansing your skin but because you’re treating the stress that loves to divert energy away from your skin cells. Water has been a stress remedy since ancient times. Sheet masks, pastes and your body all depend on water to work properly.
It’s amazing how every treatment starts to look like holistic when you really look at it. Artificial chemicals are extracted from things found in nature. Fabric masks come from some kind of plant. When you put on a skin remedy, it’s to give your skin something it’s lacking, and that usually turns out to be one of the building blocks of life — rest, water, nutrients, vitamins. When we use these powerful new remedies, it helps to remember that a lot of the time the solution is so simple that your body is already made of it.
Peter Matthews is a freelance writer living in Melbourne. His beard is a natural skin mask that protects from grime. He enjoys kale with lemon juice, which takes out the bitterness.