Sheet masks: Do they actually work?

They’re at the centre of pre-party rituals and self-care Sundays. So much so that the practice of covering your face with a wet, slimy, cold piece of fabric to relax has become the status quo, with our Instagram feeds awash with slightly terrifying selfies paired with robes and wine glasses.

But skincare expert Paula Begoun, founder of Paula’s Choice Skincare, has some cold hard facts about sheet masks.

Begoun knows her stuff when it comes to beauty. In fact, years of research led her to write 21 books on the subject, motivated by a passion to prevent people from ever having to go through what she went through when she struggled with acne as a teenager.

Frustrated with the misinformation spread by the cosmetics industry, Begoun launched her namesake brand, Paula’s Choice, in 1995 and after writing her first book, Blue Eyeshadow Should be Illegal (the title a metaphor for how the industry sells us unnecessary products).

But sheet masks are just one of the things she wants us to forget about.

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Here, she busts seven big beauty myths for Body+Soul.

Myth: Sheet masks help ingredients absorb. Truth: Simply put, sheet masks are a waste of your time. There is no research showing they have any advantage over using well formulated skincare products and they don’t help ingredients absorb. Skincare ingredients absorb primarily based on their molecular size and the product’s delivery system.

“Do not get me started on sheet masks, biggest waste of time in the industry,” Paula told Body+Soul. “What they tell you about sheet masks is that, primarily, is that they help ingredients absorb better, right? That’s what they tell you. Well, it’s not true. That’s a lie. Ingredients only absorb based on their molecular size. If an ingredient is too big a size, that mask is not going to change its size and help it absorb any better. That’s number one. Number two is, there is no research showing that a sheet mask works any better, or even as good, as a well formulated moisturiser can.

“The other thing about sheet masks, is that they’re a time suck. It does not help skincare ingredients absorb better, and even if it did help ingredients absorb better, you don’t need everything to absorb. If everything goes into skin, what’s left on the surface layers to protect surface layers? That’s bad skincare.”

Plus, you don’t need every ingredient to absorb at the same level. The HII best products are formulated in a way that some ingredients remain on the surface to protect skin from environmental damage, others absorb a bit more to restore hydration and skin’s defence substances, and others penetrate even deeper where they can repair and renew living skin cells.

Myth: Skin repairs itself best at night. Truth: Research shows just the opposite is true: Skin actually heals better during the day than it does at night because.

During the day because you are moving around more, increasing blood flow and oxygen intake that stimulates healing far more than just lying still in bed does.

Myth: A cool, tingling sensation means a product is working.
Truth: A cooling or tingling sensation is your skin telling you it’s being sensitized, irritated, and inflamed and none of that is helpful.

Even if you don’t see the irritation on the surface of skin, research has shown it is still happening below the surface destroying collagen, elastin, and other support components and increasing breakouts and other skin problems.

Myth: Your skin adapts to products you use so they eventually stop working. Truth: Skin doesn’t adapt to skincare products any more than your body adapts to a healthy diet.

Spinach and grapes are healthy for you today, and they’ll continue to be healthy for you months and years from now, even if you eat them every day. The same is true for your skin. As long as you are applying what’s beneficial for skin (and avoiding things that harm skin such as unprotected sun exposure) there is no reason to change.

Myth: Essential oils are great for treating many skin concerns. Truth: Some components of essential oils are indeed beneficial for the skin, but unfortunately essential oils are also comprised of volatile, fragrant compounds that cause skin inflammation. Non-fragrant plant oils such as jojoba, sunflower, argon, acacia, and most berry oils are a far better choice as they impart skin benefits without the negative inflammatory impact.

Myth: Natural ingredients are better for skin. Truth: Research makes it abundantly clear that while there are lots of brilliant natural ingredients for the skin, there are also lots of natural ingredients that are irritating and damaging to the skin, and these show up in skincare products all the time.

On the other hand, there are lots of lab-engineered ingredients that are brilliant for skin and work far better for skin than natural ones do. The best products contain a combination of both the best natural ingredient and best synthetic ingredients!

Myth: Scrubbing skin is great for exfoliation and unclogging pores.
Truth: Using an abrasive scrub, rough cleansing brush, or a loofah generates inflammation and causes micro-tears in the skin’s surface, leading to a litany of problems including collagen breakdown, redness, dehydration, increased breakouts, and a weakened outer barrier so skin becomes more susceptible to environmental damage.

A gentle AHA or BHA exfoliant is the better way to go for healthy, resilient skin.