Sheet masks are popular for a reason. They’re fun. They’re Instagrammable (which, yes, does matter). They’re great in a pinch, due to their ability to deliver super-potent serums quickly and directly to your skin, mimicking spa results for a fraction of the cost and effort. And, like any single-use product that’s difficult or impossible to recycle, they’re enormously wasteful. Unlike a bottle of skincare, a sheet mask exists to be put on, soaked in, then discarded to a landfill (or ocean) for eternity. But what if that didn’t have to be their trajectory?
Dieux, a new skincare brand launched in September, released a US$25 Forever Eye Mask—and it quickly sold out. Jessica Alba’s wellness and lifestyle brand The Honest Company dropped its US$14.99 Reusable Magic Silicone Sheet Mask shortly after, in November. Although they serve different purposes, there is one clear connecting factor between the two sheet mask alternatives: silicone.
“Silicone does not absorb the product and creates a closed environment—it is designed to minimize evaporation. This helps lock in all the good stuff!” Alba tells BAZAAR.com. “I have dreamt about creating this product for a while now.”
Most traditional sheet masks are made of synthetic fibers or blends. Even if they are made from natural materials like cotton, the masks are often soaked in a serum that renders them impossible to compost or recycle. Silicone, while still a byproduct of the petroleum industry, is a far better (though not perfect) choice. “When looking at durable and tested materials, medical-grade silicone kept coming up. It’s well-tested in working with scarring (particularly around hydration) and doesn’t degrade but also, it’s durable,” says Charlotte Palermino, CEO and co-founder of Dieux. “Silicone sheets have been shown to help bring hydration to the surface of the skin,” she adds, pointing to a study on the silicone gel sheets used for reducing scars and another on topical silicone gel.
Hydration being a key perk of the one-and-done masks you’ll find in a drugstore. “It’s incredibly simple: sheet masks work by reducing the evaporation of a serum,” Palermino adds. “When you’re rushing to get ready, products drying down is obviously a good thing. But if you’re looking for something to more deeply saturate the skin, putting an occlusive layer on top will more deeply hydrate the skin and can help with some ingredients to work harder.”
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With the question of durability and reusability answered, the next one up is cleanliness—because one bad run-in with acne might have you very off putting any product repeatedly on your face. Fortunately, silicone’s other perk is being incredibly easy to clean; Palermino notes that silicone masks are non-porous, compared to porous and water-retaining sheet masks. “We recommend to wash the masks in warm water with soap, shake off the water, and place them back in the tin. You can wash them again before use as well!” Palermino says. The same goes for the Honest Beauty face mask, which comes with a reusable bag.
But how long is ‘forever’ when it comes to a face mask? Palermino says the Forever Eye Mask can last up to a year, which is how long the brand has been testing it, but theoretically has a lifespan well beyond that. “The logo may wear off a bit but the mask itself will stay intact. It’s really hard to rip… but I’m sure if someone really tried they could, so our advice is to be gentle with it,” she explains. While silicone is not biodegradable in the slightest, it can be repurposed if taken to a dedicated recycling facility.
The larger, all-over Honest Beauty mask comes with the same wearability caveat: “If handled with care, your mask can be used for several months or longer,” says Alba. “Now let’s get masking!” Well, you heard Jessica, didn’t you?
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.