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A comically large glass of red wine, a steamy bubble bath, and a cooling face mask are all it takes to make a perfect night in my book. In fact, I keep my fridge perpetually stocked with sheet masks just for this purpose. There's just one (very big) issue: this sheet mask habit of mine isn't exactly eco-friendly, thanks to all of those single-use materials. That's why I was more than intrigued when several brands debuted reusable sheet masks in 2020. Nurse Jamie, Sephora Collection, Avant Guard, and Honest Beauty have all created silicone versions of the masks we know and love — but these treatments don't contain serum of any kind. They're designed to be worn on top of skin-care products of your choosing, then washed, stored away, and re-used infinitely, therefore cutting down on waste from cotton, plastic, hydrogel, and other materials.
At the risk of sounding like Carrie Bradshaw, I couldn't help but wonder: What difference can a reusable mask make in my skin-care routine if it's not infused with some sort of brightening or hydrating concoction? I want to make more sustainable choices, but will I have to sacrifice my favorite self-care activity in order to do so? To find out, I started using Honest Beauty's Reusable Magic Mask and wound up reconsidering single-use beauty products altogether.
Nurse Jamie Face Wrap Skin Perfecting Silicone Mask
Honest Beauty Reusable Magic Silicone Sheet Mask
After doing my full night-time skin-care routine, complete with serum, moisturizer, and sometimes face oil, I simply wear the reusable mask anywhere between 10 to 30 minutes, just as its instructions advise. It has loops on either side to hook around the ears, so it never slides around or falls off, even when I'm up and walking around. When I'm done, I simply take it off, wash it in the sink with warm water and soap, pat it dry with a towel, then place it back in its provided storage bag until next time. Alba says she uses the mask once per week, but I use it twice per week.
What benefit does this serve beyond the benefit of the skin-care routine itself? According to the people who created the Magic Mask, a combination of things — the first one being sustainability, which is what initially drove brand founder Jessica Alba to create it.
"There's all of this plastic that you throw away immediately… it's almost like the sheet mask has become the plastic straw of 2021," Alba tells Allure. "At the end of the day it's just some serum and some moisturizer that you're penetrating into the skin with the mask, so I thought wouldn't it be great if we could have a more sustainable option?"
Beyond the environmental benefits, a silicone sheet mask can actually make your already-established skin-care routine a little more effective, another reason Honest Beauty opted to create its iteration. "Often when we apply serums and moisturizers, most of the water evaporates during application, but our sheet mask helps to lock in product," says Mallory McMahon, the associate director of research and innovation at Honest Beauty. "Using [exfoliating serums] with a [reusable] sheet mask may help boost efficacy; when used with hydrating products, it helps lock moisture in and decrease evaporation overall."
Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara concurs. "Essentially [a silicone mask] acts as a canvas to drive active ingredients [into the skin] as opposed to being the active itself," she explains. "It works to protect the ingredients so they don't rub off." And because these silicone alternatives aren't already infused with active ingredients, customers get the freedom of fully customizing their mask experience.
OK, so it might look like I’m wearing a piece of thin-sliced hickory ham on my face, but it’s worth it to cut down on sheet mask waste.
It's all possible because, as McMahon points out, silicone is a "chemically inert" material. I'll let cosmetic chemist Ginger King explain exactly why that's important. "[Chemically inert materials] will not have potential reactions to active ingredients," she says. "You want to avoid any potential interaction of materials that may eat up the mask or leach out undesirable ingredients." In other words, the silicone material of the mask ensures that you can wear it on top of any skin-care product safely and without any adverse reactions.
To make a long point short: Reusable silicone sheet masks are, indeed, effective — maybe just as much as traditional ones. I might not have seen a visible difference in my skin after I began using one, but you can take that with a grain of salt (my skin stays pretty stagnant regardless, thanks to genetics and a skin-care obsession). The real benefit is that I can kick my feet up in my bubbly tub with the knowledge that I am not creating as much waste as I once did, so consider me a reusable sheet mask convert.
If you, like many other folks across the globe, are trying to become more sustainable this year, this could be a great, albeit small, first step. Then, it's time to ponder: What other aspects of your routine are due for an eco-friendly upgrade?
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