painless shopping

The Best Sheet (and Wash-Off) Masks the Strategist Has Written About

Photo: Retailers

With few people around to see you slathering your face in a thick, earthy paste (and more free time in the day to spend on skin care in general), now is the time to try a new mask. Masks are a great way to address skin-care concerns big and small — from overall brightening to calming down angry inflammation. Here at the Strategist we have tested and written about many, many dozens of them — from the one invented to give Korean brides an extra dose of glow on their wedding day, to the convincing SK-II dupe, to the wash-off beloved by both author Buzz Bissinger and beauty consultant Alexis Page. We’ve rounded them all up, here.

Sheet masks

The SK-II mask contains about a third of a bottle’s worth of Pitera (a yeast extract said to improve skin lucency, decrease wrinkles, and lighten dark spots) in it. “This mask makes me look like I have the dewiest, freshest, softest skin of all time after I use it,” says Strategist writer Rio Viera-Newton. Comedian Rebel Wilson is also a fan: “It gives you hydrated, glowy skin,” she says.

For fans of the cultish SK-II mask but not its high price tag, writer Brodie Lancaster recommends this affordable alternative from Australian skin-care brand Go-To, which she says works wonders and leaves zero residue behind after use. In addition to native Australian ingredients like Kakadu plum and Tasmanian pepper leaf, it also contains niacinamide, known for its hydrating and healing properties.

The My Beauty Diary masks are a favorite among beauty enthusiasts and experts, including Jude Chao of K-beauty skin-care site Fifty Shades of Snail. Rio is also a fan. “These masks are deeply conditioning, and hydrate and soothe irritated skin,” she says.

This mask from Naruko contains Raw Jaw, a popular Taiwanese ingredient that Rio swears gives her practically poreless skin. “I wake the morning after I use it looking super radiant, like I’ve never had a pore in my life. If that doesn’t sell it to you, I don’t know what will,” she says.

If you’re struggling with cystic acne or under-the-surface pimples, this is the mask to reach for. It contains tea-tree oil (a popular acne fighter), willow bark (an exfoliator), and chamomile and redwort (both of which soothe redness). It’s a favorite of Rio’s and The Incendiaries author R.O. Kwon’s, who calls it “magical,” and says, “It calms down my skin when nothing else will help.”

Rio likes this sheet mask for its calming properties, especially around her time of the month. “It makes my skin feel bouncy and supple, calms any redness or irritation, ensures that any brewing pimples are stopped in their tracks, and makes existing acne less red and inflamed,” she says, adding that she uses it once or twice per cycle.

Another calming mask, recommended by Soko Glam’s Charlotte Cho. “I use it to calm and soothe my skin,” she says. Its superstar ingredient is centella, a popular K-beauty ingredient beloved for its healing properties.

$23 for 10

For protecting the skin against outside pollutants, dirt, and grime, this mask is unparalleled: It uses a combination of ginger oil (for calming and soothing) and ectoine, which claims to strengthen your epidermis, to give the skin an extra layer of protection.

Men’s grooming editor Garrett Munce dubbed this his favorite all-around sheet mask. “Unlike others I’ve tried, this one actually fits my whole face,” he says. In addition to fitting well, it also addresses common skin issues men face, like redness, sun damage, and breakouts, using ingredients like green-tea niacinamide, ginger, and licorice root.

If you have a beard (masking can be difficult if you do), Munce recommends this one from HeTime. “It’s shaped more like a Batman cowl than a Jason mask,” he says. “For guys with facial hair, it covers more skin than just the top half of a split mask, so you don’t feel bad about wasting the bottom part.” Plus, it has good-for-skin ingredients like moringa oil, which leaves skin plump and smooth.

Munce calls this mask near perfect for men, and recommends using it before big events or special occasions (a Zoom birthday party, perhaps) due to its price tag (around $20 a mask). The results are worth it, he insists. “The hydration lasts four or five days after using it,” he says. “It’s like the ultimate post-hangover reviver.”

Another special-occasion mask is this one from AmorePacific, that actress Julia Fox says leaves her skin soft for days. It contains fermented green-tea extract that gives skin a healthy dose of antioxidants, and heats up when applied to the skin. “Your skin has this amazing glow afterward,” she says.

There is a near-endless amount of face masks available on Amazon, but these are particularly beloved. A pack of 16 will only run you $12 (that’s around $0.70 a mask), and they work: “Not only did these give me bright and glowing skin, but most of my acne went away after literally one use,” writes one enthusiastic reviewer, who swears by them. The pack of 16 comes with everything from collagen-soaked masks to ones saturated with charcoal, so you can tailor use to your specific skin-care issue.

Merbliss’s Wedding Dress Mask was invented to give Korean brides an extra dose of glow on their wedding day. “It’s super rich, hydrating, and leaves your skin looking illuminated,” Rio says of this one.

Celebs like Delilah Belle Hamlin and Lily Aldridge love masks by 111Skin, a luxe skin-care brand that is designed to protect skin against environmental damage from pollutants and high altitudes. Aldridge is a fan of the de-puffing one in particular, which she uses after long nights and says works quickly and effectively. “I can feel the coolness of them de-puffing my eyes,” she says.

Wash-off masks

Jude Chao also loves this overnight mask — it’s the fastest way, she says, “to get that ultraglowy effect on your skin.” She uses it when her skin is looking really tired and dull, and recommends it to anyone looking for a quick dose of intense hydration.

Another good sleeping-mask option is this one from French pharmacy staple Bioderma, which Strategist managing editor Maxine Builder says works especially well for her acne-prone skin. While it’s too thick for every day, she uses it in skin emergencies (after a night of heavy drinking, for instance) and wakes up with dewy, pimple-free skin.

Beauty consultant Alexis Page (who’s worked with companies like M.A.C, Pat McGrath, and Glossier) loves this hydrating mask from Cosrx — which she describes as “kind of sticky, but really good.” It doesn’t contain any actual honey, but is imbued with propolis (a residue bees use to fill in the gaps of their honeycombs) that has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.

Taryn Toomey, founder of fitness program the Class, and Rio are both big fans of this Tata Harper mask, which uses a blend of AHA’s and BHA’s to exfoliate skin, and also contains micro-crystals for added physical exfoliation.

Benton’s Aloe Soothing Mask landed a spot in a roundup of the best products for sunburned skin for its ability to help moisturize and calm inflamed skin (and reduce other types of irritation, like breakouts).

Good, affordable masks can be difficult to come by, but Rio (along with celebrities like Lizzo) has fallen in love with these masks from Versed — which come in a squeeze tube and are good for up to 12 uses. “When I wash the masks off with lukewarm water, my skin always looks like a more refined version of itself,” says Rio, noting that it’s even replaced her once-beloved Biossance Tea Tree Mask, and Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask, too.

The Summer Fridays mask is still extremely popular, and beloved by Hamlin and Page. “It’s very purifying. My skin is more hydrated, and more glowy and awake,” says Hamlin, adding that it helps her breakout less. Page also likes to use it as a sleeping mask: “I use it when my skin feels sad, or I’ve used too many acids, or if I’ve happened to spend too much time in the sun; it’s very reparative.”

As for the Biossance mask: Rio says it’s particularly good at reducing the size of blemishes big and small, and never dries out the skin. This is due to its formulation, a mix of tea-tree oil and green clay (these ingredients address the pimples) and squalane, which keeps moisture locked into the skin.