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By Melissa Epifano
If you’re like the rest of us, when sheet masks first blew up in popularity, you probably collected about 100 different kinds. Vitamin C-infused? Duh. Aloe vera? Check. Snail mucin? Heck yeah. Yet as fun, as they can be, we always want to be 100 percent honest with you, and these facial tools aren’t all they’re cracked up to be when it comes to your wallet, skin, and the environment. In fact, not only are single-use sheet masks the culprit of unnecessary waste, but they’re not even the best format for treating your complexion to different beneficial ingredients.
Thankfully, reusable masks are slowly creeping their way into the mainstream. But what are they and how do they differ from a classic sheet mask? And before you swap, what’s the reasoning behind avoiding sheet masks anyway?
While treating yourself is a must, sheet masks are unfortunately a pretty wasteful product. Consider this: Scooping a thick, goopy formula out of a jar or using a reusable mask both give you the opportunity to use a product over and over for a longer period of time. A sheet mask on the other hand is torn open, used for 15 minutes max, and is then dumped in the trash with its packaging. Similar to the infamous makeup removing wipe, a sheet mask is equally as bad for the environment.
But that’s not all. While the environment is an incredibly important factor, sheet masks may not be that phenomenal for your skin to begin with. The Washington Post reported that they’re quite often a temporary fix, giving your skin a boost that is by no means permanent. While you might revel in the glow for a day or so, only a consistent routine is going to give your skin lasting positive effects.
Almost always made of silicone, (you know that same rubbery material as your spatula?) and stepping in for their not-so-sustainable sisters, reusable sheet masks are becoming quite the hot commodity.
Not only do they reduce your carbon footprint, but they give your skin the treatment it deserves.
While silicone can’t biodegrade, it’s ability to be reused makes it less of an issue than the versions you trash after one night. Like Harper’s BAZAAR states, silicone makes disinfecting a breeze after each use and ensures that the product is soaking into your skin, not the fabric of the mask.
Some might be, yes, but even those that tout the words “biodegradable” or “sustainable” on their packaging doesn’t necessarily mean they are. A similar conundrum happens when skincare products say they’re recyclable. They might be in some respect, but many of those bottles don’t meet the standards of your average curbside pick-up recycling company.
As for sheet masks that claim this, oftentimes the serum they’re soaked in renders them useless when it comes to actually breaking down once they hit the landfill. Technically speaking, to be fully biodegradable, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it needs to pass a test that not only accounts for its ability to break down but how toxic it is when it hits water.
But it’s not just the remaining product that makes them a poor decision when it comes to being eco-conscious. The very material they’re crafted from can be detrimental. A paper from Textiles Environment Design notes that it can take up to 20,000 to 40,000 liters of water to cultivate a single kilogram of cotton (aka, roughly two pounds).
Is your head hurting? Don’t stress — many companies now have your back with a growing selection of options for reusable masks (woohoo!), and we’ve listed a few of our faves down below.