I love seaweed. It’s one of my favorite foods that are not Chinese restaurant spareribs. I love seaweed in soup, I love it crisp and wrapped around a nice big mound of spicy salmon and rice, and I could eat about a hundred strips of seasoned nori at a time. So when a box of sheet masks from The Face Shop arrived yesterday and I found a Kelp mask among them, I knew which one I had to try first.
The Face Shop is a lower midrange Korean cosmetics brand whose marketing, much like Innisfree’s, focuses on natural ingredients. That’s not to say that they’re an all-natural, organic, no-long-science-words company, however. The Face Shop “brings together science and the perfection of nature” by using natural ingredients to enhance and differentiate otherwise fairly standard formulations. I haven’t had much luck with their skin care in the past–their Rice Water Bright Cleansing Foam is an alkaline nightmare that leaves more soapy residue on my skin than actual soap–but I’m always a sucker for a sheet mask.
Purpose: The Face Shop’s Real Nature Mask in Kelp claims to use kelp extract to purify the appearance of skin. Additionally, the back of the packet on all the Real Nature sheets says that “the air pockets within the sheet contain handful of nutritional essence, providing natural moisture and nourishment to skin.” Yeah…I don’t know about that. The air pockets must be microscopic, as I looked very very closely at the sheet and saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to alcohol, fragrance, or anything else in the ingredients list. And just to be on the safe side, use with caution if you have any shellfish or other seafood allergies.
When and how to use: Cleanse face and prepare skin as desired. Some people use sheet masks in place of the rest of their serums and essences for the night. Personally, I use them to supplement the rest of my nighttime skin care routine. I apply all my serums and essences as usual, then use the sheet mask right before my final heavy cream of the night. Leave on for the 10-12 minutes indicated on the mask package (or longer–it won’t hurt anything). After removing the mask, pat or massage in any excess liquid. Finish with an emollient or occlusive cream if desired.
Ingredients list: Water, glycerin, laminaria japonica extract, butylene glycol, alcohol denat., betaine, sodium hyaluronate, xanthan gum, hydrogenated lecithin, dimethicone, phaseolus radiatus extract, betula platyphylla japonica bark extract, rumex crispus root extract, carbomer, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, triethanolamine, methylparaben, propyl paraben, fragrance
Notable ingredients: As I mentioned, I haven’t really had the best impression of The Face Shop’s skin care, but for the most part, I like this ingredients list. The star ingredient, laminaria japonica extract, is right up near the top of the list, indicating that the mask contains a relatively large amount of it. Laminaria japonica is an edible seaweed native to the waters of East Asia. In addition to tasting delicious, it has been shown to benefit skin both by promoting hydration and by significantly slowing down the rate of water loss.
The Face Shop’s Kelp sheet mask contains a few other notable natural extracts, too. Phaseolus radiatus is the scientific term for mung bean, another popular Asian food. Mung bean extract is rich in vitamin A, B vitamins, and flavonoid antioxidants and can brighten and smooth the skin. Betula platyphylla japonica is a very fancy way for people with fancy science educations to say “Asian White Birch,” and the bark extract has anti-inflammatory properties. Finally, rumex crispus (yellow dock) root extract is an astringent.
But hold up! All these proven botanical ingredients are great, but that doesn’t mean that The Face Shop’s kelp sheet mask achieves Benton levels of gentleness and lack of fillers. (You’ll someday find out why I hold Benton up as the standard.) My CosDNA analysis of The Face Shop Real Nature Mask in Kelp identifies a few problematic ingredients. Alcohol denat. (denatured alcohol) throws up a big red flag in the form of a 5 for potential irritation, so if alcohol-containing products have irritated or dried your skin out in the past, patch test before you try this mask. In addition, butylene glycol and dimethicone score 1s, and triethanol amine gets a 2, as potential acne triggers, while carbomer has a 1 for irritation. My skin is generally very hardy, so I used the mask anyway.
The first thing I noticed about the mask was not encouraging. Straight out of the packet, it has a strong fragrance. To me, it smelled floral, but adulterated by some other undefinable aroma. It wasn’t entirely pleasant, and it began to give me a mild headache within just a few minutes. I am sensitive to fragrances, though. I can’t be around anyone who’s wearing perfume for longer than a few minutes before my head starts to hurt, and cologne has always been one of my major dating deal-breakers thanks to the headache factor.
I powered through it anyway, because I wanted that kelp extract on my face.
The mask sheet itself is soaked with essence, the material thin and unusually silky. There are lots of slits around the edges and in the eye area to help customize fit. Those slits are helpful, but application was still a pain. I found the mask floppy and hard to put on. It kept folding in on itself and sticking and having to be pulled straight again. Once I had it all smoothed out, though, it fit and adhered fine, and I didn’t need to cut any additional slits to make it work for my face.
The suggested wearing time for The Face Shop Real Nature masks is one of the shortest I’ve seen, at 10-12 minutes. I like to get all the essence I can out of sheet masks, so I leave them on for as long as I can stand to, or until the mask sheets start to feel dry. In the case of the Kelp mask, it took about 25 minutes before the material felt “done.” In that time, the fragrance barely faded at all. The fact that I stuck with it shows my commitment to the cause.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t have high expectations for the mask’s results. I recognize that this is unfair, since the mask does have such interesting ingredients, but I had a preexisting bias against TFS skincare. I wasn’t expecting to be as impressed as I was once I removed the mask! My skin was noticeably brighter and smoother, my skin tone very even and calm-looking, and my face felt deeply hydrated and refreshed. I haven’t been sleeping well lately, so this was a welcome pick-me-up for my tired face. The leftover essence on my skin was delightfully light and non-greasy; it massaged in quickly and left no tacky or oily residue. And the results lasted into the next day. My skin still feels so so soft, and my BB cream applied like a dream this morning.
Conclusion: Color me impressed. The alcohol and the fragrance made for an inauspicious start, but I can’t argue with the excellent results I got at the end. The Face Shop’s Real Nature sheet mask in Kelp did everything a sheet mask should do, and the relatively short wearing time is a nice bonus. I’m even willing to forgive TFS for the weird fragrance. I have a feeling it might be there to cover up the smell of seaweed or some of the other natural extracts, so perhaps that’s why it’s so strong and smells so odd.
Rating: 4.5/5 (and it would get a solid 5 from me if not for the fragrance.)