Sheet Mask Battle Royale, Citrus Edition!

“Natural” and DIY skin care advocates have long recommended the use of straight lemon juice to brighten skin and fade dark spots. Unfortunately, that’s really not a good idea. Undiluted citrus juices can be far too acidic, even capable of causing chemical burns; they can also be irritating and photosensitizing, leading to increased sun damage after UV exposure. But can the controlled use of citrus juices in professionally formulated skin care products safely deliver some of the same brightening and dark spot-fading benefits that people claim to get from rubbing lemons on their face? Today’s Sheet Mask Battle Royale examines three citrus-based sheet masks to find out the answer!

The Contenders

For this battle royale, I used sheet masks from The Face Shop, Innisfree, and Etude House. The Etude House and The Face Shop masks feature lemon, while Innisfree’s features lime.

The Face Shop Real Nature mask in Lemon
The Face Shop Real Nature sheet mask, Lemon
Innisfree lime sheet mask
Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Mask, Lime
Etude House lemon sheet mask
Etude House I Need You! sheet mask in Lemon

Purpose: All three masks claim to brighten skin.

Do not use if: You are sensitive to alcohol, citrus extracts, fragrance, or anything else in the ingredients lists.

When and how to use: After cleansing and toning, in place of or in addition to your normal essence, serum, and ampoule steps, unfold mask and apply to face. Leave on as directed by packaging instructions or longer if desired. Remove mask, massage or pat in remaining essence, and lock in hydration with an occlusive moisturizing cream or sleeping mask.

Ingredients Showdown

The Face Shop Real Nature Mask, Lemon: Water, glycerin, citrus medica limonum (lemon) fruit 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

CosDNA analysis: Butylene glycol and dimethicone score 1s as potential acne triggers, triethanolamine scores a 2 as a potential acne trigger, alcohol denat. scores a 5 as a potential irritant, and carbomer scores a 1 as a potential irritant.

This is an okay ingredients list for a road shop brand sheet mask. The featured ingredient, lemon fruit extract, is very high in the list, and a few anti-inflammatory and brightening plant extracts may help provide some extra oomph. Ingredients score: 3.5

The Face Shop Real Nature lemon mask, back
The Face Shop’s Real Nature Mask in Lemon does okay in terms of ingredients.

Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Mask, Lime:  Water, glycerin, butylene glycol, niacinamide, alcohol, betaine, citrus paradisi (grapefruit) fruit extract, citrus aurantifolia (lime) juice, xanthan gum, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, ethylhexylglycerin, sodium hyaluronate, citrus unshiu peel extract, orchid extract, camellia sinensis leaf extract, camellia japonica leaf extract, opuntia coccinellifera fruit extract, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance

CosDNA analysis: The only ingredient to trigger a warning is butylene glycol with a 1 as a potential acne trigger, but it should be noted that CosDNA doesn’t recognize alcohol, which should have a caution as an irritant.

Niacinamide! Nice. You guys know how I feel about the skin benefits of niacinamide. I actively seek it out in everything; there’s even a column in my sheet mask inventory spreadsheet to note whether a sheet mask contains the ingredient. This mask also contains several other brightening, moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant plant extracts. Ingredients score: 4

Back of Innisfree It's Real Squeeze Mask in Lime
Not bad, Innisfree. Not bad at all.

Etude House I Need You! sheet mask, Lemon:  Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, citrus paradisi (grapefruit) fruit extract, alcohol, panthenol, carbomer, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, xanthan gum, citrus medica limonum (lemon) fruit extract (20mg), potassium hydroxide, ethylhexylglycerin, allantoin, camellia sinensis leaf extract, sophora angustifolia root extract, lonicera japonica (honeysuckle) flower extract, prunus persica (peach) leaf extract, paeonia albiflora root extract, gingko biloba leaf extract, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance

CosDNA analysis: Butylene glycol scores a 1 as a potential acne trigger and carbomer scores a 1 as a potential irritant. This mask also contains alcohol.

Disappointingly, the Etude House lemon sheet mask’s star ingredient is a bit low in the ingredients list, though Etude House makes up for it with the I Need You! line’s signature mix of skin-friendly plant extracts drawn from traditional Chinese medicine. Ingredients score: 4

Back of Etude House I Need You sheet mask in Lemon, back of package
Again with the fuzzy printing.


The first thing I noticed about The Face Shop’s Real Nature sheet mask in Lemon was its size. The thing is freaking HUGE. We’re talking upwards of half an inch of material flapping loose in front of each ear. The size of the mask made it challenging to adhere properly to my face, since it kept bunching up and sliding around. The smell is fresh and lemony, not too strong, though strong enough to make me crave lemon candy. I was able to wear this mask for 45 minutes before it felt dry. The leftover essence felt a little bit oily and sticky, though not too bad, and my skin was slightly brighter. I noticed no lingering effects the next day, though. Performance score: 3

The Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Mask in Lime also lasted for about 45 minutes before it got too dry to wear, and while the brightening effect wasn’t amazing, the mask left my skin tone looking noticeably more even and my skin texture more refined, with smaller pores overall. The hydrating and firming effect of this mask is excellent: it made my skin look and feel extremely smooth and juicy. It has a lovely lime fragrance, clean, fresh, and sweet, that was so pleasant I didn’t want it to fade. The leftover residue was quite heavy and sticky, however, and does not all massage in. The next day, my skin still looked tighter and firmer than usual, but the brightening effect had faded. Performance score: 3.5

I had high hopes for the Etude House I Need You! sheet mask in Lemon, since I had such a great experience with the Vita Complex mask. Like the other masks in this Battle Royale, this one smells great, like lemon candy. I’m a sucker for citrus fragrances, I guess. This mask dried out the fastest of the three at about 30 minutes and left just a little bit of essence, which absorbed quickly. The brightening effect is quite strong. I could tell by the contrast between the areas the mask had covered and the ones it hadn’t (my eye area and hairline). The next morning, my skin still felt smooth and hydrated and still looked a little brighter, though I’m sad to say that this mask didn’t give quite the same translucent effect as the Vita Complex. Performance score: 4

The final scores

The Face Shop Real Nature Mask, Lemon: Ingredients 3, performance 3, overall score: 3

Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Mask, Lime: Ingredients 4, performance 3.5, overall score: 3.75

Etude House I Need You!, Lemon: Ingredients 4, performance 4, overall score: 4

Rating scale:

1 – This should be taken off the market.
2 – Caused me some problems; would not buy again.
3 – Meh. Neither great nor bad.
4 – Pretty good. Would buy again unless I find something better.
5 – I’ll never be in the market for a replacement unless this one is discontinued.

And we have a winner! Out of the three citrus-based sheet masks I tried, the Etude House I Need You! sheet mask in Lemon was the best.

Where can I buy The Face Shop, Innisfree, and Etude House citrus sheet masks?

The Face Shop Real Nature sheet masks in Lemon are available from the following Crazy Snail Lady-approved sellers:

Get Innisfree It’s Real Squeeze Masks in Lime at:

Buy Etude House I Need You! sheet masks in Lemon at:

Which lemon sheet masks have you tried? What did you think of them?