Mini-Review Bonanza: The Hydrogel Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve done a sheet mask or hydrogel mask review, and that vexes me. It vexes me terribly. Sorry, Gladiator is on.

I still love these one-use wonders just as much as I ever did, and probably even more now that I’ve been using them in the mornings whenever I wake up early enough. So let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers I’ve tried recently! This post is all about the hydrogels.

Mini-Review: Ciracle Snail Hydrogel

Ciracle! I haven’t explored this brand, which is a sister brand to COSRX, as much as I should have. I figured a mask would be a good introduction. I forgot to take a picture of the packaging despite having four chances to do so. Sorry.

Ciracle Snail Hydrogel Mask Ingredients:  Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, snail secretion filtrate, citrus paradisi (grapefruit) fruit extract, hydrolyzed ceratonia siliqua gum extract, chondrus crispus (carrageenan) powder, cellulose gum, polyacrylate-13, disodium EDTA, sodium polyacrylate, polyisobutene, polysorbate 20, phenoxyethanol, fragrance, sea water, camellia sinensis leaf extract, panax ginseng root extract, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) extract, lavandula angustifolia (lavender) extract, thymus vulgaris (thyme) flower/leaf extract, pelargonium graveolens extract, melissa officinalis leaf extract, origanum vulgare leaf extract, melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) leaf extract, mentha piperita (peppermint) leaf extract, eucalyptus globulus leaf extract, mentha spicata flower/leaf/stem extract, sodium oleate, hydrogenated lecithin, acetyl hexapeptide-8

CosDNA analysis

Because of snail mucin’s reported anti-aging and photodamage-repairing effects, I like to use snail masks after I’ve been out in the sun more than usual. I used up all four masks in the box after long walks or beach trips.

These masks are exactly the perfect texture for a hydrogel, in my opinion: the gel sheets are thick-ish, on the sturdy side, but very soft and therefore able to mold and adhere closely to facial features. The mask is quite moist, with no discernable smell, and feels pleasant on. I wear these masks for about 45 minutes at a time, and they’re usually still quite moist when I take them off.

These masks are a total win. I’ve often maintained that Benton’s Snail Bee High Content sheet masks are the gold standard for snail-based face masks, but Ciracle has produced a serious contender for the title. Immediately upon removing these masks, my skin looks visibly calmer and more even-toned as well as plumper and firmer than before. What’s even better is that the next morning, my skin always feels extra-velvety, and the firming effect remains very much in effect. These are a definite repurchase! 4.5/5

Buy Ciracle Snail Hydrogel Masks from:

I’ve got an order in for another box of these masks and am pretty anxiously awaiting their arrival.

Mini-Review: Skinfood Deep Sea Water Gel Mask (Brightening)

I wish I could say the same for the Skinfood Deep Sea Water hydrogel mask I tried. Observant readers may have noticed that I have a serious thing for skincare from the sea. Honestly, if it comes from the ocean, chances are good that I’m going to want to put it on my face (and in my mouth), so this mask seemed like a slam dunk.

Skinfood Deep Sea Water Gel Mask (Brightening) Ingredients:  Water, glycerin, chondrus crispus (carrageenan), algin, agar, allantoin, butylene glycol, betaine, sodium hyaluronate, sorbitol, panthenol, arginine, sea water, algae extract, nymphaea coerulea flower extract, sodium acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, fragrance, disodium EDTA, caprylhydroxamic acid, ethylhexylglycerin, phenoxyethanol, potassium hydroxide

CosDNA analysis

Sadly, this mask was not a slam dunk.

From the moment I started disengaging the mask sheets from their plastic backings, I knew I wasn’t going to fall in love. The Skinfood Deep Sea Water hydrogel mask reminded me of the more lackluster Innisfree hydrogels: the gel sheets themselves were thin and insubstantial, but made unpleasantly stiff by an overly robust inner mesh. The mask would not mold to my chin or flip up at the top of my nose, two things that drive me batshit insane when it come to hydrogels. At least it didn’t have a strong fragrance, which is surprising for a Skinfood product. It just had a generic, artificial “clean” scent to it.

Wearing Skinfood Deep Sea Water Brightening Gel Mask
Not happy about this.

As might be expected from a gel mask as thin as this one, the mask dried up after 20 minutes, and the only positive thing I can say about that is that at least I didn’t feel stuck wearing this stiff, annoying thing on my face for too long. But upon removal, I was even more disappointed than I was at application. My skin was slightly more hydrated and looked slightly more plump. Less so than it would with just about any other plain old cotton or pulp sheet mask and certainly nowhere near close to enough for a hydrogel.

I found nothing impressive about this mask whatsoever. 3/5 and I’m not going to waste time hunting down listings on my shopping sites, because I don’t want you guys to buy this anyway.

Mini-Review: Skinfood Black Pomegranate Gel Mask Sheet

I had much better luck with Skinfood’s Black Pomegranate hydrogel mask, which I picked up during one of my “I just wanna try some new things” mini-hauls. In fact, I like this mask so much that even though I can’t find the ingredients in English anywhere in the Googleverse, I’m going to break my “No Ingredients, No Review” rule and review it anyway.

Why couldn’t Skinfood make the Deep Sea Water mask as well as they made this one? The Black Pomegranate Gel Mask consists of two thick, soft, very nice-feeling and closely-fitting gel sheets. They’re not particularly moist, but the packaging does tout the non-drippy essence, and they’re nowhere near as dry as a Botanic Farm hydrogel (or the Skinfood Deep Sea Water hydrogel). Wearing this mask was an all-around pleasant experience. It has the expected Skinfood perfuminess, clearly artificial, but it isn’t too strong here, didn’t give me a headache, and smelled pretty.

I wore this mask for about 45 minutes before it felt dry enough to remove, and when I removed it, I was very happy with the results. The Black Pomegranate line targets aging skin and claims to deliver strong plumping effects, which I definitely saw after using the Black Pomegranate hydrogel mask. All my trouble areas that have been losing their firmness were wonderfully plumped up, and my skin stayed hydrated and happy throughout the next day. Definite thumbs up for this one, and more will be finding their way into my carts in hauls to come. 4/5

The absolute best deal on Skinfood Black Pomegranate Gel Masks right now is at RoseRoseShop, where the masks are on sale for $1.81 apiece. That’s good quality sheet mask prices!

Mini-Review: Nature Republic Aqua Collagen Solution Marine Hydro Gel Mask

Remember how I said I’m a sucker for skincare from the sea? Yeah, I really really am, and that’s why I picked up a pack of Nature Republic Aqua Collagen Solution Marine Hydro Gel Masks even though I haven’t been impressed by any Nature Republic skincare before.

Nature Republic Aqua Collagen Solution Marine Hydro Gel Mask Ingredients: Water, butylene glycol, glycerin, mineral oil, citrus paradisi (grapefruit) fruit extract, ceratonia siliqua gum, chondrus crispus (carrageenan), hydrolyzed collagen (0.6%), cellulose gum, sodium polyacrylate, hydrogenated polydecene, polysorbate 20, trideceth-6, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, sea water, adansonia digitata leaf extract, aspalathus linearisextract, laminaria digitata extract, phytosphingosine, sodium hyaluronate, disodium EDTA, phenoxyethanol, fragrance, CI 42090

CosDNA analysis

Now this is a wonderful mask. And it’s really confusing, because it seems like all the good stuff comes after hydrolyzed collagen, which is listed at only 0.6%. It’s entirely possible that that’s accurate and there are literally tenths and hundredths of a percent of all the nice extracts, but I prefer to think that the hydrolyzed collagen solution is actually at a much higher quantity, and the 0.6% refers just to the collagen content in the overall collagen solution. I perform these mental gymnastics because I just like this mask so, so much.

First thing: The material. It’s absolutely perfect hydrogel mask material. Soft and clingy, just moist enough to feel, uh, moist, but not enough to make it slidey (looking at you, Whamisa Magic Hydrogels), super comfortable. And a near-perfect fit for me, though people with larger faces may find it a little on the small side.

Nature Republic Aqua Collagen Solution Marine Hydro Gel Mask fit
I know I look unhappy, but behind the creepy unhappy face is a very happy SnailShark.

The fragrance is vaguely cologney, like the Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Watery Cream, but not bad at all. Actually, the fragrance is pretty faint and fades quickly.

I wear this mask for about 30 minutes each time, and every time I take it off, I’m impressed with the results all over again. These masks make my skin visibly, significantly brighter and more even-toned, and the firming is among the best I’ve seen out of any mask. Entire fine lines just disappear, and stay disappeared through the next day. These are truly excellent masks, and I’m restocking them very very soon. 4.5/5

Nature Republic Aqua Collagen Solution Marine Hydro Gel Masks are available at TesterKorea for 2,800 won (about $2.43) apiece, and come in packs of 4 for $16.98 (shipping included) at Jolse.

What are your favorite hydrogel masks? And what are your least favorite hydrogel masks?


10 thoughts on “Mini-Review Bonanza: The Hydrogel Edition

  1. I really must try some of these great Hydro Gel Masks. Have you ever tried to “translate” a korean INCI list? I did some days ago by using the instruction on the Blog Labmuffin. First I thought I will never get around with it, it seemed incredible difficult to find the words in the lists, but then I became ambitious and at the end it was also really fun, like solving a complicated puzzle. I love your blog by the way

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve not yet tried hydrogels but I have some Banila Miss Flower & Mr Honey ones coming from Bae (squee!) I can’t wait.

    I’ve been considering Ciracle redness solution for ages, but I’m not sure if I want another disappointment regarding my permanent redness. Nothing fixes it. I’ve tried B.Kamins, Dermalex, Avene, Vichy, la Roche-Posay, the list goes on. 😦 Sad panda.

    My favourite sheet mask so far is Tonymoly Hyaluronic acid in the blue packet, but I’ve got some to try coming from Bae (and EBae!) : MBD Bulgarian Rose and Imperial Birds Nest, Innisfree rose, Tonymoly caviar, honey and pearl. Yay! I want to try so many masks! I blame Fan Bingbing…

    I do NOT like the Tonymoly Snail mask. It smells like Elizabeth Arden green tea perfume and made my forehead itch with a couple of red raised bumps. No issues with Tonymoly HA mask though.
    I’m keen now to try the Nature Republic one in your review. And of course Benton!

    Have you ever tried the Nature Republic super aqua max watery cream, by the way? I’m interested.

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  3. Best ones definitely have been from Leaders Insolution. Holy crap I can pole dance with those on. I have a RRS cart open now and I think I’m going to stick the Pomegranate mask now to make the haul more “worth it”.

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  4. I personally LOVE the Nature Republic Aqua Collagen Solution Marine Hydro Gel Mask too. I haven’t used it in awhile but totally agree with your assessment. Hydrogel masks are so expensive per sheet though =\

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  5. Aw, I love the Skinfood Deep Sea Water!! Just goes to show, YMMV, for sure. I also really like the Innisfree berry hydrogel, but that’s the only one of the bunch I like – the rest are meh.

    I’ll put the Aqua Collagen, Black Pomegranate and Ciracle offerings on my to-try list for sure. I am really finding that hydrogels in general are far, far better for me than traditional sheet masks; the only one of those I flat-out love and repurchase is the Dr. Jart water replenishment.

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