I distinctly remember telling someone, not too long ago and somewhere public, that I hadn’t yet found a Sulwhasoo product I didn’t like. Well. Joke’s on me, because now I have. Try not to fall over in shock as I introduce you to the Sulwhasoo Innerise Complete Mask.
Review: Sulwhasoo Innerise Complete Mask
Alas, I have no one to blame for this experience but myself. No one suggested these masks to me and no one sent them to me unsolicited. Nope. I picked them myself the last time my friendly contact at Jolse offered to send over a shipment of products I wanted to try.
Purpose: Sulwhasoo Innerise Complete Mask is a biocellulose face mask that claims to firm, smooth, and brighten aging skin for a more youthful appearance.
Best suited for: Dry, aging skin.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to alcohol, fragrance, botanical extracts, or anything else in the ingredients list; if your skin does not tolerate intensive moisturization well; or if you dislike biocellulose masks like the Leaders coconut gel* or Innisfree Second Skin fermented soybean masks.
When and how to use: Use after cleansing and toning at the desired stage of your skincare routine. Sulwhasoo recommends using before applying the corresponding Innerise Complete Serum. I prefer to use either in place of essences and serums or after essences and serums, depending on how much time I have or how much moisture my skin needs. Unfold mask and carefully peel the mesh backing off of one side. Apply that side to face. Peel off the other backing and adjust mask to fit.
Sulwhasoo Innerise Complete Mask ingredients: Water, butylene glycol, dipropylene glycol, glycereth-26, alcohol, niacinamide, trehalose, diethoxyethyl succinate, glyceryl polymethacrylate, glycyrrhiza uralensis (licorice) root extract, ophiopogon japonicus root extract, paeonia albiflora root extract, nelumbo nucifera seed extract, polygonatum officinale rhizome/root extract, lilium tigrinium flower/leaf/stem extract, rehmannia glutinosa root extract, honey, hydrolyzed ginseng saponins (enzyme treated red ginseng saponins), adenosine, rosa multiflora fruit extract, chaenomeles sinensis fruit extract, pinus koraiensis seed extract, prunus mume fruit extract, sesamum indicum (sesame) seed extract, glycoproteins, sodium hyaluronate, glycerin, 1,2-hexanediol, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, Bis-PEG-18 methyl ether dimethyl silane, hydroxyethyl acrylates/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, methoxy PEG-114/polyepsilon caprolactone, carbomer, xanthan gum, ethylhexylglycerin, disodium EDTA, tromethamine, kaolin, phenoxyethanol, fragrance
Notable ingredients: Sheet masks are a huge category in K-beauty and Asian skincare. Just about every brand offers them these days. Not every brand’s sheet masks are developed in-house, though. Plenty of brands cut corners by outsourcing their sheet mask production to white label manufacturers spewing out fairly generic and interchangeable masks for a number of big-name clients, with the main differences between them being the brand logos printed on the packets. (This occasionally results in interesting revelations, like mine a long time ago that a certain brand’s notoriously pricey sea kelp sheet mask has the exact same ingredients list as the sea kelp sheet masks made by a much more downmarket roadshop brand; a friend on the inside whispered to me that the masks come from the same factory. #JUICY! But I digress.) My point is that a brand’s sheet masks don’t always reflect the formulation principles of the rest of the brand’s products.
The Innerise Complete Masks do. The ingredients list is right in line with the ingredients of other Sulwhasoo products I’ve tried and loved, like the Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum and First Care Activating Serum EX. Yes, you’ll find alcohol and fragrance in here. But you’ll also find Sulwhasoo’s signature enzyme-treated red ginseng saponins and licorice extract, along with the usual harem of beguiling herbal extracts with various claimed moisturizing, brightening, anti-aging, and antioxidant properties. Making these masks even more exciting is the fact that, as with other gel-type masks, these ingredients are a part of the mask itself, not just the mask serum. Biocellulose masks make use of fermentation to produce the serum and sheet. Sulwhasoo’s fermentation process takes 14 days and resulted in a super cool video.
Fermentation supposedly breaks down ingredients into smaller components more effectively used by skin. That gives the Innerise Complete Masks the potential to be truly amazing.
As you may be able to tell, I had pretty high hopes for the Innerise masks. They contain my favorite Sulwhasoo herbal ingredients in fermented form and deliver them in what should be one of the most effective mediums around. I’m a big sheet mask fan because of the way the mask sheets physically occlude the liquid against skin, keeping skin damp and able to absorb product in larger volumes and for a much longer time than regular essences or serums. Biocellulose masks are much less porous than fabric or pulp sheet masks so theoretically prevent evaporation and enhance absorption even more.
Unfortunately, what makes sense in theory doesn’t always play out in reality.
If you’ve ever tried any of the Leaders or Innisfree biocellulose masks I referenced earlier, then you already have a good idea of what the Innerise Complete Masks are like. The ultra-thin gel film comes coated with a thick serum and sandwiched between two protective mesh backings. Its shape is unlike any other mask I’ve seen, though. Although the mask is all one piece, it’s detached at the temples so that the top and bottom halves are connected only through the nose.
The bizarre shape took some getting used to, but after some flailing and flopping, I realized that it actually makes the mask much easier for me to apply than the other biocellulose masks I’ve tried. Biocellulose can be tricky to put on. It’s extremely flimsy and sticky. With these masks, I like to let the forehead piece flop forward while I get the bottom half situated on my face. Then I flip the top part up onto my forehead and get it into place. After that, peeling off the remaining backing and tweaking the fit to perfection is a breeze. I really should have just saved us a couple hundred words and made a video of the application so you could see what I mean. In any case, the weird shape turned out to be one of the best things about the mask.
The smell is one of the worst. It was Snow’s chief complaint about these masks (which she purchased along with the even smellier Sulwhasoo soap in what must have been one of the most unfortunately scented Hyundai Mall hauls ever). The first couple of times I used my Innerise masks, I disagreed. Though I found the floral perfume a little on the mature side, I didn’t think it was excessive. It turns out my allergies had been acting up. The last two times I used an Innerise mask, the decidedly grown-up fragrance was like wearing a nursing home perfume party on my face. I’ve never wished for a stuffy nose as much as I did while using these masks.
The smell isn’t the only disappointing thing about these masks. While not as syrupy as the Leaders mask serums, the liquid coating the Innerise masks is still substantially thicker and richer than most sheet mask or hydrogel mask essences–so thick that even my clean, bare, freshly exfoliated skin couldn’t absorb much of it, no matter how long I left the mask on.
Some of us call biocellulose masks “face condoms,” which should give you an idea of how they fit and feel. Imagine a face-shaped lubricated condom sealing your face away from the outside world. After about 40 minutes, the outside of the mask dries out and shrinks down even tighter, becoming something more like a regular-sized condom on a magnum member…and just as painful to remove, not that I would know anything about that.
After peeling off the dried-out remnants of the Innerise masks, I was consistently left with a thick layer of unabsorbed essence still sitting on my skin. The quantity of residue seemed about the same whether I’d used the mask instead of the rest of my skincare routine or on top of it, leading me to believe that it just doesn’t absorb well, even on my generally very receptive skin. The residue doesn’t sink in or dry down much better without the mask on, either, and if left on skin, also prevents any moisturizer applied on top from settling. I tried creams in several different weights after the Innerise masks and found that even the lightest ones formed a tacky paste with the leftover mask juice unless I first (wastefully) wiped away as much of the (pretty pricey) liquid as I could beforehand. Trying to seal the essence in with a heavier cream produced an unbearably oily substance.
In my opinion, these masks are best used without any kind of final step moisturizer afterwards. If your skin is particularly dry or dehydrated and generally needs a heavy occlusive at bedtime, however, you may not find the essence enough to hold hydration in your skin overnight. Also the residue just feels icky. Too much seepage. Or not enough. I’m not sure anymore. I just know it isn’t good.
The Innerise Complete Masks aren’t all bad, of course. Remember all that gushing I did near the beginning about the ingredients and the potential extra benefits of the fermentation process? They do produce some nice results underneath the goop. The four Innerise masks I used gave me immediately livelier, more “awake”-looking skin, like a more intense version of the First Care Activating Serum EX. And cleansing off the slimy residue the next morning reliably revealed ultra-firm, ultra-smooth, hyper-moisturized skin underneath.
What to expect from Sulwhasoo Innerise Complete Masks: Extreme moisturization that can eliminate the need for an additional moisturizer afterwards; improved skin texture and glow through the next day; really unpleasant feeling on skin until product is washed off.
Conclusion: Do the Sulwhasoo Innerise Complete Masks do what they claim to? For me, yes. Immediately after use and overnight, they deliver the results I would expect from a concentrated dose of Sulwhasoo skincare. Unfortunately, I found the masks so unpleasant to use due to their fragrance and the consistency of the mask serum that I don’t see myself using them by choice. As with any skincare product, actually using it is key, and there are too many less upsettingly fragranced and textured (and priced) products out there with similar benefits for me to consider using the Innerise masks in their place.
Where can I buy Sulwhasoo Innerise Complete Masks, and what are some alternatives?
I received my Sulwhasoo Innerise Complete Masks from Jolse, where a box of 5 is $30.58. Jolse also carries some products I consider better alternatives for getting comparable results overnight:
- Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask, which gives me bouncy, firm skin and that well rested glow;
- COSRX Holy Moly Snail Mask, which I recently reviewed and enjoyed for its similar but less excessive and less distressingly textured intense moisturizing properties;
- and It’s Skin Prestige Masque Ginseng D’Escargot, a line of moist, comfortable hydrogels whose brightening, lifting, and radiance-boosting effects really surprised me!
Have you had any big skincare disappointments lately?