Reader Questions: Why I Use Sheet Masks After Serums

I use my Instagram account partly as a public skincare diary. I take and post photos of my morning and night routines to show how I put all those things in my beauty stash together on a daily basis. With my evening routines, there’s almost always a mask involved. That has led to many people asking me one particular question:

Fiddy, why do you use your sheet mask after your essences and serums and not before?

 

We've been having weird issues with water quality the last few days and it seems to have taken it out of my skin, so tonight's #skincareroutine is all about pampering and reviving! And shameless use of succulents to compensate for poor #flatlay planning. . #Amorepacific products and #Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Water EX provided by @sulwhasoo.us. #Naruko products provided by @narukous. #Swanicoco products provided by @swanicoco.official. #Olivarrier products provided by @olivarrier. . First cleanse for makeup/sunscreen removal: Amorepacific Treatment Cleansing Oil, which, oof, is infuriatingly awesome at emulsifying and rinsing cleanly. . Second cleanse for skin cleansing: Naruko Dermalane 1000-Molecule Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Dual Action Cleansing Foam, still treating my skin right! . Vitamin C: #Timeless C+E+Ferulic Acid Serum. I'll be using this for a couple of days and taking a break from chemical exfoliation before starting in on my new Swanicoco PHA cream. . Prescription: #Curology 0.07% tretinoin/5% MAP/4% niacinamide #antiaging treatment . Hydrating toner: Sulwhasoo Essential Balancing Water EX . Extra booster and glow bringer: Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum EX . Barrier support: Olivarrier Dual Moist Hyaluron Essence . Niacinamide bomb: #Holysnails #Sharksauce . Secondary brightener: Naruko Dermalane Zero Dark Spot Brightening Serum . Snail: Swanicoco Fermentation Snail Complex Care Serum, my first night with it! . Ginseng: Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum, almost out! Wahhh . Eye care: Naruko Jingcheng Total Rejuvenating Eye Complex EX on left eye, Amorepacific Intensive Revitalizing Eye Essence on right. Both of these tighten my upper lids up so much that double eyelids emerge. . Mask: Swanicoco Super Natural Hydrogel Brightening Mask . Creams: Olivarrier Emollient Extra Comfort Cream and Naruko Dermalane 1000-Molecule Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Eye Cream . . #fiftyshadesofsnail #rasianbeauty #abcommunity #skincare #skincareregime #skincarediary #beautylover #skincarejunkie

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I’ve answered the question in comments a couple of times, but it comes up pretty frequently, so today I’m going to answer it here!

First of all, though, I totally get the confusion. Sheet mask instructions typically say to use the mask immediately after cleansing and toning. So, either in place of one’s essence and serum steps, or before those steps. Plus, if you follow the thin-to-thick guideline for putting products in order in a skincare routine, the thin and watery liquid used in most sheet masks should be used underneath even a moderately thick serum, right?

So why do you do it so weird, Fiddy?

There are a couple of reasons, all of which have to do with the unique properties of a sheet mask.

The mask sheet is the important thing, as New York dermatologist Arielle Kauvar explained to me when I wrote about sheet masks for Fashionista last year. Liquids evaporate. A mask sheet physically prevents much of the liquid underneath it from evaporating. Yes, even sheet masks lose some volume to evaporation, but nowhere near as much as if you put the same volume of the same liquid on your face without a mask over it.

Of course, the mask sheet would have the same evaporation-preventing effect whether used early or late in a routine. But here’s the thing: I find that using a sheet mask after my essences and serums and ampoules can transfer some of its intense absorption-enhancing properties onto all the products I’ve layered underneath. The penetration enhancers in the sheet mask essence help. So does the way a sheet mask dampens skin for a prolonged period of time. Damp skin tends to absorb product more readily, so between that, the penetration enhancers, and the physical occlusion of the mask sheet, it’s a great combination of factors for maximum absorption. More stuff gets in; less is left behind as residue on the surface.

Fifty Shades of Snail skincare routine

Which I need, considering what my evening routines usually entail.

I’ve experimented with using sheet masks immediately after toner, of course. Used the usual way, I do still find masks helpful for increasing the absorption of the first few products I put on afterwards. For me, though, the overall effect falls short of using sheet masks after treatment steps. By the end of a routine in which I’ve used a sheet mask before my serums, I find that the last few products aren’t going down as well as they usually do. On the other hand, using a sheet mask after piling on the serums almost always results in everything getting sucked right in to my skin. In fact, the surface of my skin often feels almost bare after I take a sheet mask off–except that it’s visibly calmer, more even, and more hydrated. Perfectly ready for cream or sleeping pack!

But Fiddy, how do you know the sheet mask isn’t actually just washing everything off of your face?

Because I have specific expectations for what the rest of my skincare is doing, and for the most part (and especially when it comes to products I’ve been using for a long time and know to be effective), I can see them working. My skin is continuing to improve in evenness, pigmentation, firmness, smoothness, and elasticity. None of that would be happening were my skincare routine not working. And since most of the products that produce those effects go in my evening routine rather than my morning routine, I’m confident that late sheet masking is possibly enhancing and definitely not hindering their effects.

If your evening routine is pretty short, I don’t think it matters as much whether you sheet mask before or after your treatment steps. If you’re working with a lot of product, however, give it a try for a little while. You might like it as much as I do!

Check out my sheet mask posts for the masks I like to use. I’m especially fond of Taiwanese sheet masks like My Beauty Diary and Naruko!

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8 responses to “Reader Questions: Why I Use Sheet Masks After Serums

  1. Hello Fiddy, that’s an awesome post! I do the same and for the same reasons: the mask makes a sort of cove where body heat doesn’t permeate, thus helping all the benefits to be absorbed more optimally by the skin. I believe, seeing the results, that this way all that I applied before will work much better. 😘

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  2. Hi Fiddy, This is a great post!! 🙂 Just makes me wonder though, would it be beneficial for oily skin (even dehydrated/oily skin) to put on a sheet mask after all the essences/serums/etc. Or would it be the opposite?
    Thank you in advance for answering ! 🙂

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    • Somebody mentioned on my Instagram that they have oily skin and it works great for them. I think it could be even more beneficial at helping water-soluble ingredients get through sebum, but that’s just a guess from me 😄

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      • I have sensitive, dehydrated/oily skin and I’ve been doing a sort of ‘Frankenstein version’ of your sheet mask routine for a few months now… I’m happy to report it works a treat!

        My sensitive skin makes me wary of buying packaged sheet masks (I had a bad case of seborrheic dermatitis, but have had it totally under control since discovering the Asian Beauty reddit), so I’ve been focused on buying serums/essences that are best suited to my skin type. I put two essences on my face, and immediately put one of those reusable silicone Daiso masks on my face for 30 mins.

        Kind of amazing how after 30 mins of wearing the silicone mask… there’s still a thin film of serum/essence on my face after I take it off. In comparison, if I put serums/essences on my face w/o a mask… 30 mins later my face is dry as the Sahara!

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  3. Hi Fiddy! I dont know if youve heard about those silicon masks you can hook around your ears to stop the masks from evaporating. I recently bought one of those and fell in love (theyre only 5 bucks usd on amazon!) would you still rather put your serums underneath the face masks and THEN layer on the silicon mask?

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  4. Question as a person just now fully committing to the K Beauty routine in all its glory (very kind coworkers introduced me to the idea, and then were like ‘Ok time to graduate from Mizuon here and there and go ALL IN! Your homework are these blogs”)…HOW DO I TRAVEL?!
    The idea of taking ALL of the stuff with me and either A) getting mugged by the TSA B) having a product leak in iffy packaging is a little confusing. I’m kind of anxious about abandoning precious goodies for a few weeks and having my skin ‘throw a tantrum’ so to speak.
    When you travel do you have a pared down routine or is EVERYTHING coming along in neat packages?

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