The best way to do something nice for your skin without spending a lot of money (aside from drinking water and breathing) is to use a sheet mask. Sheet masks are a great gateway product into Korean beauty, and you only need a few dollars and 20 minutes to get dewier, glowier (and damper) skin.
Here’s a round-up of the best Korean masks, as distinguished by overwhelmingly positive internet reviews and my personal experience — including sleeping masks which smell like watermelon, sheet masks made out of snail, and cream masks that feels truly luxurious.
The Best Lip Mask
Technically this is a “mask,” but you could also just call it a deeply hydrating lip balm. It’s truly loved on the internet — like to the degree that Betty White is loved — for its ability to soothe cracked and parched lips. It has over 7,000 five-star reviews on Sephora.
The Best-Selling Mask in Korea
This brand allegedly sells five sheet masks every second. You can now buy their masks in the U.S. (at Walgreens and Soko Glam), and they’ve even partnered with mega-popular K-pop band BTS on exclusive BTS products. On Amazon, reviewers love how great these masks make your makeup look, and their hydrating and glow-enhancing powers. Rio, the Strategist’s beauty expert, particularly recommends the tea tree oil one for sucking up the redness of zits.
The Best Mask(s) to Use on a Plane
This is a little pricier than others, but you get two sheet masks for the price of one. The first is thin and delicate, and the second is thicker and heavier, with some helpful ear flaps. Here’s the crazy thing: You’re supposed to layer one over the other. This mask really saved me on a 14-hour delayed flight to Japan, and I left the plane with better skin than when I got on.
The Best Mask to Use After You Land
If your face feels especially thirsty, rough, or as if it just needs to spend some quality time encased in a hydrating cloud, try this creamy mask, which is known for its revitalizing powers. The formula of conditioning rice extract and brightening niacinamide leaves all skin types feeling deeply moisturized but never greasy. Smooth it on before you hit the hay, and you’ll wake up with soft, dewy skin.
The Best Value Mask
The Best Mask for Dry Skin
A friend’s husband brought these back for me from Korea, and now I’m looking for more smugglers. This is best for dry skin types as it’s very, very wet (which I know, sounds a bit ridiculous, like being “very pregnant”), and doesn’t play the best under makeup. But if you don’t wear a lot of makeup and have slacked a bit in your skin care, this offers a good quick fix. It takes only about 20 minutes to make your skin look better than it did before.
The Glowiest Sheet Mask
This mask takes two steps. I wasn’t thrilled when I learned about this, because who needs more work? But it’s worth it. First, there’s a pre-treatment hydrating ampoule handily located in the top partition of the sheet. Then once you finish slathering that over your face, you apply the sheet mask, which is soaked in even more hydrating liquid. After using this one, my face seemed to be lit with one of those flattering rose light bulbs for practically an entire day.
A Mask That’s Cute in a Creepy Way
For this one, you mix up the ingredients sort of like Betty Crocker cake batter to create a rubber mask. It sounds like a living Tom Cruise’s-mask-in-Vanilla Sky nightmare. But once you get past that part, it’s actually very hydrating! I loved wearing my creepy rubber mask around the apartment, and I especially enjoyed peeling it off to reveal soft, plump skin. This is a fun group activity to do with friends who like things that are a little creepy.
The Snail Mask That Really Works
The Best Mask for Sensitive Skin
If you hate scented sheet masks, these are for you. Peach & Lily founder Alicia Yoon, who has eczema, formulated these to be especially great for sensitive skin. They’re free of denatured alcohol, synthetic fragrances, parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, and formaldehyde.
The Cooling Mask
This product became cult in Korea because it was one of the first sleeping masks ever. Allegedly, one is sold every 12 minutes. I like that it doesn’t feel creamy or cloying — it’s nice and cooling. It has a watery gel texture, and applying it before bed feels like the equivalent of placing a glass of water next to the nightstand.
The One That Smells Like Candy
If you love the best flavor of Jolly Rancher (watermelon, obviously), then this is for you. It contains real watermelon extract (rich in aminos), hyaluronic acid, and AHAs to gently hydrate and gently exfoliate. This is a sleeping mask with a gel texture that you put on over your moisturizer and wash off in the morning. On Sephora, it has over 2,000 reviews in which people rave about how much they love it.
The One for Winter
This mask is a winter favorite of mine. If I need something very soothing, without much detectable scent, and am too tired to stay awake for a sheet mask, I’ll use this. In the morning, I wake up with silky-feeling skin.
The Well-Rounded One
Having egg on your face is actually a good thing when you’re wearing this best-selling mask. It has everything a face could want: hydrating coconut water, brightening niacinamide, vitamin C–rich camu-camu extract, and nourishing and moisturizing egg extracts, all packed into an ultrasoft sheet that gives your face a ten-to-20-minute hug.
The Best One for Oily Skin
We all want our masks to make us look more moist, but sometimes we’d like them to target a few other skin nuisances while they’re at it. This pore-clearing mask has won over many fans (including Meghan Markle’s makeup artist) because it harnesses the powers of volcanic ash from Korea’s Jeju Island and salicylic acid to deep clean without stripping skin dry in the process. And unlike every other mask on this list, it comes in a fun, fluffy mousse formula that keeps the mess minimal.
The Fancy One
I’ve been talking about this luxurious mask for years and it still holds up. Please tell a rich relative of yours to give it to you for the holidays. The mask is as thin and fine as a Communion wafer and drenched in so much essence that it feels like it dissolves into your skin. Using it at home is even better than a facial, and leaves my skin looking bright, vibrant, and less haunted.
This article was originally published August 14, 2019. It has been updated throughout. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.