Sheet masks tend to be a great gateway product into Korean beauty. In theory, you need only a few dollars and 20 minutes to get dewier, glowier (and damper) skin. In practice, however, if you want a more sustainable beauty routine, you may want to reduce your use of sheet masks and dive straight into everything else Korean beauty has to offer.
“When it comes to skin care in Korea, it’s all about cooling and calming,” Charlotte Cho, the co-founder of Soko Glam, told the Cut. Whether you’re looking for an overnight mask or Sephora’s most reviewed lip mask, the K-beauty market has expanded beyond sheet masks and snail mucin.
To round up the best Korean face masks out there, we spoke with Cho and other K-beauty experts like Alicia Yoon, founder of Peach & Lily, to hear about their favorites in the market.
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 Mask to Use After a Long Flight
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 that 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 One That Smells Like Citrus
The best part about a sleeping mask is that it requires zero work. “On super-packed days, sleeping masks require zero extra time. Apply like a night cream and wake up effortlessly with a stunning glow,” says Yoon. “In the Saturday Skin Yuzu Vitamin C Sleep Mask, vitamin-C-rich yuzu and niacinamide brighten skin and leave you glowing and looking well rested.” Plus it smells better than the actual fruit.
The One to Prep for a Big Day
The jelly-like consistency of this wash-off mask from Peach Slices is sure to leave your skin feeling refreshed. Yoon recommends it on days you need to prep for an event: “If you’re preparing for a big day, the trick to a camera-ready glow is using ingredients like snail mucin and cica that’ll help keep breakouts at bay and plump skin up with hydration while soothing skin.”
The Best Gel Mask
This mask is composed of antioxidant-rich green-tea water, AHA, and papaya enzymes for a gentle exfoliation that will leave your skin feeling hydrated and fresh.
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 night treatment with a gel texture that you put on over your moisturizer and wash off in the morning.
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 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. 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 Roses
According to Cho, this “professional grade facial mask makes a little go a long way.” It’s blended with glycolic and lactic acids, which work together to lift dead skin cells, leaving the texture of skin immediately feeling softer and happier.
The Best for Acne-Prone Skin
This under-$20 mask features tea tree, Centella asiatica, and licorice to help soothe and calm sensitive and irritated skin, making it perfect for someone prone to acne.
The Best Overnight Mask
A good sleeping mask does all the work for you. This intensive formula from Cicapair’s tiger-grass line is best for anyone looking to up their sleeping game.
The Best-selling Mask in Korea
If you still want to try a sheet mask, why not go for the best-selling one in Kore? The brand allegedly sells five sheet masks every second and has even partnered with the mega-popular K-pop band BTS on an exclusive line of BTS products. Amazon reviewers love how great these masks make their makeup look as well as their hydrating and glow-enhancing powers. The Cut’s beauty expert Rio particularly recommends the tea-tree-oil version for sucking up the redness of zits.
The Best Mask for Sensitive Skin
If you hate scented sheet masks, these are for you. Since Yoon has eczema, it was important for her to create skin care she could use, so these are formulated to be especially great for sensitive skin. They’re free of denatured alcohol, synthetic fragrances, parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, and formaldehyde.
The Splurge-Worthy One
If you have $200 to spare, this sleeping mask from Sulwhasoo has highly concentrated Korean red pine that makes skin firmer and more radiant.
The Best Mask to Calm Any Skin
This sheet mask is one of Cho’s favorites. Made to calm and hydrate any type of skin, it comes divided in two for a guaranteed comfy fit around your face and spalike results.
The Post-Beach One
Formulated with 17 ingredients, this mask is one of Cho’s favorites and a best seller at Soko Glam because “it manages to soothe sensitive skin but also keep your skin barrier healthy and moisturized,” Cho says.
The Snail Mask That Really Works
It’s true, somehow this mask contains both snail mucin and bee venom. Rio swears by it for its ability to calm down inflammation, heal dark spots, and make skin look extra glowy. Cho believes this mask has the power to go viral on TikTok, and after reading the reviews, we think so too.
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.