Summer is over, school is back in session, and many of us find ourselves transitioning into a season of increased busyness. We might notice this stress showing up on our skin, compounded by the effects of summer days spent outdoors and the dry fall weather.
For folks hoping to reverse the ravages of environmental exposure and stress, or just looking for new way to pamper themselves, facial sheet masks can be a luxurious addition to any skincare regimen.
What Are Sheet Masks?
Sheet mask facials are a skin treatment popularized by Korean beauty enthusiasts. They are one-time use gauze masks, usually made of cotton, pre-soaked in liquid formulas. Although sheet masks boast a myriad of benefits, it is widely accepted that they increase hydration by acting as an occlusive barrier. This barrier reduces evaporation and traps heat, allowing serums to work on the face for longer, and penetrate more deeply.
While premade masks are available, making your own DIY sheet mask allows you to customize ingredients and indulge at a much lower cost.
Selecting Ingredients for a DIY Sheet Mask
DIY sheet masks are easy to make. Almost any alcohol-free and non-comedogenic liquid, serum, or oil is suitable for formulating the solution the sheets are soaked in. Feel free to experiment: you can use ready-made facial products, or create your own plant extracts. I often make sheet mask solutions from a mixture of floral waters, fruit extracts, herbal teas, herb infused oils, and serums.
Serums: Typically I make a serum by macerating anti-inflammatory and skin healing herbs such as gotu kola, Echinacea, self-heal, and chamomile in argan and jojoba oil.1 To make the serum, place your ground herbs of choice into a jar and pour enough oil over to cover by at least an inch. Seal the jar and the let the herbs infuse for a month, shaking daily. You can speed up the process by heat extracting with a double boiler.
Oils: For this DIY sheet mask, I will be using rosehip and squalane oils instead of an herbal serum, but use any oil you prefer.
Hydrosols: Floral waters, also known as hydrosols, are also a frequent addition to my sheet mask solutions. I make my own rose geranium hydrosol with the stock pot distillation method.
Extracts: For my sheet mask recipe below, the rose geranium distillate is combined with aloe vera juice and a watermelon rind extract. You can purchase aloe vera juice or harvest and make your own aloe gel. If using store-bought aloe gel, try to source one that is alcohol-free with minimal additives.
Teas: If you don’t want to use aloe vera, you can substitute a water extraction. I recommend green tea (Camellia sinensis), which contains quercetin – an anti-inflammatory and hyaluronidase inhibitor. Plants with anti-hyaluronidase activity greatly decrease inflammation.2
African Skincare Botanicals
This mask features three plants native to the African continent: aloe vera,3 rose geranium,4 and watermelon.5 Emollient and astringent, aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) and rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) are favored by cosmetics and beauty industries around the world.
The skin healing nature of watermelon is lesser known. Native to Southern Africa’s Kalahari desert, watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) has a long traditional use for skincare in many parts of Africa and its diaspora.6 In Northern Sudan, grated or pounded watermelon rind was a topical treatment for burns and inflammation, while African Americans applied it to the face to heal sun damage.7 8
The rind contains high amounts of citrulline, an antioxidant amino acid,9 10 which protects from free-radical damage.11 Watermelon rind is also high in other antioxidants, such as vitamin C,12 13 which has been shown to have photoprotective effects against UVB and UVA radiation.14 The antioxidant levels of watermelon rind, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties,15 make it an exceptional treatment for aging, stressed, and UV damaged skin.
Preparing the Watermelon Rind Extract
Choose a fresh watermelon with firm flesh and a thick rind. First remove the green skin and fleshy center from watermelon rind. Grate the rind, or cut it into small pieces and run it through a blender or food processor. Strain the juice with muslin or cheesecloth.
Sourcing Sheet Masks
After testing several brands of dry 100% cotton sheet masks, I found that I prefer the compressed tablet masks that expand when soaked in liquid. As an alternative to the cotton masks, you can use paper towels, rice paper, or lightweight fabric cut to fit your face. Fabric is an eco-friendly reusable option, but you should sanitize it before reuse to avoid breakouts. Regardless of the material selected, be sure to leave holes for your eyes, nostrils, and mouth.
Using the Sheet Mask
First, prepare your skin by cleansing your face. Follow up by applying an alcohol-free toner. Spread the prepared soaking solution on your face and neck. Pour the soaking solution over a dry sheet mask, and let sit until it swells. Gently wring it out until the mask is no longer dripping.
Apply the sheet to your face, starting at the forehead and moving toward the chin. Wear for 10-15 minutes. Do not let the mask dry on your face, and rewet as needed. Unless you have purchased a mask with ear loops, it is best to lie down while using. Remove the spent mask sheet and tap excess solution into your skin. There is no need to rinse the skin afterwards.
Sheet Mask Soaking Solution Recipe
Follow these directions to make a soothing botanical based potion that will refresh and hydrate thirsty skin.
What you’ll need…
- 1 tablespoon aloe vera juice or gel (or herbal tea – see note below)
- 1 tablespoon watermelon rind extract
- 10 drops rosehip oil
- 1 teaspoon rose geranium hydrosol
- 3 drops plant-derived squalane oil (optional)
- 5 drops snail mucin (optional)
1. Combine aloe vera juice, watermelon rind extract, hydrosol, oils, and mucin in a jar.
2. Place the lid on tightly and shake until emulsified.
This recipe makes one batch, and it’s best to use it the same day.
Note: If using tea instead of aloe vera juice, pour boiling water over selected herbs and steep, covered, for 10 minutes. Strain and cool tea to room temperature before use.
Now we’d love to hear from you.
What is your favorite herb for skin care?
Have you ever used a sheet mask?
Let us know in the comments below.