courtesy of manufacturers
I come from a long line of Korean women who take skincare very seriously. Me and my family used to do #SelfCareSunday before the hashtag even existed—we would slap, smear, and peel off all sorts of sheet and cream masks in pursuit of brighter, smoother, and clearer skin. This ritual is pretty commonplace in Korean culture, where face masks have become a long-standing staple in K-beauty. In fact, they're so good that "Korean face masks" have spawned a whole subcategory in itself. This childhood ritual has stayed with me through adulthood, and I still apply face masks religiously on a consistent basis. I understand that the 12-step K-beauty routine isn't for everyone (it is pretty time-consuming), but I do believe everyone can get on board with a good face mask. To make your search a little easier, here are the best Korean masking formulas, whether in sheet or liquid form, that are laden with powerful ingredients to provide a quick complexion makeover.
Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask
This mask is meant to sit overnight, but it's not just a glorified night cream: The slow-release retinol reduces hyperpigmentation and resurfaces the skin, revealing a smoother complexion come morning. It's also great for people who want to reap retinol benefits without the irritating side effects, thanks to the encapsulated retinol, which allows for timed delivery to the skin.
Dr. Jart+ Cryo Rubber Mask
Dr. Jart's rubber masks are the ultimate ASMR experience—the peeling-off portion will be just as satisfying as the baby-soft complexion the mask leaves behind. Bonus: you can wear your creepy rubber mask around the house and scare all your friends and family.
Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask
This ridiculously fun clay mask purifies your pores and melts away makeup as it bubbles up, leaving you with a frenzy of foam that's equally Instagrammable as it is effective.
Mamonde Rose Flower Lab Essence Sheet Mask
Aside from the fact that it smells like a lovely rose garden, this mask is infused with rose extract, which has calming and moisturizing benefits that are especially great for dry or sensitive skin types.
Innisfree Jeju Root Energy Mask
InnisFree has always been a brand all about sustainability, but that's just one of the many reasons to love their newest sheet masks. Chock-full of vegetable extracts (which are rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and amino acids) grown on Jejudo Island soil, it's like a direct dose of healthy veggies that target your complexion topically.
Tony Moly Gel Face Mask
Give your skin an at-home spa treatment with this gel mask packed with botanical ingredients like rosehip seed and jojoba oil. Tony Moly's cooling hydrogel masks contain targeted essences to deliver various fast-acting treatments, but my favorite is the wine version for firming and plumping skin—which I naturally like to pair with a glass of red wine.
InnisFree Super Volcanic Clusters Pore Clearing Clay Mousse Mask
Another InnisFree pick, this mousse version is embedded with finely ground hardened volcanic lava (also from Jeju Island!) that helps absorb excess sebum. Paired with salicylic acid, the fluffy mousse formula acts like a magnet for impurities on your complexion, sloughing off dead skin cells and minimizing the appearance of pores.
Hanskin Real Complexion Hyaluronic Moisture Mask
If you're looking for masking options in bulk that don't break the bank, try this. The set of 10 rings in at $36 (which comes down to a little more than $3 each). My face feels like it's encased in a hydrating cloud, thanks to its high concentration of hyaluronic acid. And it doesn't hurt that the sheet mask is my favorite shade of pink.
Rael Bamboo Vitamin C Face Sheet Mask
This mask is a serious complexion saver after a sleepless night. It has everything dull skin could need: brightening pomegranate, mulberry, and fig extracts full of vitamin C, all packed into an ultra-soft sheet with bamboo yarn nanotechnology that ensures a snug hug for your face.
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
I use this overnight Korean face mask to give my face new life whenever my pores feel especially parched. The water-based (read: super-hydrating) instantly cools and soothes skin, while the plant extracts give my thirsty complexion some much needed moisture.
Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Mask
One of my favorite serums of all time is Sulwhasoo's iconic First Care Activating Serum (also one of the most popular, best-selling serums in South Korea). This silky, gossamer sheet mask is soaked in the stuff, featuring a potent cocktail of five radiance-boosting Korean herbs. Albeit expensive, just one masking session leaves my skin feeling like luxury (AKA baby-soft and uber-glowy).
Amorepacific Treatment Enzyme Peeling Masque
Amorepacific's peel-off mask uses AHAs and green tea-derived enzymes to reduce irritation, swelling, and redness. Slather an even layer over your face, massage it in until the mask turns opaque, and wait 5 minutes before washing off with warm water.