The 10-step Korean skincare routine is legendary. It’s no secret that the country takes its complexion regimens very seriously, with flawless faces to prove it. Stateside, most of us don’t have that kind of patience. But you don’t have to copy the Korean 10-step routine to get that glow. Often, all it takes to get a skin boost is the best Korean face mask.
Options abound when it comes to the K-beauty staple, from liquid to clay to overnight to sheet masks, with varieties available for every skin type and concern. And unlike slathering on one essence and serum after another, these are as low maintenance as it gets — you can wear the best Korean face masks while watching TV, doing errands around the house or even while you work (well, except for during Zoom calls).
Best of all, you don’t have to go to Seoul to get the best Korean face masks, though that does sound like a pretty exciting vacation. K-beauty is famous for producing many innovations in the beauty industry, and American shoppers can find Korean hair and skin products easily enough right here.
Let’s quickly learn how to use the best Korean face masks before diving into the options themselves.
How to use a Korean face mask
Whether you’re dealing with a Korean sheet mask or a spreadable mask, all the masks are super easy to use because they all work in basically the same ways. They sit on your face for a few minutes, allowing your face to absorb key ingredients and for key ingredients to absorb grime from your face. Read the basic steps below to get started, but always read the product’s directions (and follow them) for best results.
- For a spreadable face mask, scoop out enough mask, often no more than the size of a quarter, to evenly cover your face. For sheet masks, carefully remove the mask from its pack and apply it to your face. Some sheet masks come in two parts, an upper face and lower face (convenient for beardsmen). It’s OK if the pieces overlap a bit, just make sure you’re getting good coverage overall.
- Pop a squat and flip on a show while the mask dries and works its magic. While you sit, your skin will be absorbing good mask ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. If you’re using one of the best clay masks, the ingredients will also be detoxifying and cleansing your skin of grime and impurities.
- After 10 to 15 minutes — some products need as few as five minutes while others go as long as 20 — remove the mask. If you used a sheet mask, slowly peel it off and rinse thoroughly. For a spreadable mask, just rinse with warm water.
- Pat your face dry with a towel, and you’re done! Do this one to three times a week for improved skin (but never every day).
Now that we know how to use face masks, we’ve rounded up the best Korean face masks to help you narrow down the endless options. All of these options feature skin-friendly ingredients that deliver serious results.
1. Cardon Men’s Cactus Soothing Face Mask
For one of the best Korean face masks, check out the Cardon Men’s Cactus Soothing Face Mask. Cactus extract, niacinamide and cica are the primary drivers here, working to soothe, hydrate and calm sensitive skin while also reducing the signs of aging like wrinkles. We also appreciate that this four-pack of face masks doesn’t wreck the bank and that you can subscribe to receive a discounted pack every one or two months. Whether you’re a pro or new to the best Korean face mask game, the Cardon mask makes for an all-around great hydrating option.
2. Skinfood Rice Wash-Off Face Mask
The Skinfood Rice Wash-Off Face Mask is simplicity perfected. With a pH level of 6.1 — just a click above water — this face mask is designed to refresh all skin types. Rice bran water does the heavy lifting to gently exfoliate your skin, removing dead skin cells while brightening and promoting the rest. It’s one of the best-reviewed Korean face masks on Soko Glam, a Korean skincare retailer, and we can see why. It’s simple, works well and comes at a pretty nice price.
3. Dewytree Cica 100 Mask
Though you’ll likely get better long-term value from some other Korean face masks, a budget-friendly pick like the Dewytree Cica 100 Mask can be great to test out. This mask is wonderfully simple in that it has one ingredient: cica.
Cica naturally contains antioxidants and vitamins and even produces collagen, making it a Korean skincare staple.
4. Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask
BEST CLAY MASK
Those seeking smaller pores will want to add this Innisfree Pore Clearing Clay Mask to their arsenal because it’s one of the best Korean face masks for that purpose. Clogged pores are enlarged pores and this clay mask gets all the gunk out — including sebum and dead skin cells — to tighten pores. The soothing formula also delivers a cooling effect and gives skin tone a boost.
5. Dr. Jart+ Dermask Cryo Rubber Facial Mask Pack
Beloved in both its native Korea and in the US, Dr. Jart+ is known for efficacious formulas. This innovative rubber mask combines the quick efficacy of a modeling pack with a sheet mask. Designed specifically for dry skin, it’s loaded with hyaluronic acid for a major dose of moisture. And yes, it looks a little weird, so it’s practically begging for a selfie.
6. The Crème Shop Overnight Gel Mask
BEST OVERNIGHT MASK
For intensive overnight hydration, go for The Crème Shop Overnight Gel Mask. Loaded up with hyaluronic acid, this mask will leave your skin looking unrecognizably good after you wake up in the morning.
Read more: Best Korean Hair Products
7. Mediheal Tea Tree Essential Blemish Control Sheet Face Mask
BEST FOR ACNE
Banish breakouts with this skin-calming option that’s one of the best Korean face masks for acne. A blend of powerful ingredients will leave you with a calm, clear complexion and prevent new breakouts from forming. There’s willow bark to exfoliate and clean out pores, rosemary to purify, tea tree oil to zap zits, and chamomile and Asiatic pennywort to ease redness. Each set includes five single-use sheet masks.
8. Jaxon Lane Bro Mask
BEST GEL MASK
The Jaxon Lane Bro Mask has been a longtime favorite face mask for men at SPY and it uses Korean skincare technology to bring your skin to a whole new level of hydration. The hydrogel mask sticks to your skin way better than cotton and allows for even more absorption of key ingredients like vitamin B3, ginger extract, collagen and green tea extract.
9. Neogen Canadian Clay Pore Stick Mask
BEST ROLL-ON MASK
Face masks sometimes earn a bad rep for making messes. But this hands-free stick formula is one of the best Korean face masks when it comes to ease of application. The no-touch double mud mask is simply swiped onto skin and then rinsed off. It delicately polishes away dead skin cells, impurities and blackheads and whiteheads that clog pores, tightening them and firming skin in the process. Skin’s texture is left a lot smoother, brighter and balanced.
10. Tony Moly Super Food Face Mask Bowl Set
Superfoods have long been hailed as skincare saviors and Tony Moly’s set of six masks spotlights a different one in each. Together, they tackle a range of complexion needs. The I’m Cactus Sheet Mask is chock full of natural prickly pear extract to calm, soothe and moisturize, while the I’m Honey Sheet Mask spotlights a honey-infused essence that delivers moisture and a glow. The I’m Green Tea Sheet Mask has watery green tea essence to refresh, brighten and purify; the I’m Aloe Sheet Mask contains aloe extract and a water-based essence for loads of hydration; the I’m Peach Sheet Mask spotlights natural peach extract to revive dull skin; and the I’m Coconut Sheet Mask is packed with vitamin E and coconut extract to remove dirt and revitalize.
11. Benton Aloe Soothing Mask Pack
BEST FOR SUNBURN
Sensitive skin types should flock to this gentle mask that contains more than 48% aloe vera to soothe and heal everything from sunburn to breakouts. Combined with green tea, it repairs, protects and moisturizes skin. Made from a lightweight Tencel fiber sheet, it hugs skin to deliver the best results.
We reached out to Dr. Michele Green, a New York City-based cosmetic dermatologist, for some advice on what ingredients to look for in the best face masks, Korean or otherwise. Here are a few she told us about.
Hyaluronic acid: “Hyaluronic acid... is one of the most natural ways to boost skin hydration in all skin types.” Dr. Green told SPY. It also helps to gently soften and hydrate skin without clogging pores, which will fight signs of aging, minimize breakouts and repair dry skin, she said. “Additionally, hyaluronic acid has antioxidant properties that can help protect the skin against free radicals and other environmental pollutants. Using products that contain Hyaluronic acid can help skin look plumper, smoother, and more radiant.”
Glycerin: “Glycerin is a safe, effective and lightweight ingredient for hydration that works with any skin type,” Dr. Green said. “As a humectant, Glycerin draws water to the top layer of your skin from deeper layers of skin and the air. Glycerin also promotes retention of moisture, reinforcing the skin’s natural barrier and keeping it healthy and hydrated.”
Aloe vera: “Aloe vera… absorbs easily and is especially effective for treating sensitive skin. [It’s] anti-inflammatory and contains antioxidants in addition to Vitamins A and C,” Dr. Green said. “The healing properties of aloe vera are of great benefit to dry and dehydrated skin and a powerful tool for sealing in moisture.”
Glycolic acid: Glycolic acid, alongside salicylic acid, can help break down unsightly skin, discoloration and blemishes. Dr. Green said, “Glycolic acid is a gentle chemical exfoliant that replenishes skin by removing dull top layers and promoting the production of collagen and elastin. This ingredient is beneficial not only for rehydrating dry skin but also for treating and preventing signs of aging.”
Colloidal oatmeal: Oats and oatmeal have long been known to soothe skin (remember chickenpox), and they’re useful in face masks too. “Colloidal oatmeal-infused [masks are] great for dry skin sufferers,” Dr. Green said. “Oats have been known to calm the skin inflammation of the skin as well as stimulate the production of collagen. The oats bind to the skin creating a shield against irritation while locking in natural moisture from your skin.”
Ceramides: Ceramides are a regularly featured ingredient of rejuvenating skin products. “Whether you experience seasonal dry skin or suffer from dryness year-round, ceramide products help replenish skin,” Dr. Green said. “Using products that are enriched with ceramides will help restore your skin's hydration and lock in moisture in even the most extreme temperatures. This helps your skin maintain that hydration long-term, resulting in healthy, hydrated skin.”
Vitamin E: “Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant which when added to skincare products protects the skin from oxidative stress,” Dr. Green said. “Vitamin E also has restorative properties and is able to repair the skin at its cellular level, accelerating the production of collagen and elastin. It can reduce skin inflammation and redness. In addition, vitamin E is known for its ability to improve skin texture and protect the skin against environmental stressors.”