Peel-off, bubbling, jelly, clay or LED, the mask market exploded last year. Sparking a new way of using them in and out of the salon, it’s all about instant results and pretty pictures.
Last year the mask market mushroomed by 37%. Now valued at £16,730,774,* it’s officially one of the biggest growing categories in skincare with just over a quarter of UK women reporting to have used a wash or peel off mask in the past 12 months. You don’t have to be a mathematician to work out that these skin perfectors are capturing the consumer zeitgeist. No longer sandwiched into salon treatments as a moment of luxury, masks are stealing the spotlight over serums, toners and traditional moisturisers. Therapists are recommending them to clients post-treatment and social media has photo evidence of confident consumers trialling their latest beauty buys. Search #facemask on Instagram and there are almost 1.5 million images to scroll through. Filter your finds via #bubblemask, #sheetmask, #peeloffmask and #jellymask and you’ll lose hours watching people who have filmed and snapshot their experiences.
The different textures, consistencies and formulas are without doubt driving the trend. Whereas masks used to come in a pot and be thick, gloopy and time-consuming, (not to mention expensive), the arrival of affordable sheet masks and our obsession with Korean beauty has paved the way for peel-offs, foams, jellies and colourful clays.
“Our GRAVITYMUD Firming Treatment became an overnight sensation on social media,” says Shannon Dellimore, founder of GLAMGLOW who have six masks in their portfolio, not including limited editions. “The innovative formula changes colour from white to chrome and peels off to leave skin feeling tighter and more lifted. Our Sonic Blue GRAVITYMUD was one of our most successful collaborations last year. For us we want to prove serious skincare can be fun.”
This is also where masks have upped their game. With a new generation who are savvier than ever about what they’re putting on their skin, these masks can’t just be photo-friendly, users need to know their skin is benefiting as well as their followers. Consumers know what they should be looking out for ingredients-wise so buzzwords like Hyaluronic Acid, Kelp, Amino Acids, Niacinamide, AHA and BHA acids, activated charcoal and antioxidants will guide them into making informed decisions about which mask will make it home with them.
“Beauty consumers are increasingly aware on the importance of a good skincare routine and marketing and innovation has been forced to change,” says Nicole Arnoldussen, co-founder of StarSkin whose sheet masks are stocked everywhere from Selfridges to asos.com. “In the past there was a huge difference between over the counter skincare brands and professional skincare products, namely the actives used, ingredients concentration and formulation strength but cosmeceuticals narrowed the gap between both genres and gave consumers the opportunity to keep their skin in great condition at home.”
Now offering higher concentration actives, easy application methods and targeted to specific concerns such as ageing, elasticity, spots, pigmentation or dryness, while they aren’t completely comparable to professional skincare products that require a trained aesthetician, they are ideal for between treatment top-ups. They also make a great addition for clients post-treatment, especially if they’ve had something more invasive or abrasive. Medik8’s new sheet mask, the Ultimate Recovery Bio-Cellulose Zinc Mask was originally developed solely for clinic use but demand from clients was so high they’ve just brought it to market.
Using bio-cellulose fibres soaked in a soothing blend of zinc to heal and regulate the skin’s enzyme balance, hyaluronic acid and algae extracts provide an intense hit of hydration. In 15 minutes, the serum-soaked mask is ready to be discarded.
Starskin also use bio-cellulose for their sheet masks to ensure premium results. “It has superior face adherence and can hold up to 100 times its weight in fluid which means more serum can penetrate the skin layers,” continues Arnoldussen. “It’s also derived from fermented coconut juice. The fermentation process causes ingredients to be broken down into smaller molecules which makes them more easily absorbed into the skin with little irritation.”
These well researched ingredients lists and forward thinking delivery systems have led to willingness from more professionals to incorporate them into their treatments. “I tend to apply targeted products to the skin first before using a sheet mask on top as that way my clients get a double hit of targeted ingredients,” reveals celebrity facialist, Michaella Bolder. “My go-tos are Sarah Chapman Skinesis Sheet Mask, Perricone MD Cocoa Moisture Mask and L’Oréal Paris Clay Purity Mask.”
Clays are definitely making a comeback. While sheet masks provide immediate results, hardworking and naturally derived clays have won consumers over with multi-masking. In fact globally last year 3.8% of facial skincare launches between January and August incorporated clay ingredients (it was just 2.1% in 2013)*** and L’Oréal Paris recently reported that it’s skincare business was up by 5% due to the success of its ‘Pure Clay’ masks. Taking on Bolder’s mix and match approach, consumers are even encouraged to invest in mask ‘play sets’ that encourage them to use the black detox mask on cheeks, the green purity mask on the forehead and pink glow mask across nose and chin to smooth and brighten. Again – the picture opportunities are endless.
Fizzing, foaming, peeling – there is undeniably a lot of gimmickry in the mask market right now. And that’s where the professionals can step in and guide clients to the ingredients and formulas their skin will benefit from, rather than just the fun factor. That said, it shows no signs of slowing down. Redken has just introduced its first hair sheet mask (Starskin are hot on their heels), targeted eye and lip masks are also booming and there are even masks that will emulate an in-salon microneedling experience. Both Radara and Natura Bisse have patches that create tiny painless pinpricks on the skin to allow ingredients to penetrate deeper. There are even whisperings of body masks in the pipeline. “People understand it’s important to give your skin an extra treatment in addition to your daily routine,” says Dellimore. “These exciting innovations for face and beyond will simply continue to transform the mask industry.”
*NPD Report 2017
**Mintel Women's Facial Skincare UK 2017 report