Over the last few years, as consumers have become more aware of the impact of single-use plastic on the environment, there’s been a backlash against certain harmful products, and an effort to eradicate them from our lives.
Plastic drinking straws have been replaced with metal or bamboo versions, and clear plastic water bottles with trendy reusables. In bathrooms all over the world, face wipes and cotton pads have disappeared, and washable fabric rounds or flannels have become hugely popular.
For beauty lovers who want to remove their make-up or apply skincare products like toner daily, ditching wipes and pads makes a big difference to their environmental footprint. Sheet masks, on the other hand, have escaped the backlash so far – but that might be about to change.
Holland and Barrett has announced it’s banning single-use sheet masks in stores and online. The retailer is encouraging customers to switch to multi-use masks instead.
Originating in Korea, face-shaped sheet masks soaked in serum are loved for their moisturising and glow-giving properties, and have been a massive beauty trend in recent years. With sales predicted to reach £369m by 2025 according to Statista, Holland and Barrett estimates that one million masks are thrown away each day.
Joanne Cooke, beauty trading director at Holland and Barrett says: “Beauty sheet masks can only be used once, so following a review, we feel they no longer fit our clean and conscious beauty ethos, which is why we’ve decided to act now and stop selling them.
“We know our customers are eco-conscious and passionate about protecting the environment, and we hope this move makes it a little bit easier for them to make their beauty regimes more sustainable. We’re encouraging them to join our #notanothersheetmask movement, and pledge to switch to more sustainable options.”
But are pots of cream or gel mask really better for the environment – and are they as effective?
Generously soaked in active-packed serum, sheet masks are incredibly effective, because they prevent the liquid from evaporating while you wear them, meaning more of it penetrates your skin. Fans will know how satisfying it is to peel off the sheet and find a dewy, healthy-looking complexion after just 20 minutes.
In comparison, a multi-use mask could significantly cut down on plastic, depending on the size of the tub or tube. Gel-based Tired Faace (£24) promises 40 applications per tube, for example.
If the packaging is sustainable, it’s even more eco-friendly. Holland and Barrett recommends Q+A Vitamin A.C.E Warming Gel Mask (currently reduced to £6.75), which is housed in a recyclable tube.
What about recyclable or compostable sheet masks like Maya Jama’s MIJ Bio-Cellulose Face Mask (£15.99 for two) or Simple Hemp Ultra Calming Sheet Mask (£1.50, Boots)? These masks can be disposed of in a compost bin (if you have one), but often the pouches they come in aren’t recyclable.
A recent innovation, silicone sheet masks like the Nurse Jamie FaceWrap Skin Perfecting Silicone Mask (£25, Cult Beauty) are sold separately, so you can use them with your serum of choice and reap the moisture-locking benefits, then wash and reuse. They can last for months, if you look after them, but bear in mind, they aren’t usually recyclable.
As with many product categories, it’s a bit of a minefield when it comes to finding masks that are effective but don’t leave you drowning in eco-guilt. With so many different skincare options, the choice is up to you. One thing’s for certain, however: single-use sheet masks are not the answer.