While not breaking news in Korea, a recent sanitation scandal involving any Kbeauty enthusiast’s skin care staple-the sheet mask-has run rampant world wide after a Reddit post made by dvaonline22 brought the issue to light and exposed the sketchy practices of many Korean companies. After Racked got word via an article by fanserviced-b, it’s been all the K beauty world has been talking about.
In short, many sheet masks are being hand-folded by workers in their homes, creating not only major sanitation and health issues for sheet mask users, but labor concerns as well; workers are typically underpaid, making a quarter of an American cent per single sheet mask folded according to Weekly DongA.
Screenshot of the original post from Reddit:
Chances are VERY LIKELY that your sheet mask stash is contaminated, the material having been folded bare handed, on a recycled cardboard folding guide, in someone’s unregulated, unmonitored home, by grossly underpaid human labor. Personally, not something I want on my face PERIOD, let alone for an extended period of time. These sorts of practices have been going on for awhile now, but not much is being done about this issue (as it seems to not be seen as much of an issue by many brands).
How it Works:
Basically, the unfolded masks are dropped off at workers’ homes where they are folded, often with the aid of a handmade cardboard folding guide like those used in retail clothing stores, and then put into unsealed mask envelopes. The now-folded masks are taken to the factories where they are (supposedly) sanitized/tested, filled with essence, sealed, and readied to hit the shelves. They undergo a “microbial check,” but that means that things like hair and cigarette ash could still remain.
And they often do: there have been numerous reports of cigarette ash, hair, and other debris found in sheet masks by Korean consumers as well as strange smells (like STALE NICOTINE not accounted for in the ingredients list). Skin irritation and reactions have also occurred.
A lot of the time, it seems most companies divert the task of mask folding to subcontractors, not the factories themselves, pointing the Finger of Blame at the middleman in this equation. When labor is outsourced, it’s true that companies have less control over their product, but this issue has been one surprisingly ignored both by the companies themselves, and more shockingly, the average Korean consumer.
This is far from a small time brand issue; many large companies like Mediheal and SNP are explicitly known to use at-home labor for this task. These brands claim that sometimes hand folding is a necessary task due to a large variety of masks that automated folding would not be suited for, or that they have strict sanitation rules and regulations for the at-home work. 🙄
The lack of regulations doesn’t matter that much though. A Korean blogger with experience in the beauty industry told POP SUGAR that in the sheet mask factory she worked part-time in, workers often smoked cigarettes while on the line. Much of the factory was incredibly dirty and unhygienic. It seems an upheaval in sanitation enforcement is needed across the entire sheet mask industry.
Is anyone getting Benton flashbacks from this?
It’s a widespread epidemic that is commonly known by the Korean public; many of the top selling masks use this unsanitary manufacturing practices and are doing only a little about it.
For starters: no gloves?
Many Reddit users and Kbeauty enthusiasts have reached out to multiple companies about this issue. Some have responded, some haven’t.
This article on Racked has an updated list of companies who have responded. They also have some safe mask recommendations included as well.
How to Stay Safe:
If anyone here remembers the Great Benton Sanitation Scandal, many users developed stubborn skin infections their dermatologists and doctors struggled to treat. From heavy-duty antibiotics to OTC treatments, nothing really worked. People were left with scarring from said infection from the Benton product(s) after struggling with it for months, and for some a year.
Sanitation issues are nothing to brush off, especially if you value your skin, let alone health. While much information is still being collected, research your masks-check them against cleared companies/brands, and inspect them carefully before use. Don’t accept any off smells, weird discoloration, and obvious things like ash, hair, bugs, and mold.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to the company directly either. Many have great customer service, and if they don’t…well, that should tell you all you need to know.
This news is equally as shocking as it is sad. I’m not sure to do with my stash to be honest.😅However, I’m so glad that this issue has finally gotten international attention it deserves. If everyone makes a big enough fuss, these illegal, and frankly disgusting, practices will finally by retired.
Here’s to a safer sheet masking world. Stay safe everyone! 💕