The Truth About Your Sheet Masks

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.

Here is the original Reddit post that has taken the Asian Beauty world by storm. 

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:

Photo via Twitter

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.

Via Racked

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. 

Photo via Racked

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. 🙄 

Via Revelist

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.

Photo via Cosmo.PH

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! 💕


  1. This is shocking! Truly shocking!

    I’ve never bought any of those sheet masks because I don’t know anything about laws and regulations for cosmetics manufacturers outside the EU or Israel. So I only buy products that comply with EU legislations for the manufacture of toiletries and cosmetics.

    Montagne Jeunesse does sheet masks. They’re made in the UK, they’re approved by the Vegetarian Society, and they’re certified cruelty-free by Peta and BUAV (= they carry the Leaping Bunny logo). In addition, I’m confident that, thanks to EU laws and regulatory supervision, Montagne Jeunesse sheet masks (all of their product really) are manufactured to the highest standards and that there won’t be any hygiene issues ever.

    So yeah, I feel for everyone who’s used a dodgy sheet mask without suspecting anything, and it’s sad that there are people who experienced unpleasant skin reactions.

    I hope action will be taken and stricter regulations will be implemented, alongside a more robust supervision scheme.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for such a thorough comment; I think you are wise for following such strict standards for yourself and what products you buy. After this, I’m much more weary of what I buy-no more impulse buys for sure! This has made me feel not only angry, but sort of betrayed…but then again, my fault as you can never make an assumption. Gotta do that research!
      You are so wonderful to suggest the Montagne Jeunesse sheet masks. If I can ever bring myself to wear another one, this will be the first brand I’ll try. I’m so glad to hear they are genuinely cruelty-free as well. That’s another thing I’ve been honestly wrestling with, but that’s something to discuss on its own at a later date.
      All I can say is that I admire your dedication, high standards, and most importantly, compassion. I hope that now that this has gone international, changes of all kinds will start being made, for the manufacturers, the consumers, and the animals.


  2. Holy. That’s pretty damning stuff. Definitely making me think twice about Korean products… I was never keen on the sheet masks due to excessive packaging, so I think this has definitely turned me off even more. Thanks for the great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you found it helpful. I’m very careful about which sheet mask brands I use now, but frankly, this sort of thing is rampant in all countries across all industries. I think what goes on with food and pharmaceutical industries are scariest of all. Things like this are a good reminder of “buyer beware.”

      Liked by 1 person

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