The Difference Between A $1 Sheet Mask And A $20 Sheet Mask

Can your face tell them apart?

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I’m not even going to try to deny it: If there’s one beauty product I can’t live without, it’s the sheet mask. And while I’m sure my sunscreen, moisturizer and retinol oil would probably like to have a word, I can’t seem to resist the siren song of this facial care essential, especially since it addresses practically every skin concern known to man.

While it’s fair to say there are literally thousands of sheet masks available for purchase these days, you may be wondering if the pricing of your mask actually matters. Some products can start at a dollar (yes, really!) and others can cost you a pretty penny.

I’m always down to solve a good beauty mystery, so I tested out two sheet masks priced at $1 and $20 each. Then, after I tried to identify any noticeable difference between the two masks, skin-care experts weighed in to explain what’s what.

Read on to see how both sheet masks worked on my face, and how two dermatologists and a cosmetic chemist compared and contrasted the ingredients inside the masks.

Eve Lom White Brightening Mask, $160 for a pack of eight ($20 each)

Eve Lom

Luxury face masks can definitely make a person feel all sorts of bougie, but the real question is if these fancy products actually work better. The Eve Lom brand has a huge celebrity following, so I decided to give its ultra-fancy White Brightening Mask a go.

Using the chilled mask (I love popping my sheet masks in the fridge) was a pretty straightforward experience. Leaving it on for 20 minutes definitely felt good on my face while I was catching up with V.C. Andrews’ Casteel family saga (don’t judge me!) on Lifetime. The mask fit better and felt better on my face than the cheaper version, because it’s made of cotton, and the serum soaked into my skin better, too. It didn’t leave my skin ridiculously dewy, but it did give my cheeks a nice natural highlight.

However, I’m being extremely realistic in saying you aren’t going to see a magical skin transformation when you remove even the luxury mask. While this Eve Lom product is designed to target pigmentation issues, it didn’t give me a perfectly glowing face in just 20 minutes.

That’s not to say that using this mask isn’t good for your complexion. It’s filled with skin-boosting active ingredients, according to board-certified celebrity dermatologist Anna Guanche, including Dermapep, allantoin and licorice root extract.

Dr. Guanche told HuffPost that Dermapep incorporates hydrating glycerin and leucine-based skin lightening and brightening active ingredients. This gives your skin a brighter appearance, fading away troublesome dark spots and discoloration over time, she said. Licorice root also assists in the brightening process.

Besides the skin-lightening ingredients, Guanche noted that the Eve Lom sheet mask is jam-packed with other useful skin-care ingredients. Allantoin, which can come from the root of the comfrey plant, soothes the skin and promotes necessary healing. The niacinamide, squalene, vitamin C, vitamin E and antioxidants in the mask are also beneficial, she said.

Jacqueline Kang, a cosmetic chemist and head of product development at Rose & Abbot, noted that the 100% cotton material gives the Eve Lom mask a big advantage over masks made with cheaper substitutes.

“The material plays a significant role in making sure the ingredients are absorbed and transferred to the skin properly,” Kang told HuffPost. “The better the material, the more effective it is ... and safer to leave on.”

Dollar Tree

In addition to my obsession with ridiculous Lifetime movie plots, I’ll gladly admit that strolling down the aisles of Dollar Tree is another burning passion of mine, as I’ve bought everything from garbage cans to LaCroix cases at that glorious dollar store. And, as you can imagine, sheet masks have found their way into my shopping cart there.

Now, Dollar Tree has a lot of sheet masks to choose from, with products targeting acne, dryness and aging concerns, all for a really good price. However, my oily complexion needed a bit of a detox, so this time I settled on a charcoal sheet mask to give my pores a deep clean.

Much like my experience with the Eve Lom sheet mask, using the Dollar Tree product was pretty straightforward. No, it wasn’t made with soft cotton material, so my face got a little irritated ― but the inflammation went away pretty quickly. It didn’t fit my face as well as the Eve Lom mask, and the texture was a little too slimy by comparison.

Again, it’s important to remember that this sheet mask won’t work miracles. It won’t immediately take away any nasty pimples lingering on your face.

Despite being the more inexpensive of the two masks, board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman noted that this Dollar Tree find does contain beneficial ingredients.

Dr. Jaliman said it provides glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which are both pretty good for hydrating the skin. So while it lacks the impressive ingredient list of the Eve Lom mask, she suggested the budget-friendly product could be helpful if you just need a quick burst of hydration.

The charcoal mask also pulls oil and toxins from your pores.

Kang said it is important to be cautious about using less expensive masks.

“Cheaper products usually tend to entail cheaper sources of ingredients ... with other not-so-great filler ingredients, so the quality of the ingredients and the mask material can be compromised,” Kang told HuffPost.

But she added, “Just because the ingredients are synthetic doesn’t mean it is not good. They are effective, and this mask doesn’t seem to have a high number of ingredients compared to many other cheaper masks, making it worth it for people who prefer simpler masks.”

So Which Sheet Mask Is Better?

While I had a pretty pleasant experience with both sheet masks, seasoned skin-care pros like Guanche suggest there is a clear winner between the two.

Courtney Leiva

“Overall, the luxury mask offers a significant advantage over the dollar mask,” Guanche said. “It employs more advanced skin technology, is more hydrating and brightening ... and has powerful antioxidants. I have reviewed the ingredients and would definitely personally prefer the luxury mask.”

Jaliman agreed with Guanche that the multitasking Eve Lom mask is better for your skin, noting that it contains moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and squalene. But “the big advantage of the more expensive mask,” she said, is that it has “many ingredients that help with brightening and even out the skin color. These include licorice root extract, niacinamide and citric acid. ... So if you just need quick hydration you can go with the dollar mask, but if you need more brightening and anti-aging, you may want the more expensive mask.”

And while the Eve Lom sheet mask is definitely more of a “treat yourself” product, Kang said the higher price pays for higher-quality, more effective ingredients. “This mask is more like a treatment, so people who’d like to see considerable results should invest in this mask,” she said.

So there you have it. If you’re only looking for a pop of hydration or a pick-me-up, cheaper masks will do the trick. But if you’re looking for more powerful treatments, you’re likely to get better results from masks that tend to cost more. Just read the packaging to make sure they actually contain those stellar ingredients.

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