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Sheet masks are unsanitary and unsustainable


 

 

The skin care industry is hypocritical. Brands claim their products are "non-toxic" yet contain cytotoxic essential oils. Brands claim that they are "clean beauty", yet house their skin care in unwashed, unsanitary, plastic-leeching bottles. And brands now claim that they are eco-friendly and sustainable yet create metric tons of plastic waste, environmental toxins and pollutants from the mass production of single use, disposable sheet masks. 

Sheet masks are a symptom of an increasingly wasteful society. They come wrapped in individually packaged plastic containers. You use them once and throw away the mask and the container. And then you throw out the larger container that it came in. But the problem with sheet masks doesn't begin with you opening the package and putting it on your face, the real problem with sheet masks begins with their manufacturing. 

Sheet masks are single use, come packaged in individual pouches and create waste with every use.

Most sheet masks are folded by hand because it is cheaper than a machine. Most companies who sell sheet masks sell them at a low price and to keep their profit margins high, they need a cheap source of labor to fold the masks. That cheap source of labor is in southeast Asia and China where there is little cosmetic regulation. With little regulation means little regard for sanitation. An investigative report found that sheet masks that ended up being sold in the United Stated were folded by hand in people's homes, on their personal furniture and other unsanitary locations.

Sheet masks have been found to contain mold, bacteria and pathogens. And when you put a contaminated product on your skin, you damage your skin and put yourself at risk for serious infection. 

These hand-folded masks are then sent in boxes to either locations in china  or the United States to be packaged into pouches. The travel of these folded masks is troubling for sanitary and environmental reasons. First, the unpackaged masks are traveling overseas from China and Southeast Asia in shipping containers where they are exposed to mold spores, pesticides and airborne pathogens. And second, the transport of disposable goods around the globe leaves a tremendous carbon footprint, contributes to ocean pollution and landfill waste. 

Containers and packaging make up a major portion of municipal solid waste (MSW), amounting to 80.1 million tons of generation in 2017 (29.9 percent of total generation). Source: EPA Facts and Figures about Materials, Waste and Recycling

 

The world is a worse place because of irresponsible companies and their wasteful products. 

Once the folded sheet masks arrive at the facility to be packaged, they are put in a disposable plastic pouch containing a diluted serum with 99-99.5% water, skin-damaging fragrance and filler and 0.5-1% oils and extracts.

The pouches themselves are troubling because they are made up of aluminum and plastic, which leeches into the skin care product which may go into your body and cause harm. The pouches don't just harm you, they harm the environment because the pouches combination of aluminum and plastic “cannot be recycled in typical municipal recycling systems.' - Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist of food and agriculture at the Natural Resources Defense Council. The pouches cannot be properly recycled, and end up in the trash and ultimately disposed in landfills. The plastic in your single-use sheet mask will reside in a landfill for hundreds of years or more and and will contribute to the billions of pounds of plastic waste that enter into the worlds oceans every year. 

Once the mask is in the pouch, the product is then put in another disposable container and then in a larger shipping carton which is then transported to a fulfillment house. When you place the order, the fulfilment house puts the product in another shipping box, it is transported to you. You open the shipping box, throw it away. Open the product box, throw it away. Open the plastic pouch, throw it away. Use the sheet mask, throw it away. And repeat.

A single use product traveled around the world in multiple disposable containers only to be put on your face for 30 minutes, and then sent to a landfill to live out eternity with the rest of the skin care industry trash. 

 

Although some brands claim to be clean and sustainable, they sell products that are single-use in multiple disposable containers.

The most egregious aspect of sheet masks is that for all of the environmental waste they create, they are completely useless from a skin care standpoint. At the price point sheet masks are sold, it is impossible for them to contain enough oils, extracts, peptides or other skin-benefitting ingredients to have an impact on your skins health. Or for those ingredients to be at the quality level that you would expect. Furthermore, skin care needs to be a round-the-clock effort. You cannot have something on your skin for an hour and expect results. Skin care needs to be on your skin all day and all night. But with the amount of skin damaging agents from bacteria, to mold to low-quality ingredients in these masks, it is a good thing that most do not leave them on their face for more than 30 minutes. 

Quick fix or quick trash?

When you use sheet masks, you are contributing to the destruction of the environment and your skin. And they have no true benefit when it comes to skin health. If you want your skin to look its best, stick to traditional skin care. Stick to your daily regimen of Exfoliation, serums, and cleansing. There is no magic trick to perfect skin. It is just being smart, not falling for fads, and a daily effort to your health. 

 

 

References
Facts and figures about materials waste and recycling. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/containers-and-packaging-product-specific-data
Brucculieri, Julia (2019) Are Your Beloved Sheet Masks Killing The Planet? https://www.huffpost.com/entry/sheet-masks-not-environmentally-friendly_l_5c5a033ae4b09293b2092685
Robey, Tracy (2016). The sheet mask sanitation scandal rocking the K-beauty world. https://www.racked.com/2016/8/29/12698288/sheet-mask-sanitation-scandal-k-beauty