What Are Hydrogel Face Masks And Why Are They So Popular?

Spotted on Sofia Richie, Emma Roberts and Vanessa Hudgens, hydrogel face masks are a celebrity favourite – we asked experts to explain the hype...

hydrogel face masks

by Emma Stoddart |

The easiest way to restore dry, stressed-out skin back to its former glory? Hydrogel sheet masks. Loved the world over by make-up artists, beauty editors and celebrities alike – a hydrogel sheet mask can brighten and freshen up lacklustre skin in a matter of minutes. Backstage at fashion week, celebrity facialist Nichola Joss prepped and primed the models’ skin at Roland Mouret and Christopher Kane with 111SKIN Hydrogel Face Masks. ‘They’re a great tool for adding radiance,’ Nichola said backstage, ‘and you can massage on top of the mask to really push the ingredients deeper into the skin.’

Not solely reserved for the runway though, hydrogel sheet masks have garnered a big celebrity fanbase - especially, it seems, when celebrities are in lockdown. The likes of Sofia Richie, Vanessa Hudgens, Emma Roberts and Gabrielle Union have all taken to the ‘gram to post hydrogel sheet mask #selfies. The mask in question? Loops Beauty’s colourful hydrogel masks. Unfortunately for us, the straight-talking, sustainable skincare brand is yet to cross the pond from the US (however, they do ship oversees with an additional shipping cost). The good news is that there’s a whole host of brilliant hard-working hydrogel masks available to buy here in the UK (keep scrolling to shop our curated edit).

Vanessa Hudgens, Emma Roberts, Gabrielle Union
©Loops, Instagram

As hydrogel sheet masks have been on the beauty seen for some time, we want to know why the sudden celebrity buzz, especially during lockdowns. To find out, we’ve spoken to Dr Anjali Mahto, Consultant Dermatologist at Sin 55 and author of The Skincare Bible: Your No-Nonsense Guide to Great Skin.

So, what exactly is a hydrogel face mask and why the sudden interest?

‘Rather than being made of cotton or paper, hydrogel face masks have a gel-like texture,’ explains Mahto. ‘They are made from bio-cellulose or synthetic polymers that have the ability to retain relatively large quantities of water or liquid.’ The masks themselves are usually soaked in a serum solution which is deposited on the skin during use.

So, why the sudden interest? ‘There has been a huge drive towards self-care in quarantine and the desire for using masks is a reflection of this,’ says Mahto. ‘Many find that a regular skincare routine not only provides structure to the day but the process itself of caring for the skin may reduce anxiety and stress. And whilst finances may not allow splashing out on luxury items, skincare and masks can be a fun and relatively cheaper purchase!’

How does a hydrogel mask work on our skin and what are the key benefits?

‘These types of masks have a high moisture content, excellent moisturising properties alongside good mechanical strength,’ says Mahto. ‘They temporarily work to boost skin’s hydration levels.’ And if you’ve ever tried one, you’ll be familiar with the cool and refreshing feel on the skin – which is a real bonus as the warm temperatures are expected to rise.

Top trick? To give skin even more of a boost, keep yours in the refrigerator as the chilled temperature will help stimulate microcirculation and take down any puffiness.

Should we all be using hydrogel face masks?

‘If you have normal, combination or dry skin types and no underlying inflammatory skin conditions – then yes, absolutely. However, if you have sensitive skin, I would suggest being cautious of using masks in general. They are meant to be left on the skin for a period of time, which can lead to irritation, discomfort, and even a rash such as eczema in these skin types,’ warns Mahto. ‘Always follow the instructions and only leave the mask on for as long as the manufacturer has intended.’

With so many different hydrogel masks available on the market, seek out key ingredients to meet your specific skincare needs. Dry, thirsty skin? ‘Look out for sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid which, as we know, function to add moisture to the skin surface, temporarily plumping up the skin’s appearance,’ advises Mahto. If it’s radiance and glow you’re coveting, ‘go for skin brightening masks containing agents such as vitamin C.’ And if you want to soothe irritated skin, ‘try a mask infused with green tea extract.’

Shop: Our Favourite Hydrogel Masks To Try Now


Best hydrogel sheet masks

111SKIN Rose Gold Brightening Facial Treatment Mask, £20 for 1
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Drenched in 24 carat gold and Rosa Damascus extract, this luxurious treatment soothes, brightens and hydrates skin.

Simple Waterboost 5-Minute Reset Hydrogel Sheet Mask, £3.49 for 1
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Ideal for dry skin, this moisturising sheet mask hydrates and plumps with plant collagen to deliver a juicy glow in just five minutes.

Neutrogena Radiance Boost Hydrogel Recovery Mask, £3.50 for 1
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These hyrdrogel masks from Neutrogena really live up to the hype. Choose between radiance, purifying and hydration and let the active ingredients get to work. Chasing that glow? Opt for this radiance mask packed with brightening vitamin B3.

Medik8 Ultimate Recovery Bio-Cellulose Mask, £60 for 6
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Free from fragrance and alcohol, this deeply hydrating sheet mask saturated with hyaluronic acid nourishes and restores calm to even the most sensitive skins.

Maskologist Rose Glowing Potion Hydrogel Sheet Masks, £23.50 for 1
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After soft, supple skin that looks firmer? Try this mask, pronto. Antioxidant-rich rose petals coupled with soothing essential rose oils make for a real skin treat.

Dr Jart+ Cryo Rubber with Moisturising Hyaluronic Acid, £10
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A great mask for the summer months, this rubberized sheet mask cools and soothes the skin as it hydrates.

ZITSTICKA PRESS REFRESH Exfoliating Hydro-Mask, £30
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Perfect for if you've got blemish-prone skin, this clarifying sheet mask is enriched with salicylic, glycolic and lactic acid gently exfoliates and unclogs pores. You get five masks included for the £30, meaning it's a fairly affordable option too.

READ MORE: 10 Face Masks For Under £35, No Matter What Your Skin Type Is

READ MORE: The £9 Skincare Hero Seeing Ashley Graham Through Lockdown

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