The Hype Around This Face-Mask Trend Might Actually Be Worth It

Just a few days ago, the Instagram accounts of Seoul’s beauty glitterati exploded in a frenzy over a brand-new face mask. In a country known for new technologies, formulations, delivery methods, and, let's be honest, gimmicks, when something catches fire like this, you know it's worth investigating. The mask in question has been dubbed the “Iron Man” for the crazy, armored way your face looks when undergoing the trendy treatment. Its real name is the Advanced Night Repair Concentrated Recovery PowerFoil Mask, and it comes to us from Estée Lauder.

If you didn’t already know, your skin is at its regenerative prime while you're sleeping, which explains the recent craze in sleeping masks. Combining the sleeping-mask and sheet-mask trends with Seoul’s newest obsession — face-locking — this foil-backed sheet delivers a one-way surge of skin-restoring concentrate that sinks deep to repair skin during the graveyard shift. Though it doesn't launch until January 1 in South Korea (February 2 and later for the rest of the world), the beauty industry is already abuzz about the second coming of Advanced Night Repair — one of the brand's most popular products internationally.

The concept behind this novel mask isn’t new. Korean women get fairly creative in their treatment-insulation methods in an effort to boost ingredient efficacy and get deeper into the skin. I would consider the two-step ampoule sheet mask an earlier version of the PowerFoil. For example, Amorepacific’s Moisture Bound Intensive Serum Masques come packaged with separate ampoule vials that are applied before the sheet mask, which hugs the face like a bandage to form a protective barrier for maximum absorption.

Aestheticians regularly stretch plastic wrap over beautifying treatments to, basically, force-feed skin and to prevent loss of product to evaporation. This is also one of the purposes of the widely popular modeling mask, which acts and even looks like face-caulk, soothing skin as it seals in all the beautifying steps that came before it. And the most recent method in getting serum to be all that it can be is layering — seven (!) applications of serum, one after another, and waiting a few minutes between each round for product to absorb.

The mask in question has been dubbed the 'Iron Man' for the crazy, armored way your face looks when undergoing the trendy treatment.

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With Estée Lauder’s foil-backed mask, the secret is “dual-matrix” technology that seals in every last drop of the Advanced Night Repair super-juice like a snug face cocoon. According to Yuri Bae of Estée Lauder Korea, the PowerFoil technology enhances penetration, making this 25 times faster than a cotton mask. The mask is intended to be used just once a week for 10 minutes, in place of the serum or treatment step of your nightly beauty ritual. The 10 minutes are meant to be a dizzying rush of concentrated feeding for your skin.

The treatment is an amped up dose of the serum, which (if you have even the slightest knowledge of what’s happening in skin care) you’ll know as ANR, the skin treatment that nearly every beauty brand has tried to knock off its decades-long leading-anti-ager pedestal. The PowerFoil version of ANR includes twice the amount of hyaluronic acid, the ubiquitous moisture-rallying, skin-plumping ingredient. There’s also nearly half a bottle’s (!) worth of Advanced Night Repair’s exclusive ChronoluxCB — which has beauty bloggers and editors swooning and hashtagging — dumped in.

Korea has been bestowed with the honor of being the PowerFoil guinea pig, receiving the coveted mask one month ahead of the global launch. This isn’t so surprising. Using Korea as a test market to gauge product viability is a strategy that many global companies have been more and more attracted to. I was able to get my hands on this mask and take it for a test-drive ahead of its Korean launch.
Photo: Courtesy of Joyce Kong.
The biggest thing that stuck out to me about my 10 minutes with the mask was the gentle, warming sensation. Unlike cotton or cellulose masks — which can feel cold — the foil barricade traps heat emitted from your skin, which in turn purportedly allows the serum to penetrate deeper. The texture of the foil backing was also interesting. It isn’t made of the same aluminum foil we keep in the kitchen, which would have me seriously worried about nicking or scratching my face. Instead, it’s more like the foil we see used in freezer bags to tote ice cream home without it melting.

Unfortunately, this means the mask doesn’t have second-skin-like adherence, a quality that I personally prize in a good sheet mask. There was some lifting and very necessary tugging and adjusting to keep it in close contact with the contours of the face. Estée Lauder promises results in just one single use, which makes sense as the company's standing on the shoulders of ANR. To be completely fair, the result really is ANR multiplied. My skin looked to be in moisture nirvana, and seemed suspiciously more lifted than before. Other Korean beauty editors have raved about how “slippery” their faces looked (this is a good thing), and I wholeheartedly agree.

Estée Lauder’s newest face Kendall Jenner hasn’t yet promoted the new mask, but other spokesmodels for the brand have voiced their enthusiasm about getting ANR in a convenient mask form. Joan Smalls likes to use it after shoots to calm down the skin post-makeup use, and Irene Kim likes to throw one on while in flight to keep skin from drying out in the pressurized cabin.

While there’s no word yet on what the pricing will be for the U.S. market, in Korea, the masks are selling for 110,000 KRW for a set of four (a month's supply, using the once-a-week application guideline). This is about $95, making each one worth just under $24 under the Korean pricing scheme. Though not cheap, this could be a bargain considering one mask promises to deliver the results of half a bottle of ANR.

This mask is a potent weapon against moisture loss, signs of aging, and environmental pollutants, and paired with the PowerFoil technology, its actives go into overdrive. It's primed to be an industry game-changer for the formula alone. So while it may be nicknamed the Iron Man, it's a full-on Hulk.
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