If You're Not Rubber-Masking, You're Not Living

In the pantheon of face masks, there are many skin deities to worship. You've got your standard cream masks, drying clay masks, gritty powder masks, gel masks, peel-off masks, sleeping masks, and, of course, sheet masks. But over the past two years, another facial treatment has slowly been working its way into our collective complexion consciousness: the rubber mask.

Also known as a modeling mask, rubber masks are just what they sound like — a thick paste that dries up to create a thick, bouncy, wiggly layer on the skin.

According to Alicia Yoon, aesthetician, Korean beauty expert, and founder of Peach & Lily, modeling masks are a part of practically every professional spa treatment in Korea. They have been common all over the world, she notes, but it was Korea that pushed to have the masks brought out of the spa and onto the shelves.

"The benefit of rubber masks is that unlike a regular sheet mask," says Yoon, "where once the sheet mask dries up, some of the product is evaporating into the air and some of it is intermingling with your skin and being absorbed — the rubber mask [molds to your face], forcing those ingredients into the skin."
Dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD, who just debuted his own rubber mask (the first from a U.S. skin doc), notes that in order for an ingredient to be truly effective, it's got to penetrate below the surface-layers of the skin.

"If you use ordinary moisturizers, you dab it on the skin and it works on the surface," he explains. "A [rubber] mask is a [better] delivery system, because it's so much more potent than a simple cream. When it gets in that deep, you get something called internal hydration. Your moisturizer is just topical hydration — it's limited compared to a mask."

Using them isn't much different from your run-of-the-mill mask. Yoon advises applying to clean, toned skin — no serums or lotions beforehand, because unless you know what you are doing, she notes, there is a chance of accidentally combining incompatible ingredients and causing a reaction.

The two-step mask involves an activating powder and either water or a gel. After mixing them together, you slather the concoction on your visage. The mask will start to instantly solidify a few minutes post-mixing, so you've got to work fast.
It drips as it dries in a way that reminds me of a Vlada Haggerty lip pic, making it more challenging to apply than other masks. Yoon recommends pulling all of your hair back — I speak from experience when I say it is NOT fun to pull out of your hair during mask removal. Not as bad as this poor girl, but still. Most masks come with a spatula that's not only good for mixing, but ideal for smearing the goo across your face.

"I always go from the bottom upward," says Yoon, making sure she is applying an even layer all over the face. She notes that you need to stay vigilant to combat potential dripping at the jawline, being sure to move those migrating blobs back up on the face. "You don't want some areas to be super-thin, because you won't get as much benefit and it won't come off as well."

After the product is evenly distributed, head over to the nearest flat surface, lay down, and let that sucker set — usually about 15-to-20 minutes. Once it's firmed up, you peel it off, Patrick-Bateman style, and revel in the plump, smooth, hydrated skin beneath.

While they may seem gimmicky, Dr. Gross swears modeling masks are the future of at-home skin-care treatments.

"It has the technology that makes it so effective and superior," he raves. "I'm in development for other masks with ingredients that [address other skin concerns]. I'm working on other treatments using that as a delivery system that will improve the skin in other ways."

He adds, "Personally, I think this makes other masks obsolete."

Strong words from a skin guru. Ahead, find the pioneers of the modeling-mask movement, including a sneak peek at a high-tech treatment launching next year from one of your favorite K-Beauty brands. The revolution is here — and it will be rubberized.
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Dr. Gross' brand-new mask stars moisturizing all-star hyaluronic acid as its main ingredient, but Dr. Gross also added algae for a double-whammy of hydration.

"I wanted to plump, hydrate, and take advantage of hyaluronic acid. The algae comes from the Norwegian Arctic Sea, so it grows in frigid water and has incredible hydrating capacity in itself," he says.

The algae is contained in the powder and it mixes with the HA gel to hold the hyaluronic acid and then release it onto the skin as the mask hardens.

Post-treatment, the skin has a dewy look and feel, without any sticky or slippery residue on the skin. In addition to the aforementioned hydration, it also has a soothing effect and a cool sensation that feels heavenly on irritated skin. It's perfect for dry skin and acne-prone skin, as it won't irritate or exacerbate pre-existing issues.

I found it made a huge difference in the redness of my post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, in addition to softening fine lines and adding a healthy glow. Dr. Gross says once a week is ideal, but based on my results, I've had a hard time resisting putting it on every single night.

Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine Hydrating Modeling Mask, $46, available at Dr. Dennis Gross.
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Yoon notes that the majority of rubber mask treatments on the market are fairly expensive — that's because spa-grade masks use gels, not water, as their base.

The biggest difference between gel-based masks and water ones is that the gels don't dry up, she notes. One of her faves, Shangphree's Gold Premium Modeling Mask, features moisturizing gold gel and an activated collagen powder that create a mask that will remain moist for up to 72 hours.

Yoon says this moisture retention is important, because it means that hydration stays in your skin. "Any other mask that you put on your face that dries out, if you don't peel it off in time," she warns, "all that moisture you just put in your skin, and then some, can evaporate back out into the mask."

Shangphree Gold Premium Modeling Mask, $20, available at Peach & Lily.
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That said, if you want to get in on the rubber goodness but don't want to fork out $20 for a single mask, a powder-and-water option, like this one from Korean brand Lindsay, is a good option. Simply add water to the container, stir it around, and you've got a no-frills version that is still pretty effective.

As Yoon mentioned though, it's important to adhere to the directions and remove it before it starts drying out. Otherwise, all that moisture gets sucked into the mask and does diddly-squat for your complexion.

Lindsay Cool Modeling Mask, $6, available at Glow Recipe.
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Now, as we said, more and more brands are introducing their own rubber treatments. We uncovered this unfortunately named mask from Dr. Jart+ — one of four that also includes Bright Lover, Clear Lover, and, yes (this is real), Firming Lover.

Besides the hella-creepy imaging, this mask stands out for another reason: It's a different spin on the rubber concept. Instead of the treatment being in the rubber, this uses a skin essence that you apply to your whole face, and then a rubberized sheet that you place on top to create that occlusive barrier that molds to your face and holds the essence in.

I spoke to the brand and this one won't be hitting the States until late 2017. That just tells to us that there's so much rubber yet to be unwrapped.

Dr. Jart+ Moist Lover Rubber Mask, available in 2017.
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