What They Don’t Tell You About Sheet Masks


Single-use sheet masks generate A LOT of waste. Sheet masks are often made of cotton or hydrogel, which may be compostable as pure materials. However, the masks may also be saturated with preservatives, synthetic chemicals, perfumes, and other ingredients that make them non-biodegradable. Additionally, we can’t forget about the packaging, which is either plastic film, aluminum, or a mix of other materials, which typically cannot be recycled.[source]

According to the EPA, Americans throw out, on average, 254 million tons of “municipal solid waste.” 30% of that is containers and packaging. [source] Most sheet masks are sold individually, so the amount of packaging used to provide the convenience of single-use products is excessive. Is it worth it if we consider the waste produced from the mask, the packaging, and the masks’ plastic backing? In a world where cities are banning plastic straws, takeout containers, and plastic bags, how much longer will this mask disposable delivery system be acceptable?

Photo by Gary Chan on Unsplash

The packaging is an issue in itself, but it’s not the only producer of waste in these single-use sheet masks. As we mentioned earlier, sheet masks are often made of cotton. Aside from being saturated in chemicals, there’s another issue. The amount of energy and water used to create these masks out of cotton can be excessive. According to WWF, it takes 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton T-shirt. Now a t-shirt does use more cotton, but unlike the single-use sheet masks, t-shirts are reusable.

Water is a renewable resource, yes. However, did you know the ocean holds about 97 percent of the Earth's water; the remaining three percent is found in glaciers and ice, below the ground, in rivers and lakes.[source] That means only 3% of the world’s water sources are freshwater. We can desalinate and purify salt water, but purifying seawater has historically proven expensive, especially when compared to tapping regional and local sources of freshwater. However, as advancing technology continues to drive costs down and freshwater continues to grow scarcer and more expensive, more cities are looking to seawater conversion as a way to meet this vital demand. [source]

Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

For all of us looking to reduce the waste produced by sheet masks, we can start to create methods and materials that are reusable as opposed to recyclable. If you love using your sheet masks, try exploring alternatives to the single-use type such as serums+ a washable silicone mask. Who knows, it may be a game-changer for you!

As part of our sustainable series, we look forward to hearing all your own innovative solutions to waste in the skincare industry! Any other topics would you like us to consider?! Email us or message us @cosmresearch!