Rubber Masks: Korea’s Biggest Skincare Secret, Revealed
Each month, our Korean beauty correspondent Alicia Yoon will be sharing groundbreaking new products, trends, and beauty tips straight from Korea. As the founder of Peach and Lily—a site that curates beauty products from Korea, Japan, and beyond—her knowledge of all the best new beauty innovations knows no bound. This week, she’s revealing a Korean “non-secret” that’s about to make it huge stateside: rubber masks. Keep scrolling to read all about this trend before it blows up big!
Courtesy of Alicia Yoon
Hi Byrdie readers!
Growing up in Seoul, about once a week, I used to go see Chung-Seonsaengnim (literal translation: teacher Chung; loose translation: skin-whispering guru Chung), our family facialist (that’s a thing in Korea—and it’s not just for the wealthy). My facial would never be pre-prescribed, but I would be given a treatment suitable for how my skin was faring that particular day. More often than not, though, Chung-Seonsaengnim would use a “modelling mask”; she would pour an active ingredient she thought I needed that day into a bowl. She would mix it with the base that would then produce a goopy substance that would be slathered onto my cleansed and toned face with a spatula.
After that, she would cover every exposed inch of my face—eyes included. The soothing sensation of the goop being gently basted onto my skin and the weight of the mask would lull me into 20 minutes of pure relaxation. While I unwound my mind, the goop would transform into a rubbery texture and rewind my skin. After the whole mask was peeled off in one fell swoop, my skin was left so intensely hydrated, nourished, supple, and downright radiant that I’d wonder where this version of my skin had been all my life.
This modelling mask is a classic treatment that estheticians around the world love using on their clients because of the results. In Korea, these modelling masks are ubiquitous among premium spa facials, more so than in other countries, because of the intense hydration this delivers, which is a big deal in Korea.
When I would see Chung-Seonsaengnim, I would always ask for the “rubber mask.” This is a term I coined (so save yourself the horror of googling “rubber masks”—these Korean masks are marketed as “modelling masks”), and I’ve been using this term for so long that we naturally began calling it a rubber mask at Peach and Lily. For all intents and purposes, “rubber” and “modelling” are interchangeable labels when we discuss these magical masks—one describes the texture and the other the process. (Sidenote: Bliss used to retail a similar product that it called Rubbering Mask—if anyone knows the copywriter, help me find my kindred spirit!)
Here’s how it works, in one sentence: The rubber mask forms a non-reverse-osmosis occlusive barrier that causes a one-way forcing of the active ingredient into the skin, as the goop congeals into a single, rubbery sheet conformed to the contours of your face.
It’s hard not to see instant and incredible results with this kind of product!
For a couple of decades (literally), I’ve always wanted to do this treatment at home. It seemed easy enough, but I just couldn’t find a product with as dramatic of a result, which left me pounding at Chung-Seonsaengnim’s door almost weekly. After so many years of this mask living almost exclusively on professional shelves, beauty brands have recently pushed to bring this spa treatment into our homes.
With all good things, there are some words of caution. The most effective rubber masks are high-grade, luxe products used and backed by estheticians. Usually, these won’t be ones that are mixed with water, because the powder can be a (minor) hazard if accidentally inhaled before it fully incorporates, resulting in unwanted irritation. Furthermore, the ones that mix with water may defeat the purpose of the modelling mask, because they ultimately have a dehydrating effect: As the mask dries, moisture is pulled out of the skin and back into the mask. Therefore, rubber masks that are created by mixing powder with water need to be carefully monitored.
Conversely, higher-quality rubber masks that remain moist for up to 72 hours create a barrier to gently force all the active ingredients in the formula into the skin without the risk of drying it out.
At Peach and Lily, we (happily) focus group–tested seven different rubber masks for a year and found that there’s a world of difference between spa-grade rubber masks and the cheaper versions that retail for $3 to $10 a pop; their appeal might be value, but you’re not doing yourself any favours if quality is sacrificed. In Korea, these spa treatments can go for $50 to $100, and a big part of that cost is on the extremely high-end ingredients used to produce results beyond mere satisfaction.
If rubber masks are going to be introduced stateside, we feel that they should be the real deal: a classic Korean spa treatment literally brought to your home. Naturally, we sought out the best spa to find the best rubber mask. Shangpree is an iconic, A-list-studded spa in Korea that sweeps up awards in Korean national government–hosted facialist competitions (yes, that’s also a thing in Korea). Crowned with the prestigious title of “The Model Spa,” Shangpree implements an unparalleled, rigorous training program for all its estheticians, mandatory for even those who might have 20-plus years of experience. These committed individuals spend three years under Shangpree’s exceptional guidance before they can even touch a client’s face, which ensures a standard of excellence and best-in-class treatment across its spas.
After four years of R&D, Shangpree finally launched its long-awaited product line. That product line included—drumroll please—a modelling mask! And our unanimous focus-group results said that the Shangpree rubber masks are the unequivocal winner of all rubber masks. Keep scrolling to shop the mask below!