Efficacy and Price Varied Among Moisturising Masks Be Wary of Allergenic Substances

18 April 2017
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Moisturising masks are enormously popular with many beauty-conscious, with many products available in the market claiming the skin could be hydrated and brightened after use.  However, prices of these products could vary substantially ranging from a few dollars to over a hundred dollars per sheet,  but in terms of moisturising efficacy, some models was relatively poor, with 4 models showing only slight improvement or no improvement in trial users' skin moisture, an hour after application.  Consumers, in fact, could hardly discern whether the quality of a product is good simply by selecting on the basis of brand or price.

The Consumer Council tested 40 models of masks (in sheet packages) available in the market claiming with moisturising effect, rated on a 5-point scale, only 6 models (15%) scored 4 points as satisfactory results while some models showed no significant improvement of skin moisture after use.  From the total scores assessed upon the test results of moisturising efficacy and users' comments, 7 models reached 4 overall score of 4 points but another 4 models were at the lower score of 2.5 points.  Of the models, the most pricy and the cheapest product, with an average price at $108.3 and $3.1 per sheet, obtained only 3 and 2.5 points respectively.  On the other hand, of the 7 models that obtained total scores of 4 points, 5 were priced below $20 per sheet.  The Council reminds consumers that product prices do not necessarily correlate to quality.

Moisturising efficacy was tested under constant temperature and humidity, with reference to the relevant guideline in the Mainland.  Each model was tested by at least 24 trial users, who applied models of the masks to an area 3cm x 3cm on their left or right volar arms.  This part of one's skin was chosen due to the fact that the skin of different areas of the face can vary significantly in skin hydration.  Measured by a corneometer, the skin hydration values were taken before and after application at 1 hour, 3 hours and 6 hour after use.  The moisturising efficacy was rated based on the hydration level measured.

Tests showed that the increase in skin moisture of users' volar arm decreased progressively over a few hours after using the masks.  For example, 1 hour after applying the products, increases in the skin moisture of users were found in 36 models, when compared to the untested blank area.  Among them, 1 model showed a significant improvement and was rated 5 points.  Another 3 models obtained 4.5 points.  3 hours after application, skin moisture levels of the users of most models decreased and only 6 models were rated at 3.5 points or 4 points.  Measured 6 hours after use, only 1 model was rated 4 points in moisturising efficacy, another 7 scored 3.5 or 3 points.  The remaining 32 models scored between 2.5 points and 1.5 points.

The Council aggregated the moisturising performance at 1 hour, 3 hours and 6 hours after application, with a weighting of 50%, 30% and 20% respectively for these 3 time periods.  Only 6 models performed relatively well in moisturising efficacy, obtaining overall scores of 4 points, and 17 models obtained lower scores of 2.5 to 1.5 points.  Many consumers like to hydrate their skin by applying facial masks before sleep but if they want a better moisturising effect, lotion or cream has to be supplemented.

In addition to testing moisturising efficacy, the test revealed that half of the tested models contained preservatives which may cause allergic reactions to some people.  3 models were found to contain the preservative MIT (methylisothiazolinone), of which 1 model with the lowest average price per sheet ($3.1 per sheet) was detected to contain 0.013% MIT, exceeding the allowable limit (0.01%) stipulated in the Mainland.  The test result had been passed to the Customs and Excise Department for follow-up.  The other 2 models were detected with MIT at concentrations of 0.008% and 0.003%.

Moreover, preservatives like parabens, methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben which are commonly used in skincare products may cause allergic reactions to some people.  There are maximum limits set in Europe and in the Mainland for the use of these preservatives in cosmetic products.  The test detected methylparaben in 17 models, while another 2 models had more than 1 type of paraben.  However the amounts of these parabens, single or combined, were in compliance with limits specified in the Safety and Technical Standards for Cosmetics, China.

The mask fabric of 1 mask model was found to contain migratable fluorescent materials.  Migratable fluorescent materials may refer to the fluorescent whitening agents that might be used in textiles and paper products, they could be transferred to the skin through contact.  Some materials in the natural environment also exhibit fluorescent effect.  There are numerous kinds of fluorescent materials, some of which might cause allergies to some users, but there is no evidence that the materials present risks to health.  Nonetheless consumers should be aware that after using a facial mask containing fluorescent materials, under UV light, fluorescence on face may cause embarrassment.

In recent years, many consumers have opted for facial masks from Japan and Korea.  Labelling inspection revealed that most models were labelled with Chinese, English or bilingual instructions for use, while 3 models had instructions only in Japanese or Korean language, consumers just by guessing the instructions, may not know the proper duration for using the products or after-use procedures.  For example, whether to rinse the face right after use, or massage the excess fluid on the face to maximise absorption.  Consumers may not obtain the best possible results if they apply the mask for insufficient or over the recommended time, or failing to follow the instructions on after-use care.  Furthermore, another 11 models did not clearly indicate their expiry date, leaving consumers the risk of using expired products unknowingly.  The Council calls for agents to improve transparency of product information for an informed choice.

Consumers opt to use moisturising masks may refer to the following suggestions:

  • When trying a new mask, people with more sensitive skin are recommended to apply some mask fluid to the side of cheeks first and let it remain for a short time.  Do not continue to use the product if allergic reactions occur.  If redness, itchiness or pricking results on the face, remove the product at once and wash thoroughly to prevent allergies;
  • It is not recommended to leave the mask on your skin beyond the recommended duration, to prevent it from drawing moisture out of the skin, creating an adverse effect;
  • It is generally suggested that after removing the mask, consumers may massage the skin with the excess fluid without the need to rinse with water.  Normal skincare procedures may be followed afterwards, such as applying lotion to moisturise the skin further;
  • Paper masks containing more paper fibres are generally cheaper, but their adherence to the skin may not be as good as bio-cellulose fibre or hydro-gel masks;
  • Masks in sheet packages are convenient to use but bring considerable waste including mask materials, independent packaging in aluminium foil bags, the internal paper or plastics used to cover the masks and so on.  To reduce waste, consumers may consider using lotion or gel masks in bottles or boxes;
  • Masks sold by piece cost consumers less for trial purposes, avoiding the risks of buying large amounts of unsuitable products and creating wastage.

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