If 2016 is known for anything other than a crazy presidential election year, it also should be known as the year the skincare market doubled in size — at least in terms of the different types of products available. Think about it: Pre-2016, there were cleansers, toners, moisturizers, serums, eye creams, BB/CC creams, sunscreens, cream-based masks. Now there are all of those, plus micellar water, cleansing balm, mists, essences, oils, sheet masks, eye masks — whew!
Most of this is due to the infusion of skin care from Seoul. Enter splash masks, the latest skin care craze that’s been long-adopted in Asia. They look like toners, smell like fruit juice, and Korean pop stars swear by them. “They’re a game changer,” says Sarah Lee of the beauty-import site Glow Recipe, who admits that the multistep Korean skin-care rigmarole can be a little much.
But do splash masks have real scientific merit for your skin? Here’s my analysis:
They Are Really, Really Potent
There’s only a couple of ways you can make a regular mask work faster: Heat up your skin. Use a dermaroller first. Or, you can use a super-concentrated version.
That’s what a splash mask is, a super-concentrated cleanser or toner that is designed solely to be rinsed off of the skin. Although ingredients like glycolic acid and other AHAs are generally approved for use in concentrations of up to 30% in OTC products, you rarely see the ingredients at these concentrations, because companies are afraid of people sensitizing their skin. But splash masks like Blithe Energy Yellow Citrus and Honey Patting Water Pack list the AHA lactic acid as the second-highest ingredient, meaning that it is probably very close to hitting that 30 percent mark.
You absolutely need to rinse these splash masks down with water. That said, if done correctly, you do get the effects of a 10-20 minute facial mask treatment, in just 10-20 seconds.
How to Use Splash Masks the Traditional Way
Splash masks were made to be diluted about 1:20, with a capful (about 0.5 oz) diluted in 24 oz water. To ensure proper dilution, you may want to take a measuring cup or bowl with you, fill to 24 ounces. Fill the cap with the splash mask formula. Then apply the splash mask formula all over your face for 5-10 seconds. Be gentle, and pat the formula onto your skin — quickly and evenly. Then rinse with the measuring cup or bowl of water.
My Hack for Using Splash Masks in a Faster Way
I personally don’t have the patience for measuring water in bowls, or even remembering to bring measuring cups into my bathroom. The best way for me is to measure out half a capful into my hands, gently pat it all over my face, and then get in the shower. Once I’m in the shower, I’ve found that my usual routine — shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash — removes all traces of the splash mask, and gives the splash mask enough time to work. This may be too much time for the splash mask to be left on those with sensitive skin, however.
What are the Best Splash Masks?Blithe Energy Yellow Citrus and Honey Patting Water Pack is the splash mask with the most-est. It’s designed so that you splash onto face, pat in, and splash off for an instantly softer, smoother skin and glowing, supple appearance.
“With a high level of exfoliating lactic acid, it seems to me more like an AHA cleanser that you rinse away in 30 seconds,” says dermatologist Heidi Waldorf.
You can talk all day about the honey and botanical extracts in this product, but it’s really the AHA that makes the difference, which I estimate to be close to the 30 percent limit. As a popular alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), lactic acid can be naturally extracted from milk, but is usually synthesized in a lab for use in skin care products in order to ensure its purity.
Lactic acid’s smoothing abilities are similar to that of glycolic acid. Although glycolic acid is better at firming than lactic acid, according to at least one study, lactic acid is just as good at smoothing, refining, and beautifying the skin as glycolic acid is.
Lactic acid also has its advantages for dry and aging skin. Proof of lactic acid’s hydrating abilities is that one of the only prescription drugs FDA approved for dry skin, LacHydrin, has lactic acid (12%) as the main ingredient. Pretty impressive!
Lactic acid is great for aging skin because it does not temporarily thin the skin like glycolic acid does, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Granted, glycolic acid will increase skin thickness over time, while lactic acid will not (source), but I personally choose lactic acid over glycolic acid and other agents that thin the skin – even temporarily – because I travel a lot.Blithe Energy Yellow Citrus and Honey Patting Water Pack is my favorite splash mask overall!
Ingredients in Blithe Energy Yellow Citrus and Honey Patting Water Pack
Water, Lactic Acid, Vaccinium Myrtillus Fruit Extract, Saccharum Officinarum (Sugar Cane) Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Acer Saccharum (Sugar Maple) Extract, Panthenol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated castor oil, 1,2-Hexanediol, Sodium Lactate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Gardenia Florida Fruit Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Flower Extract, Dextrin, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Salicylic Acid.
Boscia Tsubaki Splash Mask: The Runner-Up
If you have sensitive, non-oily skin, then Boscia Tsubaki Splash Mask is the splash mask for you. With ultra-hydrating sunflower seed oil and rice bran oil as two of the main ingredients, this splash mask is designed to create more hydrated, plump, soft skin.
Sunflower seed oil is primarily hydrating, although it does increase skin’s concentration of naturally-occurring hydrators, like lecithin. According to a very small study (3 individuals!), application of sunflower seed oil to the individuals’ right forearms for 2 weeks markedly increased the amount of lecithin in the patients’ skin. In addition, the rate of transepidermal water loss was significantly lowered, and the patients’ scaly skin lesions disappeared – results not found with olive oil (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1974). The authors speculate that the reason is that sunflower seed oil is a natural source of linoleic acid, whereas olive oil is a source of oleic acid.
Sunflower seed oil also has antibacterial properties, as infants receiving a daily skin treatment of sunflower oil were found to be 41% less likely to develop infections in one small study (The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 2004). Lastly, sunflower seed oil is a source of vitamin E (Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 2006).
Another ingredient in the Boscia Tsubaki Splash Mask is rice bran oil. Rice bran oil is an emollient, moisturizer and cleansing oil that contains unsaponifiable antioxidants such as gamma-oryzanol and vitamin E (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2001; African Journal of Biotechnology, 2005). Rice bran oil has a wide spectrum of biological activities and has been used in sunscreen formulas, anti-aging products, and treatments for skin diseases.
Researchers tested the moisturizing capabilities and minimal irritation properties of a nanoemulsion with 10% rice bran oil. They found that it was non-irritating and increased moisturizing variance by 38% in normal skin and 30% in patients suffering from atopic dermatitis or psoriasis, compared to high quality moisturizers.
Lastly, camellia oil is another ingredient in Boscia Tsubaki Splash Mask with softening, soothing, and potential anti-aging properties. In the study, camellia oil stimulated collagen production by activating the COL1A2 promoter, starting production of type 1 collagen. Like vitamin E, camellia oil inhibits metalloproteinase (MMP)-1 decreasing the breakdown of collagen. The study also indicated that the skin treated with the oil had less transepidermal water loss (TEWL) than skin that was not treated.
Ingredients in Boscia Tsubaki Splash Mask
PEG/PPG-8/3 Diisostearate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Calendula Officinalis Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycerin, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Extract, Undaria Pinnatifida Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Leaf Oil
I think my readers already know I’m not one to fall into trends with new products: I find most micellar waters to be overhyped, many essences to be pointless, and a lot of skin care boosts to be a waste of money. That said, I do really like these splash masks and their potential to hydrate the skin. Just don’t leave them on your skin for too long, and remember, if you have sensitive skin, you’d better be safe than sorry and over-rinse!