I’ve reviewed plenty of sheet masks since this blog’s creation, but one area I’ve only recently begun to explore is the slippery world of the hydrogel mask. That’s about to change, thanks to some interesting hauls I’ve made recently. Let’s take a look at hydrogel masks!
What is a hydrogel mask?
Widely considered a step above the regular fabric-based sheet mask, hydrogel masks are masks in which the essence itself is the mask! The mask essence is thickened into a gelatinous solid, molded into thin sheets around an inner layer of gauze to hold the mask’s shape.
Hydrogel masks are said to be superior to sheet masks for a couple of reasons. One reason is their fit. The gel tends to adhere much more closely and snugly to skin, providing a tighter fit. In turn, this tighter fit supposedly helps lock the masks’ moisture and actives into skin much better than regular sheet masks can. As they are worn, the heat from skin slowly melts the essence and allows it to be absorbed. Hydrogel masks also often have more innovative ingredients and/or more abundant actives. For these reasons, hydrogel masks command a more premium price than sheet masks and can be more challenging to find.
Review: Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua
Speaking of “challenging to find,” I did a search on all my trusted Asian webshops for the mask I’m about to review and was only able to find it on the site from which I originally purchased it,Memebox. Memebox is a US-based seller of Korean skin care products; they offer both curated beauty boxes and a small selection of individual Korean beauty products, like the Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua.
Purpose: According to the Memebox website, the Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua is an intensely hydrating mask that brightens skin and creates a youthful radiance.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to fatty alcohols, fragrance, botanical extracts, or anything else in the ingredients list.
When and how to use: After cleansing and either after or in place of your usual toners, essences, serums, and/or ampoules, tear open mask packet and remove mask. Unfold and separate mask from plastic backing. Smooth over face, adjusting fit around eyes, nose, and mouth as needed. Leave on for 15-20 minutes as directed by Memebox, or longer if desired. Seal in with moisturizing cream or lotion.
Ingredients list: Water, glycerin, dipropylene glycol, donkey milk, honey extract, pyrus pyrifolia (pear) fruit extract, glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) root extract, cimicifuga racemosa root extract, polygonum multiflorum root extract, sesamum indicum (sesame) seed extract, phellinus linteus extract, angelica gigas root extract, morus alba bark extract, paeonia lactiflora root extract, sophora angustifolia root extract, scutellaria baicalensis root extract, triethylhexanoin, butyrospermum parkii (shea butter), panthenol, cetearyl alcohol, hydrogenated polydecene, butylene glycol, 1,2-hexanediol, dimethicone, hydrogenated lecithin, ceramide 3, potassium carbomer, cholesterol, potassium c11-15 alkyl phosphate, ceramide 2, phytosphingosine, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, polyglutamic acid, hydrolyzed collagen, PEG-32, betaine, allantoin, carbomer, arginine, PEG-60 hydrogenated castor oil, fragrance, methylparaben, disodium EDTA
Notable ingredients: Okay, let’s start with the ingredient that might have made you go, WTF? Donkey milk!
Donkey milk has been a beauty treatment for thousands of years. Cleopatra was reported to bathe in it. Pliny discoursed on its benefits to skin and wrote of the Roman Emperor Nero’s second wife’s use of it. And Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister reportedly used it. Rich in proteins, lipids, and vitamins, including the antioxidant vitamin C, donkey milk is both highly moisturizing and highly reparative to skin, with promise as a wrinkle reducer. It’s the fourth ingredient in this mask, so there’s plenty of it here for your skin to soak up.
Apart from donkey milk, the Freeset donkey milk mask contains a bevy of other beneficial ingredients. Honey extract provides moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties; licorice root extract brightens skin by reducing excess pigmentation; and ceramides and cholesterol help replace lost lipids in the skin barrier, strengthening it against moisture loss. Interestingly, this mask also contains several of the same plant extracts that I noticed in theEtude House I Need You sheet mask line, where they contribute their antioxidant, skin soothing, skin brightening, and wrinkle fighting powers.
A few of the Freeset donkey milk mask’s ingredients did raise flags in my CosDNA analysis. Sesame seed oil and cetearyl alcohol, a long-chain fatty alcohol used for its moisturizing abilities, both score 2s as both potential acne triggers and as potential irritants. The penetration enhancer butylene glycol and the silicone emollient dimethicone both got 1s for acne, and carbomer gets a 1 as an irritant.
As a hydrogel mask, the Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua is interesting. Most hydrogel masks come in two separate pieces, one for the upper half of the face and one for the lower, but this one is one piece and a bit thinner than other hydrogel masks that I’ve tried, with a thicker gauze base. It’s almost a hybrid between a standard hydrogel and a regular sheet mask.
The mask’s slippery texture makes unfolding it a little challenging, but it isn’t as difficult to handle as most hydrogels are. And, surprisingly for a one-piece mask, it fits my face perfectly. I mean perfectly. Eyes, nose, mouth, forehead, every opening was exactly where it needed to be. It felt extremely comfortable on and adhered flawlessly to my skin, not shifting even a bit when I sat upright or moved around.
The mask has a clean, fresh, unremarkable scent. Be warned, however, that the fragrance does linger, so if you’re especially sensitive to fragrance, you may want to avoid this or wear it only for the short period of time indicated on the packaging.
I wore the Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua for a full 45 minutes, letting the gel melt and absorb into my skin. By the time I took it off, most of the gel was completely gone, and the inner weave of the mask was almost fully exposed.
Where did all that gel go?
Not onto the surface of my skin. Unlike with regular sheet masks, when I removed the Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua, the surface of my skin was hardly moist at all. Since the gel on the outer surface of the mask was the last to vanish, I can only assume that means that the essence didn’t evaporate, but rather really penetrated my skin properly. My face looked even and felt luxuriously hydrated.
This morning was when I saw the real results of the mask. After cleansing, my skin was like porcelain: smooth, firm, and ridiculously bright. An area around my mouth that I”d recently noticed was looking less firm than before is now plumper and tighter. Donkey milk. It’s magic!
Conclusion: I racked my brain for a good twenty minutes before writing this review and couldn’t come up with a single negative thing to say about my experience with the Freeset Donkey Milk Skin Gel Mask Pack Aqua. The results were fairly spectacular, and nothing about the process of using the mask bothered me in the slightest. I think I’ve found a new Holy Grail. And the best thing about it is that for a hydrogel, it isn’t expensive at all.