If you’ve popped into any of the Korean body/bath/beauty-type shops spotted on the street, in the underground, or at your nearest Lotte department store, you’ve probably noticed the ubiquitous paper packages displaying pictures of fruit or flowers paired with the word “mask” and “sheet.” The first time I shelled out a couple coins for one, I assumed the contents would be something like the face masks in North America–a creamy texture you slather on and let work its hopeful magic for 20 minutes or so as it dries into a cakey film on your skin and you putter around in pyjamas hoping no one drops by.
The ones here are different.
For starters, they’re actual masks. With eye holes. Made out of a white tissue-like material, but a bit thicker. You pull it out in one piece and smooth it over your cheek bones, your forehead, and your chin. It’s coated in stuff that smells good and feels good, like lemon or aloe or teatree. Then you lay down. This is the best part–unlike the creamy slather-on kind, this mask requires a horizontal position. So you can’t multi-task. You gotta relax and get into it. (I have a friend called Gaeli who used to have problems sleeping in. Even when she had nothing on the agenda, and was still tired. I could never understand this. “You just gotta roll over,” I told her. And get into it.” ) Sometimes relaxing just takes a little commitment.
The only thing you can really do while the mask hydrates and rejuvenates your face and mind from the daily stresses of air pollution and long hours in a classroom full of children (or wherever else you may clock in), is unwind. Because of the eye holes, you can unwind with a book, which, when combined with the fruity essences soaking into your skin and ideally the soft light glowing from a candle on your nightstand, creates a 20-minute bubble in which you escape from the to-do lists of your life and disappear into face-mask bliss. All for roughly the price of a cup of coffee.
The lemon mask shown here is from The Face Shop, and I bought it for 1,800 Won. Other shops sell their own versions, made with everything from soy beans to bergamot. When you take it off, you just pat your newly-smooth cheeks dry, no rinsing necessary. So the bliss can flow uninterrupted from mask-time to dream-time.
Hint: If you want to mail a surprise package home, these make great gifts. I sent three to my 17-year old sister Abby last month, who lives in Saskatchewan and is planning a trip to Busan in August. She responded via facebook: I used one of those face mask things. I. Love. Them. I’m getting like 20 when I come visit!