Hydrogel Face Masks Are About to Blow Up—Here’s What You Need to Know

Remember when K-Beauty went mainstream? Seemingly overnight, everyone was obsessed with essences, snail mucin serums, and sheet masks. This was also the time when “go big or go home” applied to many of our elaborate skincare routines. Suddenly, everyone had a ritual full of aesthetic packaging and Instagrammable steps. Among them, sheet masks were the undisputed star of the skincare-as-self-care movement. There was nothing more luxurious than running a hot bath and artfully arranging a sheet mask over your face. Bliss.

But not all sheet masks are created equal. Most fit awkwardly and they drip and drench anything in sight. More stressful than self-care, honestly. Enter: hydrogel masks. Hydrogel sheet masks are the more comfortable, more effective answer to paper sheet masks. And truly, I (and beauty experts everywhere) can’t get enough. Today, we’re making an argument for swapping in hydrogel masks as the perfect finishing touch to the ultimate self-care routine.

Featured image from our interview with Alicia Yoon, by Winnie Au

Image by Emma Bassill

What are hydrogel masks?

Hydrogel masks are on the cusp of being huge, and I’m excited to give you the low-down before they really blow up. They boast a thicker texture and seamlessly fit your face for all the benefits without the mess.

The jelly-like texture also makes them easier to put on—and stay on. No more slipping, sliding sheet masks. Instead, many hydrogel masks even have micro-dart technology (like your favorite pimple patches) to deeply penetrate and infuse the skin with all the good ingredients.

Plus, while sheet masks mostly target hydration, aiming to give you that “glass skin” look, hydrogel masks are often more versatile. In addition to giving your skin a dose of thirst-quenching hydration, their serum-like formulas target a variety of skin concerns.

I spoke to LOOPS CEO Meg Bedford to break down the hype behind hydrogel masks. As one of the pioneers of the hydrogel mask trend, LOOPS are a favorite among celebs and beauty influencers alike. You’ve probably seen them all over social media, and for good reason: they work. (Case in point, the current queen of trend-setting, Sofia Richie Grainge, rocking her LOOPS below.)

With Bedford’s insights, discover why you should switch from sheet masks to hydrogel masks, stat!

Everything You Need to Know About Hydrogel Masks

If you’re quick to write hydrogel masks off as another accessory to your skincare routine, think again. And just as much as we love sheet masks for their hydrating powers, know this: hydrogel masks offer so much more. According to Bedford, hydrogel masks “have a gel-like texture made from bio-cellulose or synthetic polymers that have the ability to retain relatively large quantities of serum and/or product.” The more bang for your glow-seeking buck, if you will.

But why is hydrogel itself so good for the skin? Bedford dives deeper, noting that it’s because of hydrogel’s “gel-like texture” that doubles down on hydration. The masks’ “high moisture content and durable material allow for quick and long-term results.”

Hydrogel masks work by deeply penetrating the skin with their respective ingredients. This provides “the perfect environment for collagen production and cell rejuvenation,” says Bedford.

Image by Winnie Au

The Best Hydrogel Masks for Every Skin Concern

I’ve used a lot of sheet masks in my day. But trying hydrogel masks felt like a brand-new experience. For one, I used to leave sheet masks on until the moisture had completely sucked out of them and they were essentially peeling off my face. This took hours on end—not a small task. Hydrogel masks, however, usually work in about 10 minutes, revealing brighter, dewier, skin without any discomfort.

To experience the full spectrum of benefits, I tested the most hyped-up hydrogel masks, and I can’t see myself turning back to regular sheet masks again. You heard it here first: hydrogel is in and it’s not going anywhere.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Best Hydrogel Masks for All Seasons: LOOPS Variety Loop

I took this set on vacation and will definitely be packing it on all trips going forward. Vacation skin is unpredictable, but vacation me is not. I want to do the lowest maintenance routine possible. Packed with superstar ingredients for every skin concern, this variety set contains a mask for every occasion. Every other night, I’d pop on a mask that suited how my skin was feeling. In just 10 minutes, my skin was transformed. These hydrogel masks kept vacation breakouts at bay and delivered glowy, hydrated, pampered skin in minutes.

  • Key Ingredients: Aloe Vera, Collagen, Anti-Sebum Complex
  • Key Concerns: Brightening, Detoxifying, Repairing, Glowing, Rejuvenating

Best Hydrogel Masks for Brighter Skin: KINDIA Aura Drip

Many “brightening” products work on the surface of your skin to revive dullness, but few target deeper issues like hyperpigmentation. KINDIA, a South Asian-owned Gen-Z beauty brand with roots in ayurveda, makes the perfect mask for an instant glow while also targeting pigmentation and uneven complexion. I also love the mission behind the brand, which encourages everyone to celebrate their individuality, highlighting the unique ways we each feel like our most empowered, beautiful selves. Self-care with a communal message—what’s not to love?

  • Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Turmeric, Sake, Betaine, Aloe Vera, Tiger Grass, Rose Water
  • Key Concerns: Brightening, Breakouts, Firming

If you don’t always feel like putting on a full mask, this eye and cheek mask is for you. Like an elevated set of eye masks, they cover your eye and cheek area so comfortably you can forget you’re wearing them. As someone with combination skin, I love using these to give some extra TLC to the dryer areas of my skin. They’re also great first thing in the morning to soothe and refresh my under-eyes while firming and depuffing my cheeks. Plus, with the hydrogel formula and unique shape, they don’t slip off like other eye masks. Seriously—these have changed my routine for the better.

  • Key Ingredients: Centella Asiatica, Tremella Mushroom, ProVitamin B5, Hyaluronic Acid
  • Key Concerns: Firming, Soothing

Create your own spa-like experience with this at-home treatment. Made of Highly Purified Water (HPW), this is a “dry” hydrogel mask, which means it doesn’t come with its own serums. Pair with your favorite serum othen apply the comfortable, contoured mask for however long you wish. I love that this encourages me to get the most out of my serums. And the scalloped edges and contoured fit really are easy to wear.

  • Key Ingredients: Highly Purified Water (HPW)
  • Key Concerns: All, depending on what product you pair