Face Mask Machines: How They Work, and if You Should Use Them – Cosmopolitan

I’ll be honest: My TikTok feed is mostly filled with makeup hacks, videos of pore vacuums, and hair products that I’m thisclose to impulse-buying (I see you, Dyson Air Wrap dupe). At this point, almost nothing surprises me on my feed—that is, until I started seeing videos of a face mask machine that turns your favorite foods and drinks into DIY face masks. If that sounds wild, it’s because it is.

But as someone who loves making their own skincare at home, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. A machine that spits out brightly colored, jelly-like sheet masks? Sounds like a dream. Before I dropped $180 on one, though, I needed to find out (1) if they even work, and (2) if they were actually safe—let alone good—for your skin in the first place.

What is a face mask maker?

These face mask machines are surprisingly small, like half the size of a toaster, and they kind of look like miniature air fryers. According to videos on TikTok, you can add basically any liquid or puree into (plus the included collagen tablet), and the machine turns the mixture into a gel-like sheet mask. Think of your favorite weekly sheet mask, but made of Jell-O and…whatever other liquid you want. Welcome to the unhinged future of DIY skincare.

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How exactly do they work?

Face mask machines convert any liquid and a collagen tablet into a sheer mixture that solidifies into a jelly-like sheet mask. All you need to do is add a mix of water, liquid (like juice or pureed fruit), and a collagen tablet, then press the button, and wait five minutes while the machine mixes and warms the ingredients. After it’s done, the machine will deposit the mixture into a connected mask mold to cool and solidify. When it’s ready, you just peel it off and lay it on your face, just like you would with a regular sheet mask.

Tbh, this machine sounds like the ultimate hack to me. Not only do I love concocting skincare recipes, but I also love the idea of reducing my beauty waste (no more spending money on single-use sheet masks? Yes, pls). But after a few minutes of scrolling past videos of TikTokers making fairly innocent face masks from orange juice, aloe vera, mashed raspberries, and cucumber puree, the videos quickly turned experimental—think: Red Bull (yes, Red Bull), wine, chocolate, pickle juice, matcha tea, Four Loko, and protein powder.

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Are face mask makers safe?

According to dermatologist Mona Gohara, associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, no, the masks from these machines aren’t safe (shock, surprise, etc.). “Skincare products are made for your skin by actual chemists,” says Dr. Gohara. “There’s a reason scientists and research and development spend a ton of time developing products for specific purposes.” Read: It’s not freakin’ easy.

The face masks you buy at the store are the result of intense research and rigorous testing with scientifically formulated ingredients (all within hygienic conditions), which make them safe for your skin. And even those products can still cause allergic reactions or irritation—so you can imagine how risky a mask made with, uh, Red Bull or pickle juice can be.

I can see people having irritation, inflammation, redness, rashes, or allergic reactions—and that’s not the goal that people are going for,” says Dr. Gohara. Unlike the clinical labs of skincare chemists and dermatologists, these machines are at the mercy of our whims, impulses, and the contents of our fridge. Which, you know, is not smart (sry).

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So are all DIY face masks bad?

Listen, if you’re asking a dermatologist or a beauty editor, the safest skincare will always be a clinically formulated and tested product created by a team of R&D scientists and cosmetic chemists. That being said, there’s a big difference between someone smashing up some banana and honey and putting it on their face, versus throwing a bunch of random ingredients in a non-sterile machine and letting it sit on your skin. And that difference is the ambiguous collagen pill that turns the liquids into a gel-like substance.

Aside from the fact there isn’t real evidence that collagen, when used in a topical form, helps or benefits the skin, “you don’t know what other ingredients are in these tablets,” says Dr. Gohara. “The 14 other things in there besides collagen—like preservatives and unknown active ingredients—could wreak havoc on your skin.”

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This is where that lengthy process of R&D scientists and cosmetic chemists becomes crucial in making sure every ingredient in a product is safe for skin. Also important? Being able to see those ingredients on the label on the back of a face mask jar—something you can’t find for these tablets. While you may not know exactly what every ingredient in a skincare product is, some Googling (and, ahem, listening to beauty editors) can break it down for you.

The verdict

Sure, if you want to buy one and try it out, go for it. But just keep in mind that there’s a big risk of irritation and rashes. A safer option? Going to a store and getting a pre-made face mask that’s made for skin, says. Dr. Gohara. “There’s been a vetting process to make sure that those products are okay for your skin. Manufacturers of Red Bull, on the other hand, are not sitting around saying, ‘How can this benefit the skin?’”

And, frankly, neither are the makers of chocolate, wine, or that green juice you bought at the grocery store. So, if you want my advice, stick to a researched and scientifically made face mask formula. And if you need some suggestions, I got you:

Sami Roberts is the beauty assistant at Cosmopolitan, covering beauty trends, news, and deep dives into all the beauty products you love in order to determine which ones are actually worth your money (she knows more than any one person should know about deodorant!).

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