What Is the Coating Method? Korean Skin-Care Masking Trend


I attempted an at-home version one night when I was feeling ambitious. I exfoliated with one of my favorite peels, Renee Rouleau’s Triple Berry Smoothing Peel, rinsed that off, and then patted on a hyaluronic-acid toner and serum — (Isntree’s Hyaluronic Acid Toner and The Ordinary’s HA+B5 serum, respectively) — for some immediate hydration. I brushed on a generous layer of Belif’s Aquabomb Sleeping Mask (yes, I know it’s an overnight mask, but it’s just the right texture for this experiment). And finally, I topped it with a thick, gelatinous layer of an Esthemax Hydrojelly Rubber Mask. The result was not quite as wow-y as when LED lights and purified oxygen gave me an assist, but my skin was still very much improved with plump-feeling dewiness.

Perhaps my hodgepodge assortment of face masks did not play as nicely together as the professional-grade ones in Pavitt’s facial studio, so I asked cosmetic formulator Stephen Alain Ko if he thought mask-caking in this way would further boost their powers or cancel them out. He mentioned that the ingredients would have to get down the skin to actually do anything.

“I think there would be a benefit, but I’m not sure if it’d be worth all the extra masks. The layers might keep the masks wet since you have more water on your face, so that’d help increase water content over the skin,” he says. “But that’s also a temporary effect.” Hmm.

I asked New York City-based board-certified dermatologist (and K-beauty enthusiast) Dendy Engelman to see if she’d ever heard of this masking method, and she had. According to her, one of the most important things to keep in mind when trying this was to choose your fighters (masks) carefully, warning that over-masking can backfire with clogged pores or irritation.

“Avoid ingredients that are doing double-duty and essentially have the same outcome, which will overwork your skin in the long run,” she advises. In other words, don’t combine exfoliating masks, even if they have different exfoliating ingredients (such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and salicylic acid), and don’t leave any masks on for longer than the time it says to wear them on the packaging.

Peach & Lily co-founder and K-beauty expert Alicia Yoon also says that it’s not uncommon at all to layer face masks in Korean facial spas. “Coating typically refers to products that wrap around the skin in a very occlusive manner to truly lock and seal in ingredients,” Yoon explains. “More than a trend, it’s a concept that comes up in Korean skin care as a way to describe various products that are excellent sealants.” For example, there are coating creams, coating oils, and coating masks, and the commonality is that they will lock ingredients into the skin.

“There are lots of permutations of the order of masks, but many typically end with a rubber modeling mask,” she says, mentioning that Shangpree’s rubber modeling masks are some of the most-iconic masks used in Korea’s top spas.

All of this to say, if you want dewy, plump, glassy skin, it’s going to take a lot of gooey layers regardless of whether you’re an avid 10-stepper in your skin-care routine or you want to level up and try this coating method with face masks. My apartment’s radiator seems hellbent on evaporating all the moisture in my home and in my skin, so I can use all the help I can get.

Read more about moisturizing methods:

Now, see how face masks have evolved within the last 100 years:

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