Sheet masks have become ubiquitous. But are they good for the planet? Most sheet masks are single-use items that end up in the trash after their 20 minutes of moisturizing. The face mask market continues to grow, to an expected to $37 billion by 2020. This growth means additional single-use packaging.

Sheet masks are disposable masks for your face that usually come in a plastic package and sometimes the mask itself is wrapped in an additional plastic sheet. These plastics take a long time to break down and can end up in oceans and waterways.

Susan Stevens, Founder and CEO of Made with Respect, told Vogue in a feature on sheet mask waste, “The pouches that hold sheet masks are often a combination of aluminum and plastic, which cannot be recycled. We know plastic can take hundreds of years to decompose, breaking down over time into harmful microplastics—pieces of plastic less than five millimeters long that are manufactured using different toxic and carcinogenic chemicals.”

Containers and packaging make up a significant portion of our consumer waste, according to the EPA. Of the 77,920 thousand tons of containers and packaging were generated in 2015; 41,330 was recycled.

Not all sheet masks are created equal. Those that come in larger packages, instead of single use packages are better for the environment. Sheet masks feel good because they’re often made of cotton or bamboo. Cotton or bamboo will decompose on their own, usually. But because sheet masks are filled with the beauty product on the mask, they usually can’t be disposed into a compost. A nylon or synthetic sheet mask must be thrown away.

Darby Hoover, senior resource specialist of food and agriculture at the Natural Resources Defense Council gave some tips for eco-friendly sheet masking to the Huffington Post. Her suggestions include: find products with recycled and biodegradable materials, purchase masks sold in packs instead of individually packaged ones, and do your research on materials and ingredients before you purchase.

Learn more about microplastics and beauty in One Green Planet’s article about glitter. Check out DIY beauty on the site too.

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