I Tried Sheet-Masking in Public for a Week

Some guy meowed at me.

Marva Shi, our deputy multimedia editor, slurps up a bowl of pho in Saigon Shack while wearing a Gudetama pancakes facemask. (Staff Photo by Min Ji Kim)

This week, I practiced two things that I am generally pretty uncomfortable with: skincare and interacting with strangers. Although the ritual of sheet-masking is popular among many of my friends, I generally have pretty clear, normal-to-dry skin, so the thought of putting a gloopy, serum-soaked piece of face-shaped fabric on my skin has never appealed to me. But what’s life without trying some new things once in a while?

On Monday, I went to Shibuyala, a Japanese beauty store on St. Marks Place, to pick up some masks. I felt compelled to purchase the most interesting-looking sheet masks that the store had to offer in order to maximize the experience. 

Armed with my new sheet masks, I headed to the famous cube on Astor Place to flaunt my newfound face to the public. I really have to give credit to the citizens of New York City – people really didn’t seem very fazed, even though I had some horrible hybrid of Hello Kitty and a traditional Japanese Daruma doll plastered to my features.

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The next day, I wandered around Washington Square Park. I put on a cute tiger mask that was supposed to be full of collagen. It was pretty uneventful even though I tried my best to wave at people. Some guy did meow at me. 

So far, masking hadn’t seemed to have an impact on my skin quality at all. To be fair, during that week, I consistently got five hours of sleep a night or less, so maybe it’s on me for not giving the masks’ supposed healing properties much to work with.

Wednesday came around, and it was time for an even greater challenge: I went to Saigon Shack on Macdougal Street to have a delicious bowl of pho with a friend. Masking in such a cramped space was kind of weird, but no one really blinked an eye. I think the people next to us were more bothered by the fact that we set up a bunch of video equipment in a Vietnamese restaurant. I’d especially like to give a shout-out to the waitress at Saigon Shack for serving us with a perfectly straight face.

The real struggle was trying to actually eat while keeping a Gudetama-themed sheet mask on my face. I am fairly sure that some of the soup got mixed in with the serum marinating on my skin. The mask’s designated mouth cutout was way too small to fit a soup spoon loaded with noodles, so I ended up having to lift up the entire lower third of the mask whenever I wanted to eat something.

Thursday was rainy, so I skipped that day. Instead, I donned my daily sheet mask and ventured to SoHo on Friday. Immediately, people were much more eager to express their opinions about my appearance than previous days. I felt extremely self-conscious, frantically trying to adjust my sheet mask in front of the Chanel store as dozens of posh New Yorkers walked by.

However, walking around SoHo proved to be the most rewarding experience of the week as the volume of the crowd — a combination of salespeople, tourists and construction workers — passing by meant that I got way more questions and compliments on my method of skincare than on any previous day. 

Notably, when I walked past the Diesel store, the salesperson on the floor waved at me enthusiastically and beckoned me to come inside. He

was super nice and actually tried to start a conversation about skincare with me. It really boosted my self-esteem to have so many people smile at me and let me know that what I was doing was valid. Overall, a very cool day.

Throughout the week, I tried to really get out of my comfort zone by not only sheet-masking in public, but also making an effort to actively interact with people in my immediate environment. Even though the actual sheet masks didn’t really live up to their skincare claims, I definitely feel more comfortable talking to strangers and I learned that New Yorkers at their best are really kind, encouraging and surprisingly accepting.

Email Marva Shi at [email protected]

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