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I’ve tried a lot of bad masks. There was the mask made with iron particles that could only be removed by a magnet, the adorable bubble tea mask that did virtually nothing, and the foil mask that set off a skin reaction that included numbing. There was the down-there mask that most resembled an essence-soaked pantyliner. The day I tried it, I subjected my husband to the corresponding mask for men, which was architecturally sophisticated, if disappointingly flavored like store-brand grape soda. I always hope that a gimmicky mask will turn out to be brilliant, but that’s often not the case.
Boob masks are the exception. Breasts are lusted after by young and old, subject to cancer fears, hoisted in pricey bras, and sometimes damn painful. Getting in touch, literally, with one's boobs honestly feels like new, almost therapeutic territory. The payoff is smooth skin and feeling like you've reached a new frontier of pampering.
Moreover, breast skincare can help slow and lessen the appearance of aging. Dr. Neil Sadick, NYC-based dermatologist at Sadick Dermatology, wrote via email that since breasts contain no muscle, their firmness "mainly relies on the firmness of your skin." According to Dr. Sadick, "good skincare for the décolleté needs to provide moisture and have anti-aging benefits such as those provided by ingredients like antioxidants, collagen, hyaluronic acid," along with daily application of sunscreen before dressing. One should avoid products with endocrine disruptors such as phthalates and synthetic musks, which have been linked to cancer.
For women who are nursing, Dr. Sadick wrote that "breast masks are safe," but they should avoid those containing "parabens, phthalates, phenoxyethanol, caffeine, bisphenols A and S, [and] alcohol," as well as select fragrance-free products. (Some of the masks in this article do contain these ingredients; check the full ingredient lists for all masks.) He recommends that women — nursing or not — "never ever spray perfume or put lotion on your nipples as it may cause dryness and cracking." But don’t despair, nursing mums: Dr. Sadick and my skincare-obsessed, nursing-survivor friends, Chel Cortes from Holy Snails and Jude Chao of Fifty Shades of Snail, all highly recommend baby-safe purified lanolin for soothing battered nipples — of course, after patch testing.
RiRe Balloon Hydrogel Pack
This two-step mask from budget-friendly Korean skincare brand RiRe is merely ok. The lotiony ampoule, applied first on clean and dry boobs, dries down quickly while the stick-on circular hydrogel patches (applied to areolae) provide a bit of moisture. Extra points for swerving around the nip nops, ten deducted from Hufflepuff for failing to stay in place without an assist from a bra.
Results: some hydration.
Packing rating: 1 out of 5 sputtering fireworks boobs. From the groanworthy use of "balloon" in the name to the stock image of cleavage, this one isn’t going to earn a spot at the radical feminist self-care lunch table.
Where to buy: eBay, which is actually a good source for kbeauty items when buying from highly rated sellers based in Korea.
Price range: starting at $7.79 for one; $12.35 plus $2.80 for shipping for a set of three.
Maskingdom Pearl & Rose Sexy Charming Lace Breast Mask and Bamboo Charcoal Breast Mask
Taiwanese boutique mask brand Maskingdom takes boob — err, "breast" — masking to luxe territory. The thin, violet- and honey-scented mask essence (used in both breast mask versions) includes a host of plant extracts and pearl powder. The Japanese Silk Mask is a thick, stretchy bobbin thread lace that resembles something last seen on the nightstand in grandma’s spare bedroom. The charcoal version features pliable, soft black fabric. Unlike the other masks, these require you to lay down while they’re applied, and use a wet essence rather than sticky hydrogel patch.
Results: Cool, lightly moisturized, delicious-smelling ta-tas. I feel like a modern Venus of Urbino.
Packaging rating: 4 out of 5 tasteful formal wear boobs. Nothing cheesy, nothing to signal that these are for TITS! other than the tasteful mention of "breast" in the name and the image of a very satisfied cheetah that knows how to treat herself.
Where to buy: Beautibi, purveyor of quality Taiwanese and Korean skincare.
Price range: $10 for a mask (includes two pieces); $98 for the Fit for Queen set that includes 2 silk lace breast masks and 2 charcoal black breast masks plus a bunch of other fancy masks.
Puresmile Oh! My Busty!? 3 Step Bust Care
The Oh! My Busty!? mask, made by Pure Smile in Korea for the Japan market, is easy to buy and has multiple steps to ensure a feeling of advanced skincaring. The most brilliant part is a foil of gommage, which is a gentle exfoliant that balls up when it comes in contact with natural oils on skin, creating a gummy exfoliating scrub. As a result, it makes sense to use this when your skin has had a chance to get a bit oily, but isn’t sweaty or otherwise wet; morning is a great choice. That said, you don’t need to buy a boob mask to get gommage in your life — Secret Key makes a much-lauded lemon peeling gel that costs just a bit more than this mask.
Results: clean (but not over-clean), moisturized, soft skin.
Packaging rating: 5 out of 5 whipped cream gun boobs. The packaging envelope features a super stoked early-days-at-Harvard-Law-Elle-Woods model, flower bikini, and illogical punctuation. Stunning use of color not seen since the heyday of Lisa Frank. Sure to elicit screeches in octaves previously thought only reachable by Ariana Grande/early Mariah if put in a bridesmaid gift bag.
Where to buy: Amazon.
Price range: $6.89 and up for one.