The Best Brightening Face Masks, According To Derms
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There are face masks out there that claim to treat every concern — but if clearer, more even-looking skin is your goal, you’ll want one of the best brightening face masks. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Robert Anolik tells The Zoe Report that his preferred ingredients for promoting brighter skin include kojic acid, the AHA glycolic acid, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sheila Farhang, who also spoke to The Zoe Report for this article, agrees that AHAs like glycolic and lactic acid are effective because they chemically exfoliate the dead layers of skin that may be dulling your complexion. Dr. Farhang is also a big fan of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant that not only brightens, but also helps rebuild collagen. Other doctor-approved ingredients that effectively promote a more even skin tone are retinol, tranexamic acid, niacinamide, licorice, and azelaic acid.
Dr. Farhang says that face masks as best used as an occasional indulgent skin care boost. Dr. Anolik explains, “Key ingredients of masks are kept on the skin for a longer period of time, and, as opposed to washes or lotions, they can be maintained in greater concentrations because of the mask's occlusion properties.” How often you use your mask has to do with both the ingredients/formula and your skin’s sensitivity levels. A hydrating mask, for example, can generally be used more often, while an exfoliating mask should be used less frequently, “because constant exfoliation would irritate.” And don’t forget: A mask that makes your skin pink, sensitive, flaky, or otherwise irritated might not be the right mask for you, Dr. Anolik says.
To shop the absolute best face masks for brighter skin, scroll on.
1. Expert’s Choice: Best For Oily Skin
Dr. Farhang says this mask from Revision Skincare (a brand for which she’s a partner) is an excellent pick for people with oily skin because the clay helps unclog pores and absorb excess oil, while the soothing ingredients like cucumber and oat keep skin from drying out. It also contains salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and reduce blackheads, as well tea tree, a natural ingredient that’s commonly used to treat acne.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “My face has never felt or looked better! Totally worth every penny.”
2. Expert’s Choice: Best For Sensitive Skin
Board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner tells The Zoe Report that he’s a fan of the Bliss Mighty Marshmallow Face Mask, saying its marshmallow root extract, an ingredient used for its anti-irritant properties, makes it particularly great for people with dry or sensitive skin (though it can be used across all skin types). He adds, “The mask also delivers vitamin C to the skin, an antioxidant that neutralizes the radical damage to protect the skin from environmental exposures,” so with consistent use, it should help boost your skin’s clarity and tone, as well.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “This is a great mask. Skin is brighter and glowy, this smells yummy, has a lovely whipped texture and makes my skin soft and smooth, almost like I used a scrub, which is definitely an added benefit.”
3. Best For Plump, Hydrated Skin
Go to bed wearing the PCA Skin Overnight Mask so the hyaluronic acid has plenty of time to work its smoothing and plumping magic. Dr. Anolik explains the benefits of hyaluronic acid in relation to skin brightness: “We see more of a skin glow when the skin has a smoother surface. [Skin imperfections] and pores are amplified when the skin surface is dry and can consequently be masked by plumping them with strong hydrators.” Alongside this mask, which can be used quite frequently, incorporate a mask with vitamin C or glycolic acid into your routine so the two can work in tandem to promote your most radiant skin ever.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “As far as overnight masks go, this PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid overnight mask takes the cake. First, it comes in a fairly large, push-pump top container that dispenses just the right amount of product for my entire face and neck in one pump. The product itself is like a gel based cream, light in color, with a light but pleasant scent. It absorbs into my skin easily and quickly, is non-greasy feeling, and is very hydrating. I wake up with a super soft and supple face that looks well rested (despite my crappy sleep schedule). Can't say any negatives about this product other than the price, but I feel this is a premium facial product so the price fits. [...]”
4. Best Exfoliating Mask To Resurface Dull Skin
Glycolic acid is a known brightening ingredient, says Dr. Anolik, who explains that it’s an “alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugarcane. One of its greatest benefits in masks is its exfoliation properties that target pigmented surface skin cells.” Naturally, then, StriVectin’s glycolic-rich mask should help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, which contributes to clearer, brighter skin overall. In addition to glycolic acid, the formula also contains lactic and salicylic acids to resurface and deep-clean your skin.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “I was really impressed with this mask. It totally transformed the texture of my skin, revealing a more smooth and hydrated even skin tone. A great addition to my current skin care regime!”
5. Best Affordable Exfoliating Mask
Thanks to vitamin C and glycolic acid, the InstaNatural Exfoliating Glycolic Mask helps even out your skin while contributing to an overall more refreshed-looking complexion. Other helpful ingredients in this reasonably priced mask are turmeric, pumpkin, and quartz crystals for an added boost of physical and chemical exfoliation, as well as soothing aloe vera to counteract dryness.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “This is the first chemical exfoliator I’ve used and I love it! My skin is clear, bright, and smooth. My skin tone looks more even and my pores appear smaller. Very pleased!”
6. Best Brightening Sheet Masks
Popular Korean brand Mediheal is known for their sheet masks, and for less than $20, you can get a 10-pack of their Lightbeam Essential Masks. Each mask is drenched in an essence that’s rich in vitamin C and white willow bark, a natural source of salicylic acid, so this mask offers both brightening and skin-clearing benefits. The Mediheal logo appears on the mask when it’s time to remove it, after which you massage the remaining essence into your skin (without rinsing) to let it fully absorb.
Check Out These Other Great Masks For Brighter, Glowier Skin
7. An Overnight Mask That Covers All Your Skin Care Bases
This sleeping mask from Greek brand Korres has a near-perfect rating on Amazon. Made with antioxidants and fatty acid-rich ingredients like wild rose oil, rosehip oil, and vitamin C, this whipped, lightweight mask will make your skin look so radiant and refreshed in the morning. In addition to immediate (overnight) benefits, this will contribute to long-term skin radiance as well. There’s also hyaluronic acid in here to restore hydration and boost your skin’s plumpness.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “Bought this to help even out my skin tone and hopefully help fade some of my 'sun spots'. It is still early days (about a month of usage) to really see a remarkable difference but I do love using this product. I use it as part of my nightly facial regime.. cleanser, toner, serum... and lastly... this. The smell is wonderful. There is a thickness to it that I like when applying. And my skin looks and feels brighter in the morning. I am happy with this.”
8. A Cult-Favorite Mask With Vitamin C & AHAs
You’re probably already familiar with Tatcha, but you may not have tried their amazing Violet-C Radiance Mask yet. Thanks to vitamin C, fruit-derived AHAs, and the brand’s proprietary Hadasei-3 Complex, which is made from double-fermented green tea, rice, and algae, this mask naturally supports cellular turnover to bring out the best in your skin. Its gorgeous packaging and the mask’s lilac-purple hue only add to the decadent feel.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “Leaves your face feeling super smooth, and brighter. you get a lot of product and a little goes a long way. When you rinse it off, you see your skin [looks] so much brighter!!!”
9. An Affordable Mask That Uses Pumpkin Enzymes To Brighten & Exfoliate
Andalou Naturals’ Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask is rich in skin-brightening ingredients like glycolic acid, vitamin C, and pumpkin, whose enzymes offer natural exfoliating benefits to promote clearer, softer skin. There’s also nourishing honey and hydrating aloe vera in the formula, so once you rinse the mask off, your skin will be left feeling just as amazing as it looks.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “LOVE this mask. Fast, EFFECTIVE, and great bang for your buck. You FEEL it working and see the GLOW. When I’m talking about glow i mean literally reflective skin. [So] good and definitely worth it.”
10. A Budget Cleanser/Mask Hybrid With Kojic Acid
The reason Dr. Anolik suggests picking a mask with kojic acid, a key ingredient in the Urban Skin Rx Even Tone Cleansing Bar 3-in-1 Treatment, is that the ingredient helps reduce excess pigmentation to give skin an overall brightness boost. In addition, this exfoliating cleanser, which can be left on and used as a mask, is made with azelaic acid, niacinamide, and licorice root, three additional ingredients that help reduce hyperpigmentation and give skin a generally more even appearance.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “Not only does it come in super cute packaging but also cleans all the dirt out of my face and gives it a super bright complexion. Was also delivered faster than expected so that was a huge plus.”
11. A Hydrating & Brightening Mask That You Can Use Instead Of Night Cream
Another great overnight mask, this one, from K-beauty brand COSRX, uses rice extract as the hero ingredient, along with glycerin and niacinamide to nourish and pamper your skin. Rice extract (and rice water) has long been used in Asian beauty for its skin-enhancing benefits, which include promoting a smoother and brighter complexion. Use this a couple of times a week in place of night cream, and wake up to dewy, glowy skin.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “This mask is perfect when I need that extra moisture and brightening effect. It's even perfect for use as a daytime cream when used lightly. It hydrates me well and imparts such a nice glow. I will always continue to purchase this!”
12. A Turmeric-Rich Mask That Can Also Be Used As A Face Scrub
AAVRANI’s Glow Activating Exfoliator contains so many amazing brightening and nourishing ingredients, like moisturizing glycerin, aloe, honey, and jojoba; shea nut shell powder for gentle physical exfoliation; neem, which is rich in good-for-skin fatty acids; and vitamin C and turmeric to promote brighter, glowier skin. You can use this as a leave-on mask or as a face and body scrub, depending on your skin’s fluctuating needs.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “I have very sensitive skin so finding a clay based mask that doesn’t leave my skin red and irritated after has been tough. Even after my first use my skin felt smooth and appeared a lot brighter. Definitely recommend to anyone looking for a non irritating but effective mask!”
13. A Brightening & Moisturizing Mask For Just $10
“Natural” beauty brand ACURE manages to craft inexpensive beauty products that don’t take cheap shortcuts, with their delightful, $10 brightening mask being just one example. Loaded with nutrient-rich, botanically derived ingredients like aloe juice, chlorophyll, olive oil, and the extracts of marshmallow root, chamomile, and rosehip, this does-it-all mask is one of the best brightening products you can buy in its price range.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “This mask works. It leaves my skin so soft and hydrated with a dewy glow. Will definitely order more.”
14. A Superfood-Rich Mask From An Editor-Favorite Brand
This new gel mask from TULA contains a blend of fruit enzymes, chemical exfoliants (like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs), and — like all TULA products — prebiotics and probiotics that promote stronger, healthier skin. TULA was founded by dermatologist Dr. Roshini Raj and is beloved by beauty editors for their effective products that take a holistic approach to skin health. In just 10 minutes, you’ll be left with super-soft, glowing skin once your rinse this brightening mask off.
According to one Amazon reviewer: “Such a quick and easy mask to use and it works great! It makes my skin feel so refreshed, soft and clean after using it. I have very dry sensitive skin and it does not irritate or dry me out at all. I have been using it one time a week and am loving the results! It has a subtle fresh scent and has a somewhat thin-honey type constancy and look to it. It does not make my skin [feel] too tight when it is drying. I highly recommend adding this mask to your weekly skincare routine.”
Dr. Robert Anolik, M.D., F.A.A.D., fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology
Dr. Sheila Farhang, M.D., double board-certified dermatologist and Revision Skincare partner
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified dermatologist
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