Brightening Masks For Better Skin

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I know I’m not the only one who expects masking results to be monumental. After 20+ minutes, the face that appears from underneath should be unrecognizable: every pimple gone, every pore shrunk to nothing, every irritation soothed, every scar smoothed, dark circles brightened and all the plumpness I had at birth returned. Am I asking for the moon here?

Yes, some of my requests would be better directed at a cosmetic dermatologist. But there are some amazing products out there! And if the $22 one-time-use sheet mask infused with bird saliva didn’t deliver, I wouldn’t bother writing about it, would I? So today I’m here to talk about the masks that (almost) achieve the unattainable standards I’ve set for them. Join me, and please share your own favorites; a girl can only fit so many into one story.

The Futurist

First things first: Colbert MD’s Illumino Anti-Aging Brightening Mask is a sheet mask soaked in a serum that's embedded with a coconut cellulose and happens to include “Regenerative Swiftlet Nest extract”—AKA Edible Bird’s Nest, a natural ingredient that’s long been used as a culinary delicacy in a number of Asian countries. It’s more recently started to show up internationally in beauty products and in medical research—including for cancer. There’s not quite enough evidence to conclusively state its anti-aging effects in skincare (yet), but Colbert MD's extract contains sialic acid and epidermal growth factor. Paired with the mask’s lactic acid and vitamin C ingredients, the effects are definitely noticeable. Post-mask my skin was soft and smooth with fine lines minimized; cheeks brighter; more awake; fresh and plumped. Everything I asked for.

Worth noting: The swiflet nest is an actual bird’s nest—made from its own saliva—and the farming industry around has historically been pretty unregulated.(Read: occasionally the culprit of diseases in people who eat it due to improper cleaning processes.) That said, the extract used in this mask is "sourced from the world’s safest and most reputable vendor based in Thailand" and, the brand assured me, "While it’s not technically vegan, it is a powerful, naturally derived ingredient that could be thought of in a similar way to bee venom or snail slime."

The Alchemist

If you enjoy whipping ingredients together to put on your face and peel off in one fell swoop minutes later, this Erno Laszlo Lighten and Brighten Mask is for you. The “Lighten” part of the name freaked me out, but it doesn’t actually make any changes to your pigmentation—just brightens and balances. It’s a two-packet product that’s 1: Liquid and 2: Powder. You combine them together for 45 seconds and then apply to your face, leaving it for 20-ish minutes. It’s fun, and it works.

The Fur Coat

This Clé de Peau Intensive Brightening Mask feels like the skincare equivalent of a mink stole: not necessary per se, but fancy, and surprisingly practical in cold weather. That’s because after a long trek home in brisk weather, 20 minutes under this mask soothed the wind burn and reduced the redness that went along with it. It comes in two separate pieces, making it the only sheet mask in history to fit my face, while its flower extracts and hydrolyzed silk really do make it the fanciest mask I've ever had the pleasure of using.

The Peach

Because it smells like a peach! Or maybe an apricot, I can never tell which. Anyway, this Vichy Double Glow Masque Peel is the color of a peach and works as a nice, gentle peel that’s done in five minutes. I like the gel texture and I like the smell. Any questions?

The Royal

The name of Tatcha's “Violet-C Radiance Mask” terrified me at first. Must have something to do with my associating “ultra violet rays” with the word “violet,” which in this case, is just a color. That comes from one of its key ingredients—the Japanese Beautyberry, a thing I’d never heard of before—which apparently helps the Vitamin C do its job. There are a whole host of other star-studded ingredients in there, including exfoliating AHAs for skin cell regeneration. I want to say this one works like the product equivalent of a brisk little jog outdoors.

The Tight Schedule

This Ursa Major 3-Minute Flash Mask is perfect for people who (like me) are perpetually late and who (also like me) are perpetually short on sleep. It's the kind of mask I like to do in the morning before makeup, because it really helps with those undereye bags, and just generally feels nice on the skin. It’s got AHAs, BHAs, probiotics, salicylic acid, and alfalfa (which is supposed to act like a retinol). And it smells like a tropical beverage.

The Celebrity

But not just because Charlotte Tilbury makes it. This Dry Sheet Mask is a celebrity amongst ITG readers given its inclusion in this year’s Top 25. With its resealable pouch and reusability factor, it’s the perfect product to travel with. “Dry mask” had me skeptical at first, but once its been warmed up (which you do with your fingertips after putting it on), it works essentially the same way a not-dry product does. Fold it up and put it away for safekeeping once you’re done. Now your skin’s ready for some Charlotte Tilbury Bronze and Glow.

The Garden

Tata Harper’s Resurfacing Mask might be a slightly more luxe version of the Ursa Major. I prefer to do this one in the evening before I go out. In addition to brightening, it helps clear pores and reworks the texture so that what you’re left with is, well, flawlessness. Perfect before makeup since it helps foundation and concealer blend in seamlessly. Considering it’s basically just plants, I'd say that's pretty cool.

—Anna Stevenett

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Now what to do with that perfect face? Put on some natural-ass makeup! Guide here.

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