We all have our own bespoke skin problems, but the one skin bugbear that seems to be true of all of us is that we're sick of our dull complexions. Brighter skin is on the top of my skin wish list, anyway, and I've spent years experimenting with all manner of skincare products to help get me there. And you know the one thing that I find really makes a difference? A brightening face mask. Let me explain…
From grainy exfoliating pastes to out-of-this-world dry sheet mask inventions, I spend most of my life peeking out from behind a face mask. Beyond an obsession with jade rolling and a pretty healthy vitamin C addiction, I do believe this mask habit is the reason that even on a miserable hungover day or when I'm feeling rundown, my skin never, ever shows it. In fact, a quick five-minute session with a hardworking mask has the power to awaken the grayest complexion and impart a crazy glow that most people think is only possible from a facial.
I've whittled down the meter-long list of formulas I adore to the seven very best brightening face masks.
It's quite possibly the most hyped brand of 2017, but Glossier's mask is really something to write home about. It has all the usual hydrating suspects (plant-based squalene, sweet almond oil, hyaluronic acid) as well as licorice root and lemon fruit extract, which make skin look like it's under a permanent spotlight.
At the heart of Peter Thomas Roth's pumpkin mask are fast-acting enzymes that nibble away at the top layer of skin, dislodging any dead cells that are outstaying their welcome. These enzymes are helped along by alpha-hydroxy acids that dissolve dead skin and blocked pores, along with aluminum oxide, which is brilliant at imparting a not-so-subtle glow. Plus, it smells like a pumpkin spice latte—but sadly doesn't taste like one. (We jest—don't eat it.)
Admittedly, the sensation of this mask is a little weird (teeny-tiny bubble froth up and pop all over your face), but I swear it isn't just a gimmick. The bubbles are actually running around collecting up all the crap that builds up on the skin even after cleansing and washes it down the sink. Rather than skin that looks weighed down by days of debris, you'll be left with a super-fresh, bright complexion. It's my favorite thing for getting rid of city grime.
Rose petals are famed for their skin-nourishing ability, which is why there are plenty of them inside Nuxe's mask. It makes pores look a little tighter, and the complexion a whole lot more uniform. It's also super cooling, so I tend to turn to this tub on a hangover day.
Our editorial director, Amy, already waxed lyrical about Charlotte Tilbury's innovative dry sheet mask when it first launched, but it's that good to warrant another mention here. Unlike regular slimy sheet masks, this one goes on dry, but the warmth of your skin is enough to "melt" the active ingredients inside (niacinamide, which combats dullness and fine lines; crocus bulb extract to remind your older cells to keep working; etc.) so they can penetrate deep into the skin. And you can use it up to three times as it doesn't harbor bacteria.
Glamglow is the reigning champion of the face mask game, and the Brightening Treatment mask lives up to its reputation. Like some of the others we've flagged, it exfoliates the top layer of skin, which is vital in boosting radiance, but it also contains "diamond photoluminescence," which is in essence tiny, ground-up particles that make skin look extra reflective. It works quickly too—apply at the beginning of an ad break and you'll be able to remove it and get back to the sofa before your program starts again.
Clay masks like L'Oréal's are particularly good if you suffer from congested skin and blocked pores, as clay has the uncanny ability to draw toxins out from within the skin. There's also red algae extract in this mask, which is a known skin brightener.