Prior to using brightening face masks, my skin was, well, not very bright all the time. I tend to not get as much sleep as I should, and it often shows. The closest thing I found to eight hours of sleep is these masks, and most also have long-term benefits. The market is pretty saturated with brightening masks at this point, so I volunteered to be your guinea pig and try quite a few of them out.
The first thing I learned during this process is that applying multiple brightening face masks in a relatively short period of time isn't exactly an amazing idea. (luckily, I had this Summer Fridays mask on hand to rescue my skin when I needed it.) The commonality between these masks is that they all promise glowing skin, but I did find differences between them, such as how drastic the results they gave are, what time of day they're best used, and how hydrating they are.
Keep scrolling for my full reviews and to shop the brightening masks I loved the most out of the 17 I tried.
Herbivore Botanicals Prism Exfoliating Glow Facial
No disrespect to the other masks on this list, but this one is obviously the prettiest. I'm pleased to report that it's also very effective. It's very cooling, so it would be a great one to keep refrigerated during the summer. If you hate the feeling of gloopy, wet face masks, this one is definitely for you. It sinks right in, and you're left with soft, glowing skin when you rinse it off 20 minutes later.
Versed Photos, Please Brightening Tightening Mask
This clean, affordable Versed mask has become a staple in my medicine cabinet. I prefer using it in the morning before I put on my makeup so that the world can see the instant results. It may seem counterintuitive that this mask both tightens and softens skin, but the combination of clay and witch hazel does just that.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial AHA + BHA Mask
This is one of the first brightening face masks I ever tried (prior to even embarking on this story), and I'm a fan for life. This mask is quite strong and tingles a bit (pro tip: don't use it in the shower), but it really does look like you just got a facial after 20 minutes. Since my skin is sensitive, I only use this once a week max and always follow it up with a face oil.
Farmacy Honey Potion Renewing Antioxidant Hydration Mask
I started using Farmacy products earlier this year, and wow, my skin loves them. Everything the brand makes is clean, and there's a lot more to love about this mask. It warms up upon application (and yes, it's glorious) and thanks to honey's soothing and humectant properties, it coddles skin while brightening it with vitamin B and antioxidants.
Summer Fridays Overtime Mask
This is a brightening mask in every sense of the word—even the happy color of the tube indicates it. Of all the masks, this one reminded me the most of a physical exfoliator, as it's packed with gentle apricot-seed powder. It also contains oat kernel protein to calm the skin, which I can appreciate.
Tatcha Violet-C Radiance Mask
This creamy purple mask has many anti-aging properties in addition to providing glowing, beautiful skin. It contains two types of vitamin C, a 10% AHA complex, and Japanese anti-aging superfoods, all working together to banish dullness and smooth skin. I can vouch that it does what it says.
Renée Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel
I was eager to try this mask, as it's been a beauty-editor (including our editor Erin Jahns) favorite for years. Apparently, it's great before a big event, which I'll keep in mind when those are a thing again. As you might have guessed, it smells good enough to eat and provides immediate brightening, evening results. Since I'd already tried a lot of masks at this point, this one kind of sent my skin over the edge (i.e., made it a bit red), but it was worth it. After applying a soothing moisturizer, I saw what all the fuss is about—it's extremely effective.
Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask
Something about applying this pink-tinted face mask just feels so luxurious. I love using it while I'm getting ready for a big day, as my skin feels so soft and dewy yet miraculously tighter for hours after rinsing it away. It contains peptides, essential oils, and Spanish clay, which is clearly a cocktail your skin will love.
Fresh Rose Face Mask
This lovely rose mask does a lot of things, from calming with cucumber and aloe vera to toning with rose water. I've been using it for years and always marvel at how fresh my skin looks afterward. That can be attributed to the brightening addition of green tea.
Skin Authority Brightening Peel Pack
This mask is unique in that it's a five-day regimen. It's an AHA glycolic serum that you leave on while sleeping. My skin got brighter and more even after each day, and I was pleasantly surprised by how hydrated it was.
Sunday Riley Good Genes
This powerful lactic acid mask is not for the faint of heart. (Again, don't use it in the shower if your skin is sensitive like mine.) But the results are incredible—your skin will look radiant. It makes my cheeks a little pink and makes me look as though I just went out in the cold, but I just apply a thick moisturizer or oil, and I'm good to go. When used regularly, you probably won't need to use a separate exfoliator. (I certainly don't.)