Best Masks To Brighten, Purify and Soften Skin

October 18th 2020, 7:00 pm

Marinate your skin in brightening, hydrating and deep-cleansing ingredients with these face-saving masks highly-rated by your MakeupAlley peers. Plus, check out the expert tips provided by some of our favorite celebrity aestheticians on the type of masks and actives that are best for targeting your skin needs.

SK-II Facial Treatment Mask

4.1

(151 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Dry Skin

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “This mask by SK-II has long been a part of my skincare arsenal and I love it. It is a fairly run of the mill cotton sheet mask that is soaked in SK-II's "pitera" concoction, which is a nasty-sounding yeast byproduct. That byproduct, though, is chock-full of things like amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It works wonderfully on the skin. I apply this mask as a rescue remedy. If I've done something horrible to my skin, whether it be overexfoliated or undermoisturized, the facial treatment mask sets me right. It's like a reset button for my skin. I leave it on for 20 minutes and then go to bed. In the morning, my skin is rested and glowing. Pitera is touted for its anti-aging benefits but I can't really attest to those, unless you want to count skin not looking haggard as anti-aging. If I used these more frequently, I might be able to tell a difference in fine lines and firmness, I suppose. There is a very good reason, however, that I save them for skin emergencies: the price. SK-II is a luxury brand and to buy these masks individually will set you back [a pretty penny]...”

Valmont Prime Renewing Pack

4.1

(14 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Dry Skin

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “This is hands-down one of my favorite facial masks. From the moment I apply the creamy mask, my skin is instantly soothed, cooled and refreshed. The first time I tried it I left it on for about 30 minutes and then washed it off. I couldn't believe that my skin essentially drank up the mask in those 30 minutes. [When] I left it on overnight, I awoke to glowing, radiant skin. This mask is nothing short of miraculous. Use 20-30 minutes for a glowing pick-me-up or overnight for serious hydration and an awakened complexion.”

Simple De-Stress Sheet Mask

4.0

(1 Review)

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PERFECT FOR: Dry Skin

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “This is free of artificial fragrance and easy on the skin. I found this sheet mask easy to use and hydrating. My skin was feeling dry and parched from using a facial scrub and a drying, clay mask. So the next morning, I tried this sheet mask. The mask sheet is very thin so be careful peeling it apart. I left this on for 15 minutes. It did not irritate my skin at all. After removing the sheet mask, my skin felt soft and hydrated.”

TonyMoly I'm Red Wine Mask Sheet

4.4

(8 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Dry Skin or Dull Complexions

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “...These are affordable enough to purchase several at once. They definitely do a great job making my enlarged pores less noticeable along with leaving my skin feeling refreshed and glowy. After twenty minutes of wear, I simply rub the remaining serum into my skin and I'm good to go. I don't feel the need to reach for a moisturizer either. And, yes, this faintly smells like sweet red wine.”


"Sheet masks are inexpensive, easy to apply, and usually give instant gratification. They are known to soften and hydrate skin. However, sheet masks should not replace traditional masks, especially if you are acne-prone or have problematic skin. Traditional masks, scrubs or peels will deliver more effective, long term results."

— Rachel Roff, Licensed Aesthetician and CEO/Founder of Urban Skin Rx


Biologique Recherche Masque Vivant

4.0

(32 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Acne-Prone Skin

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “This was super spendy (about $70 for 3.4oz), but it is great. It is stinky (smells like yeast) and ugly ( a weird brown coloring), but it makes my 53-year old face look smooth and bright. I have been using it only about once a week due to laziness, but I think my skin would do fine if I used it 2-3x/wk. I am not a big mask person, but this one is great and worth the effort and expense to me. This and my beloved P50 will be regular repurchases for me forever.”

Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask

3.9

(67 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Acne-Prone Skin

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “I have no idea what the AHA percentage is in here, but the enzymatic effect from the pumpkin really smooths out the texture of my skin and gives it a "renewed" appearance. AHA alone doesn't have quite the same effect on me. I massage this gently into my skin for about 30 seconds and then allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Whenever I mask, I use a scrub first; otherwise, what's the point if there's a layer of dead skin in the way? With this one it already contains aluminium oxide crystals so while massaging it in, the dead skin cells are removed and the mask works a lot better—plus it saves me the extra step. Yes, it is a powerful mask and I cannot leave it on for longer than 5 minutes or else my face starts to itch unbearably. [The mask] smells like pumpkin and cinnamon (good enough to eat) and contains a number of good ingredients —such as, vitamin A and vitamin C.”

Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask

3.9

(24 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Acne-Prone Skin

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “...Was browsing and saw this. I loved the color, and it is a resurfacing product. It's all natural, so that is a definite plus. My skin doesn't do well with manual exfoliation (very fair, very sensitive), so chemical is usually how I go. I usually also go with natural ingredients, less chance of irritation. The color is absolutely beautiful! I believe it comes from the tansy flower ingredient. The smell is strange. I'm not put off by it, but I don't particularly savor it either. It's a medicinal, woody, sweet, herbal, mentholated weirdness. [The mask's] viscosity is thin. It is translucent at application. It says there will be a tingling sensation, but I feel nothing. It also says sensitive skin should leave the mask on for [only] 5-10 minutes; I do the full 20. It dries clear and it's not sticky. I use a steaming washcloth to remove. No breakouts or irritation. Best of all, it works. My redness is reduced, my pores are definitely more refined. My skin looks much brighter and clearer. It's softer, and my fine lines are less apparent. Never would I expect such gentleness from such an effective product.”

Tula Skincare Detox In A Jar Exfoliating Treatment Mask

4.0

(1 Review)

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PERFECT FOR: Acne-Prone Skin

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “This is a light blue clay-based mask. It has a light, powdery scent. It contains lactic acid to gently exfoliate skin and it also has a small amount of scrubbing beads in it. I left this on my skin for 10 minutes and washed it off. My skin looked and felt smoother and softer.”


"Masks formulated with charcoal, kaolin or bentonite clay are effective in purifying skin, removing dirt and controlling excess sebum production. They detox the skin and remove impurities that contribute to breakouts, clogged pores and blackheads."

— Rachel Roff



"Enzymes masks are more gentle than harsh acidic masks and may be used on every skin type. Even though they are gentle, they are very effective and work slow and steady to resurface the skin."

— Vicki Morav, Celebrity Aesthetician


Urban Skin Rx Even Tone Smooth & Glow Enzyme Mask

5.0

(1 Review)

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PERFECT FOR: Dull or Hyperpigmented Complexions

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “I love using this mask to give my complexion a boost when it's looking a bit dull. It contains lactic and glycolic acid to exfoliate dead skin cells, but it is not irritating to my skin. And, the vitamin C helps brighten and even out my complexion. My dark spots are slowly fading away. Yay!”

Fresh Peony Brightening Night Treatment Mask

4.0

(6 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Dull or Hyperpigmented Complexions

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “Great mask. Pricey but it works. I feel my dark spot lightened after just one use. My skin feels nice and smooth too. It definitely lasts a loooong time. Love it!”

GlamGlow Flashmud Brightening Treatment

4.1

(24 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Dull or Hyperpigmented Complexions

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “A surprisingly effective mask. It's a clay-based 2-3 times weekly treatment with some impressive ingredients: AHA's, BHA's and brightening botanicals. Using a brush so as not to contaminate the product, I apply a very thin layer and leave it on for about 20 minutes before washing off. I'm now on my 3rd application and I can see a brighter tone along with an improvement in skin texture; my pores look more refined and my face is softer to the touch. I also find that it helps keep the oiliness at bay a little longer (say a couple of hours) compared to before starting use. However, that effect only takes place on the day I'm using the mask; by the following day, it's back to square one! The effect on pores lasts a little longer (at least a few days) and longest lasting of all is the brightening effect itself—up to a week almost. Part of the effect initially is due to the very thin layer of kaolin (clay) left behind on my skin. And, it's this I believe that helps absorb the oil over the course of the day—but the results do go beyond that—there is definitely a "freshness" to my complexion. [The mask treatment] is pricey but I would definitely repurchase it.”

Olay Glow Boost White Charcoal Clay Face Mask Stick

5.0

(1 Review)

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PERFECT FOR: Dull or Hyperpigmented Complexions

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “Absolutely love this product! I tried the white and black charcoal. I would absolutely purchase these products again, and I have incorporated them into my weekly routine.”

Karuna Brightening+ Face Mask

4.7

(3 Reviews)

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PERFECT FOR: Dull or Hyperpigmented Complexions

MUA COMMUNITY COSIGN: “I never use sheet masks because I prefer a traditional mud mask, but was given this as a gift by a Sephora rep in store... I love it. My skin looked beautiful the day I used it. It worked much better than I expected. [My skin] looked moisturized, glowy and well-rested. The eye placements were unusual but that was no big thing. You can't do much around the house as you're wearing it because it will slip off. So be prepared to kick back and read or close your eyes while it goes to work... ”


MASKING 101

Aesthetician Rachel Roff offers up expert tips on how to incorporate masks into your skincare routine.

  • Prep your skin. To get the most out of your mask, be sure to thoroughly cleanse your skin beforehand and then apply your mask before other serums.

  • Make sure you are using the right face mask for your skin type and skin concern.

- For dry skin: Use a mask treatment that will hydrate and replenish moisture in the skin as well as maintain and protect the skin's moisture barrier. Ingredients to look for include: hyaluronic acid, squalane, panthenol and ceramides.

- For acne-prone skin: Use a mask treatment that targets bacteria, excess oil, clogged pores, and inflammation. Ingredients to look for include: salicylic acid, sulfur, tea tree oil and kaolin. Clay masks are also ideal for acne-prone skin due to their detoxifying properties.

- For dull, hyperpigmented or uneven complexions: Try a brightening mask for glowy radiance. Ingredients to look for include: vitamin C, niacinamide, lactic acid, glycolic acid, licorice root extract and turmeric.

  • Try multi-masking. If you have combination skin or multiple skin concerns, you can apply different masks to different areas of the skin. For example, apply a detoxifying clay mask to your oily T-zone but use a hydrating mask on your dry cheeks.

  • Don't forget to moisturize after masking. It will help lock in hydration and keep your skin glowing and healthy-looking.



INGREDIENT CHEAT SHEET

Brighteners:

Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant with brightening benefits. This ingredient improves the appearance of dark marks and any form of hyperpigmentation.

Niacinamide: A form of vitamin B3, Niacinamide improves the appearance of hyperpigmentation, texture, and redness caused by acne, sun damage, and other skin irritants.

Lactic Acid: A gentle alpha hydroxy acid that exfoliates and reduces the appearance of uneven skin tone, blemishes and fine lines. This acid also restores and boosts the skin’s moisture levels making it ideal for more sensitive or dry skin types. 

Glycolic Acid: A powerful alpha hydroxy acid that exfoliates the skin’s surface and improves the appearance of blemishes, uneven skin tone and aging skin.

Licorice Root Extract: A potent antioxidant that brightens skin tone and provides skin-soothing properties. 

Turmeric: Known for its antioxidant and calming properties, turmeric improves the look of surface redness, brightens skin tone and visibly firms aging skin.

Pore-Purgers/Skin Detoxifiers:

Salicylic Acid: A beta-hydroxy acid derived from willow bark that gently exfoliates oily/acne-prone skin and removes excess oil. Encourages the shedding of dead skin to keep skin clear.

Sulfur: Contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help dry out the surface of your skin to absorb excess oil (sebum) and exfoliates dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores and remove impurities/bacteria that may contribute to acne breakouts

Kaolin: A detoxifying mineral clay that absorbs excess oil, extracts impurities, and helps with future breakouts.  

Bentonite Clay: Similar to kaolin, this detoxifying clay absorbs excess oil, dirt and impurities from the skin's surface to help with future breakouts. It also helps to reduce the look of inflammation.

Charcoal: This absorbent ingredient helps to remove impurities, absorb oil and deep cleanse the skin.

Tea Tree Oil: A gentle ingredient that helps with acne-causing bacteria and reduces the look of red, inflamed acne.

Hydrators:

Hyaluronic Acid: An ingredient that is naturally produced in our body that helps to replenish moisture and revitalize the skin’s outer layers so they look and feel softer, smoother and quenched. Hyaluronic acid holds a thousand times its weight in water, helping our skin retain its moisture.

Squalane: The hydrogenated version of squalene, a compound produced naturally by our sebaceous glands. It is often derived from plant sources, such as olive oil. It provides superior hydration in the skin and helps to prevent moisture loss.

Ceramides: An important part of the skin's protective barrier, ceramides help prevent moisture loss and fight the effects of environmental stress on the skin. This is a great ingredient for firming, smoothing and hydrating dry skin. 

Panthenol : Also known as vitamin B5, this ingredient strengthens the skin barrier and reduces the look of inflammation while soothing and moisturizing the skin. 



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