Ingredients and Brightening Masks

Coming from an Asian country, it took me a few years to realize “whitening” and “brightening” refers to different things. Whitening refers to bleaching the skin to make it shades lighter/whiter and may damage the skin while brightening focus on getting rid of dark spots, acne scars and dull skin. While almost everyone is familiar with glycolic acid and vitamin C, there are quite a few other effective brightening ingredients that you might have noticed. Not everything is appropriate for everyone, so here’s a brief introduction:

  • Hydroquinone – a skin lightener to treat pigmentation. It is banned in some countries due to concerns about risk of cancer, and darkening of the skin for people of color. Small concentration seems to be okay if you don’t have dark skin.
  • Kojic acid – a plant extract to treat pigmentation. It has been found to be less effective than 2% hydroquinone but more effective than arbutin. However, it may cause sensitivity. It is unstable and may break down when expose to heat and light.
  • Arbutin – plant extract that treats discoloration. It’s gentle and works well for sensitive skin. Research has shown that synthetic form (deoxyarbutin) may work better than natural extract. Since it is glycosylated hydroquinone, there is similar concern about cancer risk, which has not been proven yet.
  • Glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid that treats pigmentation by exfoliating off the dull skin and quickens cell turnover, which reduces fine lines and rough skin texture. However, it can make the skin more sensitive and irritated.
  • Vitamin C – it treats sunspots and dull skin and is mildly effective on fine lines and skin firmness. There’s not really any risks or side effects, the stability and strength depends on the type of vitamin C used. Instead of breaking down in sunlight, it helps to defend the skin against UV rays so it’s great to use during the day.
  • Niacinamide – also known as vitamin B3. In addition to even the skintone, it also has anti-inflammatory properties, improves the skin’s protective function, and stimulates collagen production. It’s great for acne-prone and sensitive skin.
  • Licorice extract – it is a brightening ingredient with soothing anti-inflammatory properties. Anti-inflammation is very important when skin brightening because irritation may lead to an increase in melanin production.
  • Algae extract – it evens the skintone and helps to fight against surface redness. It can revitalize and moisturize stressed skin as well.
  • Azelaic acid – it reduces pigmentation but has no risk of irritation or darkening the skin when used too much, thus good for sensitive skin.

If you have brightening products, then you probably has seen several of these ingredients in it. However, if you don’t use sunscreen consistently then all your hard work is wasted. 

But today, we are talking about brightening sheet masks. Dr. Jart+ Brightening Infusion Hydrogel Mask, My Beauty Diary Arbutin Brightening Mask and Leaders Coconut Gel Mask. Some of them seems to have gotten new packaging recently, but the ingredients are the same so the reviews should still hold.

Dr. Jart+ Brightening Infusion Hydrogel Mask20170128_151958

The hydro-gel mask consists of a top half and bottom half. They are folded together with plastic on both side and are very slippery so it was a little difficult to get it out. The hydro-gel sheet is slightly thicker than fiber or coconut cellulose but it still conforms to the face well. However, it’s slippery so when I’m upright and moving around, the bottom half slides down slowly. It’s best to use it while lying down. The mask is coated in a gel liquid with a fresh clean cucumber scent. My face did looks lightly brighter and more refreshed after use, not sure if it’s temporary. It did leave a sticky residue that took 20-30 minutes to absorb. Once it was absorbed, my skin feel soft and smooth. It’s best for combo/dry skin.20170128_152121

My Beauty Diary Arbutin Whitening Mask


The mask is made of a thin, sturdy and smooth fiber sheet, same as other My Beauty Diary sheet masks. It is very wet, soaked with liquidy essence that has a faint clean scent. My skin feel moisturized and looks slightly brighter, due to it being less red, after taking the mask off. The liquid felt sticky for a few min but then absorbs, leaving the skin feeling soft and clean. It’s great for all skin types.

Leaders Coconut Gel Mask with Orange20170206_152247

The coconut cellulose sheet is folded between two plastic sheets. The coconut mask feels similar to When masks in that it’s flexible and sticks well to the face. However, the gel was scentless but slightly sticky. While my skin do look slightly brighter and feels moisturized, it took over 30 minutes for it to absorb and stop feeling stuffy and greasy. However, it did leave a layer of residue so I’d recommend it for dry skin and you probably don’t need a moisturizer afterwards.

My face is slightly darker than my neck due to redness, so I find My Beauty Diary Arbutin to work the best for me. Since it’s so lightweight and leaves the skin clean, it works well with my combination skin (topped with a light gel moisturizer after it absorbs). If you have dry skin, then the Dr. Jart+ or Leaders would probably be a better choice depending on what type of sheet you prefer.


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