I hope I don’t get fired for writing this, but there was a time in my life when I thought that SPF 6 was a nice, normal, sufficient amount of sun protection. During that time, I also sometimes just skipped sunscreen entirely and may have even dabbled in tanning booths to get a bronzy skin tone that really popped against the bright turquoise taffeta of my prom dress. Now that I’m 15 years out from the night of the big dance, that devil may care-attitude is coming back to haunt me in the form of a dusting of light brown sun spots across my nose, cheeks, and forehead. The latest standout in my arsenal of products meant to reduce the appearance of said spots is Drunk Elephant’s Bouncy Brightfacial.

The brand calls this 2023 Best of Beauty-winning product a leave-on mask. I call it a heavier lotion with the actives-packed ingredient list of a serum. The hero ingredients are 10% azelaic acid and 1% salicylic acid, both of which are familiar faces in the skin brightening game. You’re likely familiar with salicylic from your teenage acne days, while azelaic is a more recently buzzy skin-care ingredient that dermatologists Allure has spoken to rave about. As La Jolla, California-based, board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, MD, previously told us, azelaic acid works by inhibiting tyrosinase (the enzyme involved in pigment production) a process that helps to reduce hyperpigmentation.

“While azelaic acid combined with salicylic acid is nothing new, I have not seen the salicylic acid concentration so high in a product containing azelaic acid,” says Kenna Whitnell, a cosmetic chemist who specializes in skin care formulation, of Bouncy Brightfacial. She notes that this will make the product great for anyone with acne-prone skin who is trying to reduce hyperpigmentation, but, while azelaic acid is often used to treat rosacea, this higher percentage of salicylic might make it too spicy for someone with sensitive skin. “I suggest that those trying [the product] start slow and see how they tolerate the combination,” Whitnell says.

Drunk Elephant Bouncy Brightfacial

On top of the acids, Bouncy Brightfacial contains tons of other antioxidants and ingredients with skin-brightening claims. “In my professional opinion, this product contains so many ingredients that have proven and potential benefits to help brighten and soothe the skin and improve hyperpigmentation,” Whitnell says, calling out lesser-known-but-promising ingredients on the product’s list, like ellagic acid and glutathione. “It’s kind of like throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.”

Typically, you’ll find these types of ingredients in a treatment that then requires you layer a separate moisturizer on top. Bouncy Brightfacial has the hydration part down too, with ceramides and plant oils that mean you could make this the last step of your routine. (I typically still layer a light moisturizer, because my skin is ultra dry, and a sunscreen, because I have learned my lesson, on top.) “It’s great to see ingredients like niacinamide and allantoin in here to protect the skin’s barrier and reduce sensitivity,” Whitnell says.

Before starting my second round of Bouncy Brightfacial

As is the case with most skin-care products, my before and after photos are not going to make you fall to the floor, reeling from shock at my completely transformed face. Rather, I think, you can see that my skin looks brighter and glowier in the latter. These were taken about four weeks apart specifically for the purpose of this review; my first experience was finishing an entire container (which took about two months) during our Best of Beauty testing period this past winter. 

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