If there’s anything that beauty editors are forever in pursuit of, it’s healthy-looking, radiant skin. While some glowing makeup trickery can help you feign a healthy glow, the best course of action to achieve an even-toned, radiant complexion is skincare, and more specifically, a brightening serum.
First things first, let’s define what we mean by brightening. A brightening serum, in a nutshell, helps your skin look even toned and radiant. It can help fade dark spots from acne scarring, reduce pigmentation caused by sun damage (if you’re not wearing an SPF every day, here is your sign) and imparts dull, lacklustre skin with a little more glow. Most brightening serums work by reducing melanin production, which can help to fade areas of skin discolouration.
Brightening serums can easily slot into your current skincare routine. You’ll want to incorporate this after cleansing your skin, but before moisturising. Serums are formulated to be more potent and deliver ingredients into the skin more so than moisturisers, so if you’re looking to invest in a brightening skincare product, a serum is your best bet to get the most bang for your skincare buck. And if you’re looking for brightening eye creams for dark circles – we’ve also got that covered.
“When looking to buy a serum to brighten and even the tone of the skin, there are loads of great ingredients,” says aesthetician and founder of West Room Aesthetics, Dija Ayodele. “Some of my favourites are kojic acid, liquorice root extract, niacinamide, resorcinol and alpha arbutin and retinoids. All these ingredients work by calming melanin production as well as targeting current hyperpigmentation to help with fading, so it is important to remember that they are long term products to prevent as well as to treat.”
While we love a product that delivers instant results, it’s worth using a brightening serum for at least four weeks to start seeing results, so stick with it and don’t forget to follow up with an effective SPF each day to help protect your skin to maintain skin clarity and radiance. Whether you have oily, dry or sensitive skin (or all the above – skin can be picky!) there’s a brightening serum for your skin type and budget below.
The 9 Best Brightening Serums
SkinCeuticals' C E Ferulic Serum is a beauty editor’s kryptonite. It is expensive, but if you’re looking to invest in a brightening serum, this is one of the best that money can buy. It has 15% vitamin C, as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid that work in tandem to protect the skin from environmental damage and reveal a brighter complexion. The water-like texture makes it great for all skin types and sinks in quickly.
This serum is a trusted favourite for evening the skin’s tone. It has a patented antioxidant that helps brighten dark spots from sun damage, right through to fading stubborn post-acne dark spots. It has a lightweight formula that doesn’t feel sticky on the skin, making it great to wear under makeup and it won’t irritate sensitive skin.
Much like SkinCeutical’s C E Ferulic serum, this product also has a loyal following. It uses glycolic and lactic acid to brighten dark spots and improve skin texture and scarring. It is quite punchy (expect some tingling upon application) so proceed with caution if you’re prone to irritation. It has more of a cream consistency than other serums so if you’re after something heavier than a traditional serum, this might be more up your street.
If you’re wanting to brighten up on a budget, this is a great purse-friendly option. It contains niacinamide (a winner for evening skin tone), vitamin C for radiance and liquorice root extract that helps to fade skin discolouration to reveal a luminous complexion.
This retinal serum is a great all-rounder if you’re new to retinoid products. This is the lowest strength in the range, so it is a great starting point to help brighten the skin, as well as smooth wrinkles and skin texture in one hit. Once your skin is used to it, you can level up to the next highest strength. Use this one at night as retinoids can make skin more sensitive to the sun, and always follow up with an SPF during the day.
This serum is packed with brightening vitamin C and gives the skin a sought-after glow. This formulation is oil-free yet very hydrating, so it’s great if your skin is on the oiler side. It does have a citrus fragrance so if that’s not your bag – or if your skin is sensitive – you might prefer a fragrance-free brightening serum.
Full throttle brightening doesn’t necessarily equal best results. Sometimes a gentle approach works best if your skin is particularly reactive, and this serum is case in point. It has brightening niacinamide, but is coupled with hydrating hyaluronic acid and skin-reinforcing ceramides to protect the skin barrier and reduce irritation, and at a great price-point too.