7 Skin Brightening Products for a Healthy Summer Glow

The hustle and grind of everyday life often means skincare routines take a backseat. We sympathize with your need to forego that clay mask for 15 minutes of extra sleep, canceling your standing facial or even—god forbid—abandoning your thrice-weekly at-home LED light therapy sessions to catch up on work. It happens, and it’s not the end of the world (it’s only vanity we’re talking about here,) but during these busy periods, your skin can often suffer, veering into dull and uneven territory. And with summer approaching, you’ll likely be showing that gorgeous face of yours more often—so let it be on point. Why not try integrating a new brightener into your skincare rotation? It’s important to note that when we say brighter skin, we don’t mean lightened. Brighter, in this instance, means a more even-toned, vibrant visage with a natural vibrancy.

We consulted six seasoned aestheticians on the skinny behind brighteners; they shared their favorite products and treatments, plus delved into the differences between skin brightening and lightening, and what to use (and avoid).

“The notion of lightening goes against our skin’s immune function, whereas brightening supports our skin’s restoring function,” Song, a Los Angeles-based aesthetician working on the faces of Zendaya, Sydney Sweeney, and Greta Lee, told W. “Lightening products interrupt the natural mechanism of our skin’s melanin production, but melanin is the armor that everyone has to protect our skin cells from harmful UV rays. By overusing lightening ingredients such as hydroquinone, kojic acid, and retinoids, our skin can lose its brightness due to the inflammation often caused by lightening ingredients. Bright skin means well-oxygenated skin, which can be achieved by massaging your face and/or using a clay mask to support the skin’s rejuvenation process. Clay masks help to detoxify the skin by pulling out impurities; thus, they help create a smoother texture and brighter skin tone. Facial massage stimulates fibroblasts in the skin and brings more oxygen to the bloodstream, giving the skin more plumpness, translucence, firmness, and brightness.”

“I like Sisley’s Radiant Glow Express Mask,” she adds, “particularly because of the mixture of two different clays with soothing essential oils, giving the perfect amount of detoxification while hydrating the skin. It works like a dream.”

“Let’s start with some beauty myths associated with brightening products,” says Bartov, whose London clinic draws Carey Mulligan, Demi Moore, and Natalie Portman. “Skin lightening products are formulated to treat hyperpigmentation, such as melasma, sun spots, brown spots, discoloration from scarring, etc., whereas skin brightening products target skin rejuvenation and promoting overall radiance and glow. The overlap between the two is that skin brightening products can also even out skin tone and help reduce pigmentation.”

“A common misconception around skin brightening is that you can do it yourself at home by putting pure lemon juice—which contains vitamin C and citric acid, common ingredients in skin brightening products—directly onto your face for faster and more effective results. However, putting undiluted lemon on your face is potent and aggressive for the skin and can lead to inflammation and irritation, provoking any pre-existing skin conditions. Don’t do it, please.”

“My Booster Peel & Glow Serum contains a blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, fruit acids, niacinamide, enzymes, and ceramides—it’s like a treatment in a bottle, with multiple benefits, including skin brightening and targeting hyperpigmentation—improving the skin’s clarity, tone, and texture. It will bring a beautiful glow, and lessen any signs of pigmentation without irritating your skin.”

“In terms of brightening, the SK-II GenOptics Ultraura Essence Serum is a standout for reducing discoloration,” says New York-based facialist Louise, whose client roster includes Linda Evangelista and Reese Witherspoon. “Its formulation combines niacinamide—which is excellent, as we know, for tackling hyperpigmentation and enhancing skin brightness—with lotus flower extract to boost surface cell turnover and reduce sun spots. The serum also contains the most important element: the brand’s proprietary ingredient derived from rice fermentation that includes a blend of amino acids and vitamins to enhance the skin’s natural regeneration process. Called Pitera, it ensures the skin not only looks brighter, but also feels rejuvenated after each use.”

“Skin lightening often involves harsh chemicals, which can be damaging in the long run,” explains Pol, better known by his clients (like Emma Stone, Kylie Jenner, and Kim Kardashian) as The Beauty Sandwich. “On the other hand, skin brightening focuses on enhancing the skin’s natural radiance through gentle exfoliation and hydration, promoting a more luminous complexion without altering its natural tone.”

“To keep your skin bright and vibrant this season, nourish without overdoing it. Feed your skin healthy, delicious fats, and make hydration your best friend. Keep that moisture balance in check by using hydrating mists and elixirs, and, of course, drink plenty of water. Healthy fats will lower inflammation in the skin, especially in the summer months. It’s important we maintain high levels of antioxidant protection if we want our skin to be bright. Simplify your routine to let your skin thrive with its natural radiance. It’s all about making your skin glow with a lot of dewiness. A product that helps skin look less lackluster is my SS02, Snatching Sauce. It’s the lighter, brighter, tighter sister to my SS01 Secret Sauce.”

“I created this product specifically to be like an overprotective boyfriend. I aimed for an instant brightening astringent effect, achieved through a combination of astringent and oils. The formula works especially well for aggravated skin, calming redness and brightening and evening out skin tone, while also protecting the skin barrier and sealing in moisture. At the request of my clients, I even created a mini size for travel and on-the-go touch-ups.”

“Skin brightening means evening the skin tone by fading hyperpigmentation and giving the skin an overall glow,” says Grace Hand, founder of Manhattan’s Ställe Studio. “It can be achieved with safe but powerful ingredients like azelaic acid, kojic acid, retinol, and bakuchiol. To brighten, I rely on and love the Epicuren Skin Brightening Serum. It’s chock-full of brightening ingredients like tranexamic acid, diglucosyl gallic acid, and niacinamide. They are so good on their own, but paired together, they help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation, minimize redness, fade fine lines and wrinkles, and also help strengthen the skin. The addition of astaxanthin—the mother of all antioxidants—protects the skin from future pigmentation, so it’s not only fading existing hyperpigmentation but also helping the skin stay even-toned.”

“Another product I love is the Retrouvé Nutrient Face Serum for its addition of THD ascorbate. The fatty encapsulated vitamin C prevents degradation for maximum brightening powers that make the skin look healthy and even.”

“One of the most innovative ways to replicate some of the results from a clinical-level, skin-revitalizing, pro-radiance treatment comes from Editrix,” Los Angeles-based wonder aesthetician Gina Marí says. “The Editrix Microneedle is a genius little tool to keep in your beauty arsenal for a once-a-week rejuvenation. The Microneedle combines the ability to induce collagen production while delivering a luminosity-boosting serum at the same time. It contains vitamin C, peptides, and hyaluronic acid so the skin is immediately bright and vibrant. The serum is delivered by tiny, gold-plated surgical steel needles that provide a perfect mechanism to get these gold-standard ingredients beneath the surface of skin. It works with skin in the most natural way possible, by stimulating the body to produce new collagen…and after the age of 30, our collagen needs all the stimulation it can get.”

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