Whether you’re hoping to fade unwanted hyperpigmentation or simply look like you got a decent amount of sleep last night, the
best brightening moisturizers can help you do it. Most contain vitamin C, the potent antioxidant that protects your skin from environmental aggressors that contribute to dullness and hyperpigmentation, and also helps reverse any damage those aggressors have already wrought. You may find things like retinol, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and antioxidant-rich plant extracts in these formulas as well, which also work to promote a brighter (aka, clearer and more even-looking) complexion.
Moisturizers are fundamental to your skin care routine, of course, and each one featured here is beloved for its mild brightening abilities. But moisturizers aren’t always the most effective vehicle for delivering active ingredients, so to fast-track your results, pair your moisturizer of choice with a more concentrated brightening treatment, like a
vitamin C serum, an ampoule, or a retinoid.
But for now, consider the five
best brightening creams to start you on your path to clearer skin. We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team. 1 The Steal
As its under-$20 price tag would likely
not suggest, this drugstore moisturizer contains almost everything you need for a brighter, more even-looking complexion — i.e., vitamin C, retinol, and hyaluronic acid. Crucially, too, an SPF of 30 protects your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays that can contribute to hyperpigmentation over time. And it's an undeniable fan favorite, having been awarded over 2,000 five-star ratings or reviews by Amazon shoppers. 2 The Splurge
On the other side of the price spectrum is this wittily named
Potent-C moisturizer from Peter Thomas Roth, one of the most luxurious and cultiest beauty brands out there ( If you know, you know.) Amazingly, the formula boasts similar concentrations and ingredients as a vitamin C serum: Along with 10% THD ascorbate — a more stable form of vitamin C than the usual L-ascorbic acid — this contains 3% vitamin E and 2% ferulic acid, an equally potent pair of brightening antioxidants. The addition of hydrolyzed collagen, hydrolyzed elastin, and hyaluronic acid make your skin look and feel juicy (and more radiant as a result), while “light-scattering diamond powder” provides an instant glow. This one’s well worth saving up for. 4 The French One
One too many glasses of wine last night may be the culprit for this morning’s dullness — but, in a poetic turn of events, that wine (or a version of it) is the very thing that can save you now. The hero ingredient in this
Caudalie moisturizer is viniferine, an antioxidant-rich, grapevine sap extract culled from French vineyards that’s exclusive to the brand. The stuff is reportedly 62 times more effective than vitamin C for reducing unwanted dark spots, preventing future hyperpigmentation, and improving your skin’s overall evenness and radiance. Its illuminating powers get a boost from niacinamide and white peony extract, while pearlizers impart an instant glow. 5 The Eye Cream
I’ll venture to guess that your eye contour area is in equal need of brightening up. And while an eye cream that
completely diminishes dark circles is the stuff of urban legend, reviewers are very enthusiastic about this eye cream from First Aid Beauty. The ingredients list is certainly promising: Niacinamide is clinically proven to fade hyperpigmentation, caffeine and pumpkin seed extract help reduce puffiness, and feather-light hydrators like squalane and hyaluronic acid provide some plumping action. This has a slight, blendable tint to it, though the brand says that 98% of users reported a more permanent brightening effect in their under-eye area after four weeks. Studies referenced: The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health, Juliet M. Pullar, Anitra C. Carr, and Margreet C. M. Vissers - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
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