Murad’s all-over glycolic acid serum helps speed up cell turnover and sheds away the surface cells that make you look less radiant. Here are the best dermatologist-approved brightening serums you can buy. To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources

Those with darker skin are often more prone to hyperpigmentation than light-skinned folks. While we still recommend vitamin C serums for their protective and anti-aging effects, many people of color find that they’re not effective for countering hyperpigmentation. This serum from L’Oreal is a little different from the rest of our selection. It’s not an alternative to the other brightening serums on this list, but instead, it’s a complementary serum that can significantly boost their efficacy.

Marshmallow gives this gentle, lightweight liquid its illuminating power. The plant is known for its hydrating, anti-inflammatory effects that balance the Vitamin Cg that packs an exfoliating punch. Alpha arbutin, a plant-based alternative to hydroquinone, is a serious radiance booster. And when combined with lactic and azelaic acid, we’re talking a complete reboot of your complexion.

Smaller amounts of L-Ascorbic acid and hyaluronic acid brighten, hydrate and moisturize for long-term results. This innovative powder combines vitamin C, ferulic acid, and glutathione to create a powerful antioxidant-rich formula. In case you don’t know, gluthatione is a buzzy ingredient that’s normally taken orally for its detoxifying benefits. When applied topically, though, it helps minimize the appearance of fine lines and dark spots. If your skincare goals include controlling sebum production, reducing the look of large pores, and brightening, this lightweight serum has you covered.

This vitamin C serum has our stamp of approval for all skin types, skin tones, and ages, and our go-to for anyone looking to firm and smooth their skin. We appreciated that the serum had a lightweight texture that didn’t feel greasy on our already oily skin, and we noticed that after a few weeks of using it, our post-acne marks were visibly reduced. We love that this product is available at your local drugstore, relatively affordable, and highly effective.

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. According to board-certified dermatologist Jennifer Herrmann, MD, vitamin C has three main functions. The first is protecting against environmental stressors and free radicals, an antioxidant benefit that slows signs of aging and reduces damage overall.

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. If there’s anything that beauty editors are forever in pursuit of, it’s healthy-looking, radiant skin. While some glowing brightening serum 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. Additionally, vitamin C blocks the enzyme responsible for melanin production, which means it can help brighten skin.

Additionally, avoid using it at the same time as certain other active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide. For example, if you use a benzoyl peroxide product at night, it’s best to apply your vitamin C serum in the morning. While our tester appreciated that this liquidy serum absorbed quickly and layered nicely in her skincare routine, she didn’t see a noticeable difference in the brightness of her complexion or a reduction in dark spots. Over the course of six weeks, each tester incorporated one vitamin C serum into their beauty routine per the directions on the packing of their product. They evaluated their serum based on ease of use, absorption, skin texture, skin glow, firmness, and overall look, and those that scored the highest earned our Byrdie stamp of approval and appear on this list.

This is a skin-renewing and brightening serum that also targets acne and premature aging, especially for those with oily, non-sensitive skin. This anti-wrinkle brightening serum by Dr. Dennis Gross protects and restores damaged skin, with salicylic and azelaic amino acids that minimize acne scars and hyperpigmentation. For skincare obsessives, the concept of “glowing from within” starts with a routine that works double-time for your complexion. Versed is all about providing effective, clean skincare products — all for under $20.

Oily skin types can benefit from a lightweight, oil-free serum containing niacinamide, which helps control oil production while targeting pigmentation. Paula’s Choice RESIST 10% Niacinamide Booster is suitable for oily skin as it addresses both concerns. Apply a few drops onto clean skin in the morning and evening, followed by an oil-free moisturizer. These vitamin C serums are a mix of GH Seal holders, top-rated products from trusted brands and favorites from consumers and dermatologists. While they weren’t tested in the Lab, GH Beauty Lab scientists have performed many tests on the best anti-aging serums. In these tests, the products are first label-masked to eliminate bias, then distribute them to dozens of consumer testers, who apply the products daily for a set time period between four and 12 weeks.

Affordable Brightening Serum

Whether you’re dealing with uneven skin tone or pesky dark spots, this treatment is the answer to all your discoloration woes. It has Norwegian Kelp Extract in it, a property that’s known to increase controlled exfoliation and remove excess pigment, along with other anti-agers that promote cellular turnover and brighten. As the product activates on skin, you may experience a brief tingling or some minor sloughing, which is normal. Superficial dead skin cells are being lifted off by the active ingredients to unveil smoother, brighter skin.

Its wild rose extract refines pores while its light-reflecting pigments blur their appearance and gives your face a lit-from-within finish. The vitamin C in this formula comes from spirulina, a form of blue algae that helps to even and brighten the complexion while reducing the appearance of blemishes. It also combines alguronic acid to reduce the look of fine lines and marine ferment, a protein that protects the skin matrix.

Beyond that, the serum is formulated with signature CeraVe ingredients that moisturize the skin and reinforce its barrier functions, like moisture-locking dimethicone, barrier-restoring ceramides, and hydrating hyaluronic acid. This brightening serum is a quintessential CeraVe product, which means that it’s reasonably-priced, gentle, and genuinely effective at its main purpose, which is to brighten the skin. SkinCeuticals’ iconic C E Ferulic serum could also be on this list, but if you’re dealing with serious discoloration, opt for this bottle instead.

By adding this one step to your routine , you’ll never have to rely solely on makeup to hide imperfections and deliver the glow you want. It features retinol, an ingredient that increases the skin turnover rate while encouraging the shedding of dead skin cells. It’s particularly helpful for improving skin texture and reducing fine lines, but it also has anti-pigmentation effects. Because of its simple, lightweight texture and fragrance-free formula, we can safely recommend this brightening serum for all skin types. If you have sensitive skin, we recommend introducing it slowly and gradually to avoid irritation. Remember that consistency is key, and maintaining a regular skincare routine will help you achieve the best results.

It also speeds up the overall repair and renewal process that’s needed to eliminate pigmentation in the skin. The strongest anti-pigmentation serum on our list is the PCA Skin Pigment Gel, but it’s also the most likely to have negative side-effects. It’s claimed to be a serum that can target pigmentation while also giving the skin a glow. However, the depigmentation ingredients Neutrogena chose, though promising, are also under-researched. It seems to us as though they prioritized having an exclusive and easy-to-stabilize formula over having the same well-researched ingredients all the other brands use. The key ingredient in this serum is hydroquinone, which is a pigmentation-reducing medication with a ton of research proving its effectiveness.

Infused with potent Vitamin C, this fast-acting formula visibly brightens dull-looking skin in one use, while Hyaluronic Acid plumps skin with hydration. With our carefully calibrated brightening serum with Vitamin C, the radiance is real. Perfect for easily aggravated skin, this serum from Bliss is formulated with a newer form of vitamin C called 3-O ethyl ascorbic acid, which is thought to be less irritating without sacrificing efficacy.

The next strongest option is the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum, while the CeraVe Vitamin C Serum presents a more gentle and affordable option. This serum contains natural orange and lavender fragrances which make it quite pleasant to use, but add a small sensitivity risk. Putting so many potent compounds in one tiny bottle is an ambitious endeavor, and it resulted in a powerful skin-renewing product that has the potential to irritate. If your skin can handle really intense exfoliation, you can go even stronger and choose the Eva Naturals Skin Clearing Serum, instead. The generic term for nice smelling stuff put into cosmetic products so that the end product also smells nice. An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products.

The formula is collagen-protecting and brightening to fade dark spots, firm skin and improve texture. The brand claims the formula is ultra-stable, so it can live right in your medicine cabinet or vanity. “I love its fresh — not cloying! — citrus scent,” says GH Institute Deputy Editor Jessica Teich. While most reviewers love the texture, a few noted that it left skin sticky.

  • This ingredient is also helpful for preventing acne breakouts, so we’re happy to recommend this serum for acne-prone skin.
  • Not only does this serum quench super-dry skin with hyaluronic acid, it contains niacinamide and vitamin E, both of which are powerful antioxidants that help to improve the skin’s natural moisture barrier and even out the complexion.
  • We found that this product actually helped improve the appearance of our oily skin overall.
  • As you may know, vitamin C is one of the top power players in terms of brightening effects “since it acts as an antioxidant by reducing free radical formation and preventing future sun damage,” says Dr. Caufield.
  • Paired with moisturizing glycerin and dimethicone, it doubles as a skin-illuminating primer that gives a dewy look whether it’s worn alone or under makeup.

It also contains hydrating hyaluronic acid and panthenol that give the skin a general glow. This serum is loaded with ingredients that ward off discoloration and dark spots, such as niacineamide, tranexamic acid, and kojic acid. It also includes hepes, which is an acid that offers gentle exfoliation. With continued use, you’ll find a noticeable difference in your skin tone and texture. Apply the skin brightening serum, focusing on areas with hyperpigmentation or dark spots. This serum is packed with brightening vitamin C and gives the skin a sought-after glow.

Olay Luminous Miracle Boost Concentrate

“My dark spots have reduced significantly.” It contains 15% vitamin C to help lighten dark spots, smooth fine lines and minimize the appearance of pores. It also uses marine extracts to prevent new dark spots from forming as it improves your skin’s overall brightness and tone. Alongside firsthand testing across our beauty editors , we asked board-certified dermatologists for their tried-and-tried picks that they recommend to patients to select the best topical skin-care products containing vitamin C. Ahead, the best vitamin C serums for an even skin tone and a glowy, radiant finish. This fragrance-free serum from Olay is formulated with protective antioxidants, such as niacinamide and vitamin C, that brighten and even out complexion.

We couldn’t get over both the price point and how well this serum worked. It left our complexion glowy and hydrated right away, improved texture after a day, evened out our skin tone, and boosted overall radiance after a few weeks. While we did like the light grapefruit scent, it does bear mentioning that this does contain fragrance. If you’re an avid fan of natural, vegan-friendly cosmetics you may like this natural brightening serum. It’s made with 72% organic ingredients in a very lightweight formula that can work especially well for combination and oily skin.

Dr. Yadav explains that because vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient, it can be used topically in many different forms, including face serums. Boasting a unique oil-serum hybrid formula, the Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum refines the look of pores as it immerses your skin in brightening camellia oil, sea buckthorn extract, chamomile extract and vitamin E. As it increases your skin’s radiance, this antioxidant-rich serum also locks in hydration and smoothes away unwanted texture. Vitamin C serums don’t always provide a ton of hydration, but if you’re looking for one that truly pumps up the moisture, this is the one we recommend for you. The formula feels like a typical, lightweight face oil—as opposed to some vitamin C serums that have a grittier texture—and it nourishes the skin in addition to providing all of the wonderful antioxidant benefits.

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll prefer the fragrance-free options we’ve included, but if you don’t, you might want a nicely scented product. That’s why we mention the fragrance in the “Quick Facts” section of every review. Stronger pigmentation-lightening ingredients like vitamin C or retinol are highly unstable. When exposed to light and air, those ingredients degrade quickly and lose their effectiveness. In our reviews, we discuss how stable these serums are, whether through packaging or formulation. There are some amazing ingredients out there that combat pigmentation and give the skin a glow!

Theresa Holland is a seasoned commerce writer specializing in cosmetics. For this roundup, she considered dozens of products, evaluating each serum on its active ingredients, skin-feel, and value. She combined dermatologist recommended picks with insights from product testers and hours of research to compile this roundup. Animal lovers who steer clear of anything containing animal or animal-derived ingredients will love this clean, cruelty-free formula.

Visible results can take a few months to show up, but if your skin doesn’t respond well to vitamin C, it’s one of the best alternatives. The brightening effect comes from 10% ascorbic acid, which is the most potent form of vitamin C. While the amount isn’t huge, it’s enough to have an effect on hyperpigmentation. As we wait patiently for spas to reopen, Bliss is bringing the benefits of their signature facials straight home to us. The company’s brightening and protecting serum combines soothing vitamin C with anti-aging tri-peptides to visibly repair your skin’s surface while promoting a glowy complexion. Vitamin C is essential for collagen production and protection of the skin barrier.

While we didn’t necessarily see instant results, it did definitely leave our skin more luminous and firmer in the long run—so much so that we could even start wearing less makeup. No list of our favorite serums would be complete without this offering from SkinCeuticals. As its moniker suggests, it’s a magical blend of vitamins C and E, plus ferulic acid that helps to transform and even skin tone both instantly and over time, leaving behind an impeccable glow. This gets rid of damaged or pigmented skin cells and allows other brightening serums to penetrate more deeply into the skin.

After just a week or two, we recognized a real difference in the brightness of our skin, noting that our complexions looked more radiant even when we weren’t wearing it. Overall, it helped us achieve more luminous, healthy, and youthful-looking skin. Those who have dryer skin and/or love skincare oils should try this winner. Melanie Rud is a Chicago-based writer with 10 years of experience covering beauty. She covers all things skincare for Byrdie, from ingredients to acne advice.

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