The 5 Best Brightening Serums

By Marissa DeSantis

A complexion that's bright and glowing — which, in beauty terms, has nothing to do with the lightness of skin, but everything to do with clarity — is a common skin care goal. The most effective way to achieve that healthy, lit-from-within skin is by using one of the best brightening serums, which are loaded with ingredients that can fade hyperpigmentation, reduce inflammation, and prevent future damage, so your skin stays clear and healthy in the long-term.

For the best results, there are actually quite a few key ingredients to look for in a brightening serum. Vitamin C is one of the most popular choices because of its ability to brighten, firm, and even out skin while shielding it from external stressors, like pollution. Ferulic acid is often added into brightening serums as well, because in addition to being rich in antioxidants itself, it also boosts the efficacy of vitamin C.

Other brightening ingredients that are more suited for acne-prone skin types are azelaic acid, lactic acid, and retinol. Not only do they help to reduce breakouts by increasing cell turnover and unclogging pores, but they also work to fade unwanted scarring, leaving you with a more even looking skin tone.

Ahead, you'll find five of the best brightening serums — whether you're looking to treat hyperpigmentation from sun damage clear up redness, or just encourage overall radiance.

1. Best Drugstore Brightening Serum

For a drugstore option, this L’Orèal Paris brightening serum gets the dermatologist stamp of approval for its efficacy. Formulated without fragrances, parabens, mineral oil, or synthetic dyes, this serum contains 10 percent pure vitamin C to fade dark spots and even out skin tone. To help prevent the vitamin C from breaking down, L’Orèal formulated their serum without water, and they packaged it in an air-tight metal tube that's sealed until you use it to minimize exposure to light and air.

2. Best Brightening Serum For Redness

If you have acne-prone skin and you're looking to reduce blemishes as well as the redness and inflammation that comes along with them, Paula's Choice 10% Azelaic Acid Booster is the brightening serum for you. While azelaic acid helps to brighten, even out pigmentation, and improve skin tone, it also helps unclog pores and works as an anti-inflammatory to reduce redness and irritation.

To further help banish blemishes, this Paula's Choice serum also contains 0.5 percent salicylic acid, which dives deep into clogged pores to dissolve dead skin cells that cause acne. Skin-soothing and hydrating ingredients like licorice root extract (which also helps fade dark spots), allantoin, and glycerin are also added to this lightweight, oil-free formula.

3. Best High-End Brightening Serum

New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross developed this brightening serum that combines ferulic acid with several complexion-improving ingredients to boost its effectiveness. In addition to retinol, which helps increase skin cell turnover, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare's Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution contains licorice root extract to lighten dark spots, as well as bearberry extract, which corrects hyperpigmentation.

Amazon users note that it works fast to improve the skin's texture and clarity. "I have melasma, and I've tried a ton of products and spent a small fortune on laser treatments to try to get rid of those brown spots," writes one Amazon reviewer. "This product doesn't irritate my skin or cause breakouts, and my brown spots are less noticeable."

4. Best All-Natural Brightening Serum

Although vitamin C is the main ingredient, Mad Hippie loaded up this serum with other effective natural ingredients. Ferulic acid is included in the formulation to boost the skin-evening powers of vitamins C and E. Meanwhile, hyaluronic acid helps hydrate and plump skin, while konjac root, chamomile extract, and clary sage protect, soothe, and clarify skin for an all-around healthy complexion.

Writes one Amazon user, "Within a week or so, I saw a smoother texture to my skin. By the end of the bottle, my skin definitely looked smoother, brighter, and three darker spots on my face (sun damage) were at least 80 percent lighter."

5. Also Great: A French Pharmacy Brightening Serum

Caudalie's products are known for using ingredients found in grapes and their vines to deliver benefits to the skin, and the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum is no exception. The star of the show here is viniferine, a natural extract of grapevine sap, which is said to be 62 percent more effective than vitamin C when it comes to brightening. According to Caudalie, girls working in the vineyards used to rub grapevine sap onto their faces and hands to reduce dark spots. While the viniferine works to lighten dark spots and naturally brighten, olive squalane, which is also included in the formula, leaves skin moisturized.

Amazon users rave that this serum works fast to fade dark spots without irritating skin. "You really can tell a difference in your complexion within a few days," writes one Amazon user. "It’s very silky and smooth, doesn’t leave any oily texture, and I don’t even use moisturizer after it."

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