What Are Brightening Skincare Products Actually Supposed To Do?

Delving into the wonderful world of skincare means having to familiarize yourself with terms that can sometimes be downright confusing. The many products on the market feature ingredients and claims that will have you scratching your head because of how similar they seem — for instance, brightening and lightening products. These may sound the same, but they deliver two distinct results. The goal of lightening products is to reduce hyperpigmentation and discoloration, and in some cases, make your skin lighter than its original color. Meanwhile, brightening is all about bringing out your inner glow. 

If you want to even out your skin tone and reduce the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, reaching out for lightening products is the way to go. But if you want to take it up a notch and want to appear like you've ingested sunshine, make brightening products your best friend. "Brightening refers to a combination of effects to give your skin a radiant glow," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Azadeh Shirazi explained to Byrdie. "Brightening has less to do with pigment and more to do with vibrancy, whereas lightening refers to reducing discoloration and skin pigmentation."

Brightening products deliver skin radiance

You know how some people look like they're glowing 24/7? They probably have a smattering of brightening products in their medicine cabinet. If you want a brighter complexion, you would need to revert your focus to using products that exfoliate, hydrate, and accelerate cell turnover. Vitamin C, for starters, is an excellent brightening product, with Daniel Isaacs, director of research at Medik8, telling Vogue UK that it "promotes a radiant, brighter complexion while boosting collagen production for firmer, more youthful-looking skin." 

Retinol is also a game-changer, as it's proven to facilitate collagen production and speed up cell turnover. You may also want to turn to chemical exfoliators like AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and glycolic acid since they "help loosen the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to shed and reveal newer and healthier cells beneath," explained board-certified dermatologist Tiffany J. Libby to Allure. The result? A glowing complexion that will give the sun a run for its money.

You can brighten your skin without the help of products, too

Now if you don't want to turn to skincare products to achieve a brighter, healthier complexion, you can always bring out your natural glow by sleeping well, maintaining a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

Beauty sleep, as it turns out, is not a myth at all. Sleep deprivation can lead to dull skin and increase your susceptibility to breakouts while getting sufficient shuteye gives your skin more time to rejuvenate itself. "Overnight, skin goes into repair and restore mode, meaning it removes toxins, repairs cell, and DNA damage caused by the environment, replaces aging cells, and creates new ones," Dr. Anna Persaud, a sleep expert shared with Everyday Health. "That's why after good-quality sleep, skin looks fresher, younger, and more radiant." Of course, veering away from fatty food and stuffing yourself with fruits and vegetables can also contribute a great deal to your skin health since they can nourish the skin from within.

And as much as you may hate sweating it out, staying active can make your skin glow, too. "When you work out, your blood is pumping more, which improves the circulation of oxygen and nutrients throughout your body, including your skin and ultimately leads to that post-workout glow," dermatologist Dr. Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae told Self. If moving more isn't an option, though, the least you can do is perform facial exercises. It may not do much in the brightening department, but it can get your blood flowing, and that's a good start.