As much as we love our go-to highlighters and bronzers, there's nothing better than achieving a lit-from-within glow without any makeup. Aside from staying hydrated, getting enough beauty sleep, and—most importantly—wearing a high-quality sunscreen, one of the best ways you can make this happen is with a top-notch brightening serum. Formulated with potent antioxidants (most commonly vitamin C) and other glow-getting ingredients like vitamin E and glycolic acid, a brightening will help even out your skin tone, lighten and fade dark spots, gently exfoliate, and even reduce free radical formation and prevent future sun damage. What we're saying is: a brightening serum is absolutely crucial in any well-rounded skincare routine, so if you aren't already using one, you need to grab one ASAP. To help you do just that, we're sharing a list of the best brightening serums on the internet, all thanks to our data-driven algorithm that ranks products based on best-selling buzz, editorial mentions, and real user reviews. From Sunday Riley to SkinCeuticals, keep scrolling to shop the serums that will turn your dull, lackluster complexion into the glass-like, glowy skin of your dreams. Opening image: @olehenriksen
Love our 10 Best Brightening Serums? Check out our 10 Best Dark Spot Removers for more top-ranked finds!
June 9, 2020
Top 10 Lists serve as unbiased shopping guides to the most trusted product recommendations on the internet. Products are scored and ranked using an algorithm backed by data consumers find most valuable when making a purchase. We are reader-supported and may earn a commission when you shop through our links.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Serum
WHY YOU NEED IT: This pretty little bottle holds so much more than just vitamin C. It also contains collagen, amino acids, and Dr. Dennis Gross's proprietary energy complex that recharges skin to maximize the power of vitamin C. The result is an immediate boost in radiance and an improvement in wrinkles and dark spots in the long term.
USERS SAID: "This really is a hidden gem. My pores look smaller, and it has evened out my skin tone. I get so many compliments! I have seen the biggest change around my orbital area—it literally picks up sagging skin and I look 10 years younger! I plan on buying the whole line because this serum has made such a difference."
Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Brightening Serum
LOVED FOR: Brightness-boosting results aside, this serum can do some serious work on wrinkles thanks to Dr. Perricone's proprietary Vitamin C Ester. While addressing dark spots and blemishes, it also helps smooth the look of crow's feet around the eyes and feathering on the lips.
HELPFUL TIP: Dab a little on your lips before lipstick application. You'll thank us later for this.
Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C +10% AHA
WHAT IT DOES: This unique serum not only addresses brightness thanks to a whopping 20% vitamin C, but it also contains mild AHAs derived from apple, grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime, hawthorn, and jujube to improve the skin's texture and radiance too.
FROM THE EXPERTS: You'll see smoother, more radiant skin in one week, a visible improvement in overall tone in four weeks, and an improvement in skin texture and fine lines in eight.
Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum
BEST FOR: While most brightening serums address discoloration in some way, Caudalie's Vinoperfect Radiance Serum is formulated specifically for that. Powered by viniferine (a fancy name for grapevine sap) and olive squalene, the lightweight formula corrects dark spots, acne scars, pigmentation, and sunspots after just a few applications.
FUN FACT: This serum is proven to be 62 times more effective than vitamin C. Yeah, we said it.
Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Brightening Serum
WHAT IT DOES: Meant to harness the key components of a K-beauty routine—brightening, exfoliation, and hydration—this cute little serum is quite the multi-tasker. With three forms of vitamin C (including 22% pineapple juice) to brighten, AHAs and bromelain enzymes to gently exfoliate, and hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, aloe, and chamomile to moisturize and soothe, this impressive serum will leave you with that smooth, reflective, glass-skin look.
USERS SAID: "This is amazing. I noticed a difference within a week of using it. My dark spots are a lot smaller, my face is so much brighter, and my friends even noticed a difference without me telling them I changed anything. It is so lightweight and easy to put on, and the pineapple smells so good!"
Ole Henriksen Truth Serum
BEST FOR: If you're looking for a quick fix, consider Truth Serum your new BFF. Supercharged with Ole Henriksen's True-C Complex and boosted with collagen, the coveted formula helps hydrate, brighten, and visibly firm fast.
USERS SAID: "I cannot live without this. The glow it gives is beyond crazy! I get done with my routine and seriously wonder why I should even put on makeup! I'm all about prevention, and I'm already seeing a serious difference in my fine lines. The smell is also pure joy—like a subtle orange farm in my bathroom. Love this!"
Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum
WHY YOU NEED IT: There's a reason this cult-favorite brightening serum comes with a high price tag. Infused with the gold standard of vitamin C—tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate—which is both highly stable and oil-soluble, the formula rapidly absorbs into the skin for enhanced tone, clarity, and visible brightening.
LOVED FOR: Unlike most vitamin C serums, this one has a thicker, richer consistency—almost like a moisturizer—that instantly melts into the skin.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
WHAT IT DOES: Loved by derms and celebs alike, this award-winning serum is one of the most popular of the bunch. Aside from 15% vitamin C, it contains 1% vitamin E and .5% ferulic acid to help expertly even out hyperpigmentation. On top of that, It also prevents damage throughout the day by neutralizing free radicals caused by UVA and UVB rays, infrared radiation, and pollution.
WHY WE LOVE IT: "I have a handful of skincare products that I can’t live without, but if I had to pick one, it would be SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic. This product is hands down the best vitamin C serum on the market and has completely transformed my skin. I never go to sleep without slathering it all over my face knowing that I will wake up with tighter and brighter skin."—Jamie Chandlee, Chief Executive Officer
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
BEST FOR: Formulated with an impressive roster of high-quality ingredients like vitamin C, ferulic acid, pumpkin, and pomegranate, this game-changing serum is perfect for those with sensitive skin. The clear gel has a cool, soothing feel, which can instantly calm even the most inflamed, irritated complexions.
HELPFUL TIP: Need something to justify that price tag? Here it is: C-Firma has a reservoir effect on the skin, so it will work for up to 72 hours without washing or rubbing off.
Murad Rapid Age Spot And Pigment Lightening Serum
LOVED FOR: Formulated with 2% hydroquinone (the highest percentage available without a prescription), glycolic acid, and vitamin C, this lightening serum can erase even the darkest spots in just one week. Yes, one.
HELPFUL TIP: Skin lightening treatments like this one can be counteracted by UV rays, so we recommend using a high-quality sunscreen immediately after application.
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