The best brightening treatment

Oral Care

Picking out a brightening treatment can help you achieve glowing skin without the application of makeup.

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Which brightening treatments are best? 

When you’re putting together the perfect look, applying your favorite highlighter or bronzer is usually at the top of your list for the ultimate finish. Sometimes, finding the best makeup product can be an expensive, time-consuming hassle. Instead, picking out a brightening treatment can help you achieve glowing skin without the application of makeup.

The best brightening treatment for you will depend on your skin type, sensitivity and overall desired results. For instance, if you have sensitive skin with a few dark spots, then the Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum would be an ideal purchase for you.

What to know before you buy a brightening treatment

Brightening Serums

With a thinner texture, brightening serums usually dissolve more readily into skin compared to other treatments that use different application techniques. Applying it right after you cleanse your skin will yield the best results and allow for maximum absorption. Some serums are only meant for use once a day, while others can be applied during the day and at night without any adverse effects.

Brightening moisturizers are also great for those who may need an extra dose of hydration for their skin, and they can be used twice a day. Both formulas are effective at locking moisture in skin, so they may not be the best option for those with oily skin.

Brightening peels

Also known as exfoliators, brightening peels assist in removing dead skin cells from your skin’s surface for an overall healthy glow. Removal of dead skin also helps fade dark spots and other blemishes on the skin. While some products sit on the skin briefly before being washed off, others may be used as an overnight treatment before you go to bed. Make sure to only use peels one to three times a week.

Brightening masks

Unlike serums and peels, brightening masks are designed to be applied to your skin only for a short period of time before you rinse off the product. Most contain potent ingredients and stronger chemicals, so a quick application is most effective, especially for those who may have more sensitive skin. Masks should only be used one to three times a week for the best results.

For more information, take a look at the full brightening treatment buying guide from BestReviews. 

What to look for in a quality brightening treatment 

Vitamin C

The #1 used ingredient in most brightening treatment formulas is Vitamin C. As a strong antioxidant, Vitamin C helps fight against free radical damage that causes dark spots and premature aging. Its melanin slowing properties can also work well in reducing hyperpigmentation.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)

Derived from plants, AHAs are commonly used for their anti-aging effects. Types such as glycolic and citric acid can help remove dead cells for brighter skin.


Niacinamide can be great for maintaining existing dark spots and preventing new ones from forming. This compound is a water-soluble B Vitamin that slows melanin production at a cellular level for a more even skin tone.

How much you can expect to spend on brightening treatments

Brightening treatments vary in price, depending on the type of product, ingredient quality and bottle size. Some can cost between $3 for less expensive, drugstore brightening treatments to $300 on the most expensive end for high-quality, higher-end treatments.

Brightening treatment FAQ

Are brightening treatments safe for the skin?

A. Although some brightening treatments can contain harsh ingredients, they are safe to use overall. Some irritation may occur, including redness, itching and dryness. See each product’s manufacturer instructions for proper usage.

How long does it take to see results with a brightening treatment?

A. Depending on the condition of your skin, the number of times you use a product and which treatment is used, results will appear at different times. Some may see results within a week of use, while it may take up to three months for other brands to show noticeable results.

What skin types can use brightening treatments?

A. It’s safe for all skin types to use brightening treatments. Oily or acne-prone skin should only use products that don’t contain an oil-based formula, while users that have a drier complexion should look for treatments that encourage hydration through hyaluronic acid.

What are the best brightening treatments to buy?

Top brightening treatment

Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum

Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum 

What you need to know: Sunday Riley is known as one the best products on the market to gently cleanse and brighten. 

What you’ll love: Although great for all skin types, this product works the best for those who have sensitive skin. It can be applied wet or dry, and the oil helps unclog pores and dissolve makeup for a healthier and cleaner complexion. It’s also known to be a great cruelty-free option.

What you should consider: Beware of applying too close to your eyes as it may cause slight stinging.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Top brightening treatment for the money

The Ordinary AHA 30% + 2% Peeling Solution

The Ordinary AHA 30% + 2% Peeling Solution

What you need to know: This quick 10-minute water-based facial treatment helps to exfoliate and fight against blemishes. 

What you’ll love: This product contains glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid, which is great at deeply penetrating pores and the outer layers of skin. It also contains alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids that can aid in reducing skin irregularities and dullness.

What you should consider: This brightening treatment is known to dry out your skin.

Where to buy: Sold by Ulta

Worth checking out



What you need to know: This wash-off brightener leaves your skin brighter and more lustrous. 

What you’ll love: This product is made using rice bran oil, rice bran powder and rice water, which all have smoothing, hydrating and brightening effects on your skin. It can also help support skin cell regeneration.

What you should consider: Some users don’t like the texture of the formula.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Ashton Hughes writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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