• 10 Best Brightening Serums in 2022 (Dermatologist-Reviewed) 1
  • 10 Best Brightening Serums in 2022 (Dermatologist-Reviewed) 2
  • 10 Best Brightening Serums in 2022 (Dermatologist-Reviewed) 3
  • 10 Best Brightening Serums in 2022 (Dermatologist-Reviewed) 4
  • 10 Best Brightening Serums in 2022 (Dermatologist-Reviewed) 5

10 Best Brightening Serums in 2022 (Dermatologist-Reviewed)

Frustrated with your skin's dull complexion but don't know how to fix it? In that case, start with a brightening serum! Brightening serums are loaded with glow-getting ingredients that can help blur your blemishes, fight hyperpigmentation, and give your skin a much more radiant look. However, choosing a product might not be an easy task, since there are various brightening ingredients to consider. 


Want more information about brightening serums? Keep reading! Our top ten best brightening serums and buying guide will assist you with your quest of finding that holy-grail product! Evagloss' Natural Skincare Lightening Serum was our favorite for its gentle formula, but find out more about why below.

Featured in this article

Dr. Lauren Levy
mybest US Editors
  • Last updated: 09-11-2022
Table of Contents

What Do Brightening Serums Do?

What Do Brightening Serums Do?

Stress, aging, lack of sleep, and excessive free radical exposure are a few reasons behind fine lines, wrinkles, or a dull-looking complexion. Luckily, a brightening serum can help nourish and take care of your skin! Highly concentrated with well-performing ingredients, serums quickly seep into the layers of your skin to deliver essential nutrients.


Since brightening serums are usually packed with antioxidants such as vitamin C and licorice root extract, they can help correct hyperpigmentation, even out skin tone, and reduce visible blemishes to improve your overall complexion too. Many brightening serums are also infused with moisturizers, such as hyaluronic acid, to leave your skin feeling hydrated, soft, and plump all at the same time! 

What Do Brightening Serums Do?

Also, the amount of elastin, a protein that maintains the elasticity of your skin, will decrease as you get older. Thankfully, many brightening serums are enriched with this protein to help enhance the texture of your skin while preventing premature aging. So if you're looking for a skincare product that can effectively protect your skin from external damage, a brightening serum will do the trick!

Dr. Lauren Levy
Board Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Lauren Levy

All skin types can benefit from a brightening serum. They're extremely versatile, and people of all ages can benefit from them. They are usually nonirritating, even out skin tone, correct hyperpigmentation, and provide sun protection. They can also help those with acne lighten any acne marks, like PIH or PIE. For more aged skin, these serums can help with skin elasticity and fine lines.

How to Choose a Brightening Serum - Buying Guide

When choosing a brightening serum, you should look for ingredients that can blur blemishes and improve your overall complexion. This buying guide will explain in detail what ingredients you might want to choose or avoid before making a purchase!

Look for Ingredients Like Hydroquinone and Vitamin C to Inhibit Melanin Production

Look for Ingredients Like Hydroquinone and Vitamin C to Inhibit Melanin Production

To even out skin tone and reduce hyperpigmentation, it's essential to inhibit the synthesis of melanin, a natural pigment that gives color to your skin. Chemical brightening ingredients such as hydroquinone can effectively hinder the production of melanin. 


But some studies have shown that if used incorrectly, hydroquinone can lead to skin irritation and even ochronosis, a syndrome that can, unfortunately, trigger discoloration. So to brighten up your skin, you can opt for natural alternatives such as arbutin, mulberry extract, and glutathione. 


Vitamin C and its derivatives such as ascorbyl palmitate are also effective in slowing down the production of melanin by inhibiting the activity of tyrosine, an amino acid responsible for catalyzing the pigmentation process. While vitamin C can oxidize quickly, its derivatives are more stable, but also more irritating to the skin for some people.   

Dr. Lauren Levy
Board Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Lauren Levy

Melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation are common problems that especially worsen in the summertime. Serums that have vitamin C, niacinamide, TXA, and arbutin are wonderful and helping to reduce melanin production, the cause of skin pigmentation. 


These serums can be used daily without having to take breaks, and they can also be used in combination with hydroquinone, a stronger bleaching agent. I like to recommend these serums for daily use with sunscreen for the best effect. 


I also recommend them when taking hydroquinone breaks for the treatment of melasma. You can't use hydroquinone indefinitely as it can cause paradoxical hyperpigmentation with the development of ochronosis.

Seek Vitamin E, Kojic Acid, and Exfoliants to Promote Cell Turnover

Seek Vitamin E, Kojic Acid, and Exfoliants to Promote Cell Turnover

A buildup of skin debris is one of the reasons behind dull skin tone and breakouts. To remove the top layer of dead skin cells and reveal your fresh, radiant skin, look for effective exfoliants. Popular exfoliants are glycolic acid, salicylic acid, malic acid, and citric acid.


However, not all exfoliants are suitable for all skin types. If you have sensitive, easily irritated skin, try to avoid abrasive exfoliants such as glycolic acid or beta-hydroxy acids. Instead, choose gentle exfoliants like poly-hydroxy acids or lactic acid. 


For oily or acne-prone skin, a non-pore-clogging exfoliant like salicylic acid might be a great option! Meanwhile, virtually all types of exfoliants work for those with dry, normal, or mature skin. For extra benefits, you might want to combine exfoliants with moisturizing ingredients and antioxidants.

Dr. Lauren Levy
Board Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Lauren Levy

If you have rosacea, avoid serums with glycolic or salicylic acid as these can trigger facial redness and flushing. For oily or acne-prone skin, these exfoliators can help clean out the pores and reduce whiteheads and blackheads. Make sure you use these exfoliating serums with a daily SPF as they can make you more likely to burn.

Seek Vitamin E, Kojic Acid, and Exfoliants to Promote Cell Turnover

Vitamin E, kojic acid, coenzymeQ10 (or coQ10), niacinamide, and retinol are some other ingredients that can promote skin cell turnover for smoother and healthier skin. They can improve the elasticity and texture of your skin as well as remove blemishes like dark spots or acne scars. 


They also help reduce photodamage, a type of skin irritation from sun exposure that often leads to abnormal skin pigmentation.

Neutralize Free Radical Damage and Calm Inflammation With Antioxidants

Neutralize Free Radical Damage and Calm Inflammation With Antioxidants

Free radicals are unstable atoms that can harm cells, and we are exposed to them through UV rays and pollution. Excessive exposure can accelerate skin aging and make your skin appear dull or blotchy. Plus, free radical exposure can also lead to blemishes, premature wrinkles, and fine lines. If that's not enough, free radical damage is also the cause of hyperpigmentation!


So to protect your skin from oxidative damages of free radicals, look for antioxidants such as vitamin C and niacinamide. Those antioxidants can stimulate collagen production and allow the skin to restore itself, thus giving you a smooth, youthful look. Antioxidants also contain potent anti-inflammatory properties that can effectively heal blemishes. 

Dr. Lauren Levy
Board Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Lauren Levy

Antioxidants are a great addition to a brightening serum because they can help prevent sun damage. They should be used daily under a facial SPF for best results.

Improve Overall Complexion With Hydrators Like Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin

Improve Overall Complexion With Hydrators Like Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin

A weak skin barrier won't be able to protect your skin against free radical damage. This weakness makes it much more vulnerable to pigmentation, acne breakouts, and wrinkles. So to strengthen your dermal barrier, it's important to keep your skin hydrated at all times


Moisturizing ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerine, ceramides, and squalane, can deliver long-lasting hydration without blocking pores. These properties make these ingredients suitable for all skin types, including acne-prone, sensitive, and oily skin. 

Improve Overall Complexion With Hydrators Like Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin

Jojoba oil, aloe vera, and olive oil are also gentle on your skin and will keep dryness at bay! And if you don't mind comedogenic ingredients, coconut, avocado, and almond oil are some ultra-hydrating options that supply your skin with fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to improve your overall complexion.

Dr. Lauren Levy
Board Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Lauren Levy

Hyaluronic acid is one of my favorite ingredients to add to a serum since it provides skin hydration and can make the skin immediately look smoother and brighter. A hyaluronic acid serum can be mixed with your daily moisturizer for that extra-dewy look.

Avoid Ingredients That Don't Match Your Skin Type

All skin types work differently. And some ingredients that are safe for one skin type might not work for another. Continue reading to know what ingredients to avoid for certain skin types! 

Keep Away From Fragrance, Exfoliants, and More for Dry and Sensitive Skin

Keep Away From Fragrance, Exfoliants, and More for Dry and Sensitive Skin

When looking at the ingredient list for a serum, you will probably find various preservatives and additives. Even if they are considered generally safe and non-toxic, they might still trigger irritation or breakouts for some people. This may be a particular concern for those with sensitive skin. 


Isopropyl myristate and fragrance can clog pores and lead to acne inflammation. Alcohol, a commonly used preservative, can damage the skin's protective barrier and cause moisture loss. This results in dehydrated or cracked skin

Keep Away From Fragrance, Exfoliants, and More for Dry and Sensitive Skin

As mentioned earlier, not all exfoliants are suitable for dry or sensitive skin. Some are too harsh for your skin and might cause allergic reactions. Therefore, it's better to look for gentle exfoliants like salicylic acid, mandelic acid, poly-hydroxy acids, or lactic acid.


In case you're not sure if the product is compatible with your skin, try to do a patch test first! This involves testing a small amount of product on your wrist so you can see if your skin reacts negatively. 

Dr. Lauren Levy
Board Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Lauren Levy

Look for fragrance-free serums if you have a history of contact dermatitis or eczema. Fragrances are known triggers for skin reactions. If you have dry skin, look for an oil-based serum to provide hydration and prevent further drying out the skin.

Avoid Comedogenic Ingredients Like Coconut and Algae for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

Avoid Comedogenic Ingredients Like Coconut and Algae for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

If you have acne-prone and oily skin, avoid ingredients that might clog pores and cause breakouts like algae extract or myristic acid. Instead, look for ingredients with strong anti-inflammatory properties like niacinamide. It can help minimize the appearance of your pores, regulate sebum production, and alleviate the redness associated with acne. 


Vitamin C is another great ingredient for oily and acne-prone skin. Just like niacinamide, it exerts great anti-inflammatory activity to soothe inflammation caused by acne. Another bonus is that it can enhance your skin's complexion! 

10 Best Brightening Serums

Here's a list of the top ten best brightening serums that are highly recommended by reviewers on Amazon and Sephora. We made our choices based on the points listed in the buying guide below, as well as reviewer comments when available. Hopefully, you'll find the right product for you here!


*Please note that these products were chosen after extensive research by mybest writers. The choices are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Dr. Lauren Levy.

Image
Origins  GinZing Into the Glow Brightening Serum  1

Origins

Rose Inc  Radiant Reveal Clean Brightening Vitamin C Serum  1

Rose Inc

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 1

Tatcha

CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum 1

CeraVe

Dear, Klairs  Lightening Serum 1

Dear, Klairs

L'Oreal Paris  Revitalift 10% Pure Glycolic Acid  1

L'Oreal Paris

Josie Maran Argan Bright Skin Vitamin C Serum 1

Josie Maran

Andalou Naturals Turmeric + C Enlighten Serum 1

Andalou Naturals

Cos De BAHA  Niacinamide 10% Serum 1

Cos De BAHA

Name

GinZing Into the Glow Brightening Serum

Radiant Reveal Clean Brightening Vitamin C Serum

Violet-C Brightening Serum

Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum

Lightening Serum

Revitalift 10% Pure Glycolic Acid

Argan Bright Skin Vitamin C Serum

Turmeric + C Enlighten Serum

Niacinamide 10% Serum

Features

Best for Promoting Skin Cell Turnover for Healthier Skin

Best for Reducing Skin Blemishes Like Wrinkles

Best for Treating Hyperpigmentation and Blurring Dark Spots

Best for Hydrating and Softening the Skin

Best Korean Serum for Making the Skin Smooth and Youthful

Best for Removing Dead Skin Cells Without Causing Irritation

Best for Protecting the Skin Against Free Radical Damage

Best for Evening Out the Skin Tone

Best Gentle Formula for Sensitive Skin

Price$44.00$72.00$88.00$15.69$22.00$17.65$65.00$15.29$9.99
Brightening ingredientsVitamin CVitamin CVitamin CVitamin CVitamin C Vitamin CVitamin CTurmeric root extract, vitamin CNiacinamide
ExfoliantsGrapefruit peel oil, lemon peel oil, orange peel oil, pyruvic acid, salicylic acid Not provided Apple fruit extract, grapefruit fruit extract, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, lactic acid Not providedGrapefruit fruit extract Glycolic acid Not providedOrange peel oil, tangerine peel oil Not provided
Antioxidants Spearmint leaf oil, ginseng root extract, coffee seed extract, caffeine, oat kernel extractCaprylic/capric triglyceride, sunflower seed oil, bitter orange flower oil, sea fennel extractLicorice root extract, Japanese angelica rootPanthenolCica extract, lavender oil, broccoli extract, golden chamomile extract, anise fruit extractAloe vera Rice bran, marshmallow root, licorice root, argan oil, rapeseed oilCocoa seed butter, sunflower seed oil, rosehip fruit oil, evening primrose oil, white tea leaf extract, sea buckthorn fruit oilZinc, aloe vera, rosemary extract, eucalyptus extract, licorice extract
Hydrating ingredientsHyaluronic acid, squalane, glycerin Squalane, glycerin, hyaluronic acid Hyaluronic acid, rice ferment filtrate, glycerin Glycerin, dimethicone, 3 types of ceramides, hyaluronic acid Hyaluronic acid, cica extractHyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe vera Olive fruit oil, argan oil, dunaliella salina extract Aloe vera, glycerin, squalane, panthenolAloe vera, glycerin, hyaluronic acid
Skin typeDry, combination, oilyDry, combination, oily All skin types All skin typesDryDryDry, sensitiveDry, combination, oilyDry, sensitive
Amount1 oz. 1 oz. 1 oz. 1 oz. 1.18 oz. 1 oz. 0.85 oz. 1.1 oz. 1 oz.
Link

Origins GinZing Into the Glow Brightening Serum

$44.00

Brightening ingredientsVitamin C
ExfoliantsGrapefruit peel oil, lemon peel oil, orange peel oil, pyruvic acid, salicylic acid
Antioxidants Spearmint leaf oil, ginseng root extract, coffee seed extract, caffeine, oat kernel extract
Hydrating ingredientsHyaluronic acid, squalane, glycerin
Skin typeDry, combination, oily
Amount1 oz.

Rose Inc Radiant Reveal Clean Brightening Vitamin C Serum

$72.00

Brightening ingredientsVitamin C
ExfoliantsNot provided
Antioxidants Caprylic/capric triglyceride, sunflower seed oil, bitter orange flower oil, sea fennel extract
Hydrating ingredientsSqualane, glycerin, hyaluronic acid
Skin typeDry, combination, oily
Amount1 oz.

TatchaViolet-C Brightening Serum

$88.00

Brightening ingredientsVitamin C
ExfoliantsApple fruit extract, grapefruit fruit extract, orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice, lactic acid
Antioxidants Licorice root extract, Japanese angelica root
Hydrating ingredientsHyaluronic acid, rice ferment filtrate, glycerin
Skin typeAll skin types
Amount1 oz.
Brightening ingredientsVitamin C
ExfoliantsNot provided
Antioxidants Panthenol
Hydrating ingredientsGlycerin, dimethicone, 3 types of ceramides, hyaluronic acid
Skin typeAll skin types
Amount1 oz.

Dear, Klairs Lightening Serum

$22.00

Brightening ingredientsVitamin C
ExfoliantsGrapefruit fruit extract
Antioxidants Cica extract, lavender oil, broccoli extract, golden chamomile extract, anise fruit extract
Hydrating ingredientsHyaluronic acid, cica extract
Skin typeDry
Amount1.18 oz.

L'Oreal Paris Revitalift 10% Pure Glycolic Acid

$17.65

Brightening ingredientsVitamin C
ExfoliantsGlycolic acid
Antioxidants Aloe vera
Hydrating ingredientsHyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe vera
Skin typeDry
Amount1 oz.

Josie MaranArgan Bright Skin Vitamin C Serum

$65.00

Brightening ingredientsVitamin C
ExfoliantsNot provided
Antioxidants Rice bran, marshmallow root, licorice root, argan oil, rapeseed oil
Hydrating ingredientsOlive fruit oil, argan oil, dunaliella salina extract
Skin typeDry, sensitive
Amount0.85 oz.

Andalou NaturalsTurmeric + C Enlighten Serum

$15.29

Brightening ingredientsTurmeric root extract, vitamin C
ExfoliantsOrange peel oil, tangerine peel oil
Antioxidants Cocoa seed butter, sunflower seed oil, rosehip fruit oil, evening primrose oil, white tea leaf extract, sea buckthorn fruit oil
Hydrating ingredientsAloe vera, glycerin, squalane, panthenol
Skin typeDry, combination, oily
Amount1.1 oz.

Cos De BAHA Niacinamide 10% Serum

$9.99

Brightening ingredientsNiacinamide
ExfoliantsNot provided
Antioxidants Zinc, aloe vera, rosemary extract, eucalyptus extract, licorice extract
Hydrating ingredientsAloe vera, glycerin, hyaluronic acid
Skin typeDry, sensitive
Amount1 oz.

Insta NaturalDark Spot Corrector

$19.99

Brightening ingredientsNiacinamide
ExfoliantsGlycolic acid, lactic acid
Antioxidants Ginger root culture conditioned media, green tea leaf culture conditioned media, witch hazel extract
Hydrating ingredientsPropanediol, polyglutamic acid
Skin typeDry, combination, oily
Amount1 oz.

Frequently Asked Questions

Given the plethora of brightening serums available online, it's truly tough to find a product that works for you. If you still have some questions regarding brightening serums, continue reading this section! Here, we answer two of the most commonly asked questions. 

When should I use brightening serum?

You should use a brightening serum twice a daily: once in the morning and once at night. It should be applied after cleansing, but before your moisturizer for optimal efficacy. 

What causes hyperpigmentation?

Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition triggered by excess melanin production. Melanin is a natural skin pigment that determines the color of your skin, and an increase in melanin production can make your skin become darker. 


There are many factors that can lead to an increase in melanin. Excess sun exposure, acne scars, and hormone changes are some of the common causes. 

Other Skincare Products to Improve Your Complexion

There's way more out there than just the 10 serums on this list that can help improve your complexion. Here are even more great options, with some being tested in our Tokyo office!

Dermatologist's Go-To Brightening Serum for Hyperpigmentation

Along with our top 10 choices that were researched in-house, Dr. Levy also generously gave us a recommendation for her favorite brightening serum for hyperpigmentation!

SkinCeuticalsDiscoloration Defense

$98.00

Brightening ingredientsTranexamic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide
ExfoliantsHEPES
Antioxidants -
Hydrating ingredientsGlycerin, allantoin, caprylyl glycol
Skin typeDry, normal, oily, combination
Amount1 fl. oz.

Buying Guide Reviewed by Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Lauren Levy

Dr. Lauren Levy
Board Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Lauren Levy

This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.

Author: Thuy Nguyen

Updated by: Thuy Nguyen, 11/11/2021


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