The Brighter Skin Guide

One of my biggest struggles with my skin is dullness. No matter how much water I drink or how much sleep I get, it still always looks a little lackluster to me. As a result, I've become quite the collector of brightening skincare, so I thought I'd put together a handy little guide of my favorite products from different categories, depending on what step of your skincare routine you'd like to get your brightening from.

CLEANSER | I typically don't look to my cleansers to do any brightening for me, so I only actually have one at the moment that would fall into this category. The Farmacy New Day Gentle Exfoliating Grains* is a powder that you can mix with water (or another cleanser - I love mixing it with the Glossier Milky Jelly) to create a mild scrub that gently polishes away dead skin. It feels so refreshing in the morning and leaves my skin glowing, but not red. If your skin is typically too sensitive for manual scrubs but you've been wanting to try one anyway, I'd start here.

TONER | I couldn't talk about my favorite brightening products without mentioning the Pixi Glow Tonic, now could I? I've been through countless bottles of the stuff, and I can always tell a difference when I go a few days without it. I typically use this at night and wake up to super glowy and peppy skin. When used consistently, I've definitely noticed it evening out my skintone and clearing up old acne marks.

ESSENCE | While the concept of essences is no longer new to me, I'm only just getting around to using them consistently in my routine. They're meant to be used after a toner to help drive other products into the skin better and will help hydrate (and usually brighten) the skin over time. I love the Cremorlab Mineral Treatment Essence - it's a cult product for a reason. I've really noticed it helping how hydrated my skin stays throughout the day. This one is specifically a favorite because it's so effective and yet so gentle. It uses thermal mineral water to hydrate and nourish the skin as well as floral extracts and niacinamide to brighten.

MASKS | Masks are where I do the bulk of my brightening, so this is going to be the beefiest paragraph of this post. I typically go for some kind of AHA or enzyme mask to chemically exfoliate and brighten the skin. For nighttime I'll go for more heavy-duty masks - they can leave my skin a little flushed, so I'd prefer to give my skin the night to recover. My favorite heavyweights are the Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask (review) and The Godmother Mask* from Complex Beauty (review). They're both pretty similar - they smell like pumpkin pie and really pack a punch is sloughing off dead skin. I still love using effective products in the morning, but they're usually a bit gentler. They're perfect for a morning after a late night. For a rushed morning I'll use the Blithe Energy Yellow Citrus & Honey Patting Water Pack (review) - it literally takes 15 seconds in the shower, so there's really no excuse not to use it. It instantly smooths out the skin. I also love the Rose Glow Mask* from Complex Beauty - it's a cooling gel mask that mixes the gentle hydration of rosewater with the brightening prowess of glycolic acid. This feels pretty gentle on my skin because of the rosewater, so I can use it in the morning without redness. I also really really love the Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask. I use this one interchangeably in the morning and at night, but it really shines in the morning. This will give you an instant "just had a facial" glow - this would be my first choice before a big event.

VITAMIN C SERUM | One of my skin's favorite brightening ingredients is Vitamin C. Maybe it's because it just makes my skin feel like the equivalent of drinking a big glass of orange juice in the morning, but I think I definitely see a difference in the brightness and radiance of my skin. When I need the big guns, I go directly for the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum. This stuff is seriously amazing and I'd recommend it to anyone. I don't typically use it every morning but rather alternate it with the Glossier Super Glow Serum* (review), which is a gentler option. This also has magnesium to energize and brighten. As long as I use one of these in my morning routine, I know I'll be looking glowy and bright all day long.

MOISTURIZER | I usually go for glow-inducing moisturizers rather than actual brightening ones (although Sunday Riley's Tidal* is a perfect one for that - I unfortunately totally forgot to include it in the photo). My two favorites as of late have been the Glossier Priming Moisturizer (shocker, I know) and the Tata Harper Illuminating Moisturizer. I won't harp on about the Glossier one because I mention it in as many posts as possible and it truly is my favorite daytime moisturizer. But if you're looking for a glow without shimmer, you need it. The Tata Harper is a newer addition and I'm absolutely loving it. It has actual diamond dust infused into it and has a soft warm golden tone to it - it really works to add an incredible radiance to the skin. I will say though that it has a rather strong herbal smell that lingers, so be wary of that. It doesn't bother me though, and while it's not knocking my Glossier off the top spot, it's still my go-to when I wake up to really dull and lackluster skin.

Thanks for sticking around if you're still here - I love me some brightening skincare, so I couldn't really help but write a novel here. I wouldn't use all these products at once, but I thought going through my favorites from each category would be helpful so I could have suggestions whether you wanted to get your brightening in with a mask or moisturizer.

What products do you reach for on dull skin days?

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*Some products mentioned have been sent to me for consideration, but all opinions are my own. Please see my disclaimer for more information.