What do acne scars, sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and dull skin have in common? These might seem like separate issues, but they all boil down to two basic concerns: uneven skin tone and texture. And skin brightening products are the ones that will combat these problems. Here we explain what brightening means, when you need to use brightening products, and provide recommendations on exactly what to use.
Brightening might seem irrelevant to your life or just plain confusing, but it’s a term you need to know if you’re dealing with any one of the issues above. Chances are, when you’re shopping for skin care products, you’re focused on very specific concerns that you treat as distinct issues. So you type in things like “acne” and “hyperpigmentation” separately in the search function and see what products pop up instead of realizing that what you need is overall brightening.
Many Korean brightening products come with the label “whitening“, which despite being an issue of translation and a cultural gap, also makes brightening seem confusing, if not straight up offensive.
What does brightening mean?
Ultimately, brightening means evening out your skin tone and texture. Brightening products help get rid of dead skin cells and fade spots and blemishes, giving you clearer complexion and smoother skin. So if you have acne scars, sun spots, hyperpigmentation, or dull skin, those are very clear signs that you need brightening.
You should use skin brightening products all year long.
You don’t need to wait until you have sun spots or scarring to incorporate brightening into your routine. Nor do you have to wait until springtime, which might feel like the time to invest in products to wake up dull winter skin. In fact, brightening every day, no matter what time in the year, is the best tactic to make your skin clear and smooth all year round.
This is because our skin is not only affected by seasonal or periodical (!) moments but also constantly under damage from UV rays, pollution, and if we’re really honest, our bad skin care habits. So even though there are explicit signs that say you need brightening, it’s best to incorporate brightening products into your routine every day of the year.
You don’t always need a product to brighten your skin.
Technically, there is a natural way to brighten your skin: hitting the gym. Even though you may be surprised by how red your face seems after a workout, exercise stimulates blood flow throughout your body and helps release toxins, with results in clearer, brighter skin over time.
But if your identity is tied to the couch and you exercise only when prompted by a family member (which is my case), you can always take baby steps and start with facial massages, which you can do when you’re cleansing or moisturizing your face. Or you can try facial exercises. They won’t be the same as going to the gym, but they get at least some of your muscles moving.
The power of essences.
If you love products, you have the most choices in essences. Vitamin C is well-known to fade spots and brighten skin, and you can find it in the Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C Serum or the Skinfood Yuja Water C Whitening Ampoule.
And an exciting newcomer in the brightening world is white truffle, which you can find in the Neogen White Truffle Serum in Oil Drop. Or if you’re into fermented products like I am, you can try the Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence or the Cosrx Galactomyces 95 Whitening Power Essence, both of which made my skin tone more even in two weeks.
Other great brightening ingredients:
Essences aren’t the only step where you can introduce brightening ingredients into your routine. Snail mucin repairs damaged skin, so using a moisturizer or a sleeping pack with snail mucin like the Missha Cell Renew Snail Cream and the Missha Super Aqua Cell Renew Snail Sleeping Pack can fade acne scars and spots, making your skin look more even.
Chemical exfoliators like the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling in Lemon or physical ones like the Goodal Natural Clear Mild Peeling Gel get rid of dead skin cells so your skin can be smoother and brighter. You can also find sheet masks and cleansers with brightening pearl extracts, like the Klavuu White Pearlisation line. And of course, you can’t forget SPF, which makes your skin tone more even by preventing sun damage, as Sarah from 2hearts1seoul has experienced.
You can craft an entire routine dedicated to brightening or choose one product depending on what you have in stock already. Or you can hit the gym and see how that affects your skin. Brightening comes in a variety of ways, and it might be exactly what you need to focus on to maintain clear, smooth skin.