How to Make Skin Look Brighter
Don’t let dry, dull-looking skin get the best of you, or your complexion. From using the right facial cleanser to exfoliation to faking it until you make it correcting concealers and shimmering highlighters, we share nine ways to illuminate your skin for a brighter, more radiant-looking complexion, ahead.
CLEANSE WITH A BRIGHTENING FACE WASH
The first step in any skin care routine is cleanser, and before you go to town with the skin brightening tips and tricks ahead, you’ll first want to try cleansing your complexion with a face wash formulated with dry, dull skin types in mind. Choosing the right cleanser for your skin can help your skin look brighter over time.
What To Use: If you are experiencing a loss of radiance on your complexion’s surface, we recommend reaching for a facial cleanser that can help restore said radiance and illuminate the complexion. One of our favorite face washes that’s up for the job is Garnier’s SkinActive Clearly Brighter Argan Nut Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser. Formulated with antioxidant-rich vitamin C, sustainably sourced argan nut shell, and a multi-fruit acid blend, this drugstore cleanser can help refine the look of pores, help you achieve a more even-looking skin tone, and wash away dirt, debris, and makeup in one simple step.
For more on Garnier’s SkinActive Clearly Brighter Argan Nut Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser ($7.99 MSRP), see our full product review, here.
EXFOLIATE YOUR SKIN 1-2 TIMES A WEEK
When it comes to promoting a bright looking complexion, exfoliating the dead skin cell buildup on your skin’s surface is key. A buildup of dead skin cells can make surface skin look and feel dry, creating the illusion of a dull complexion. Sloughing off the buildup with a gentle exfoliant can help rid your complexion of drab-looking dry skin, it can also help your skin brightening serums and moisturizers do their jobs.
What To Use: To slough off dead skin cell buildup from skin’s surface, we recommend reaching for The Body Shop’s Vitamin C Glow Reveal Liquid Peel. Formulated with vitamin C-rich camu camu from the Amazonian Rainforest in peru, this at-home facial peel can work to exfoliate dull, tired, grumpy-looking skin for a brighter, more rejuvenated-looking finish. If chemical exfoliators aren’t your thing, you may want to give physical exfoliants a try. One of our favorites is Kiehl’s Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub. The unique exfoliator is suitable for all skin types and is formulated with apricot seed powder to exfoliate rough, dry skin cells from the surface of the skin.
For more on Kiehl’s Pineapple Papaya Facial Scrub ($28 MSRP), see our full product review, here.
APPLY A BRIGHTENING SERUM
Exfoliation isn’t the only thing that can promote a brighter-looking complexion. Applying a concentrated serum that is formulated with ingredients like kojic acid to help give your complexion a boost of hydration and radiance. We love serums for their ability to target specific concerns—such as, dull-looking skin—and brightening serums are at the top of our must-have list for achieving a brighter, more even-looking skin tone.
What To Use: As far as brightening facial serums go, we recommend SkinCeuticals Phyto+ serum, as it is formulated for all skin types and its formula is infused with kojic acid, hyaluronic acid, arbutin, and cucumber and thyme extracts to help revive, hydrate, and illuminate the appearance of your complexion.
SkinCeuticals Phyto+, $86 MSRP
GIVE YOURSELF A FACIAL MASSAGE
Massaging your skin with your fingers or a facial massager can give stressed or fatigued skin a boost of positive energy, help promote circulation, and more! In addition, incorporating facial massage into your weekly skin care routine makes for an ultra relaxing experience. Want to give it a try? We share four energizing facial massage exercises, here.
What To Use: When it comes to at-home facial massaging, you’ll need to things to get started: a nourishing facial serum—bonus points if it has a brightening formula!—and a facial massager. One of our favorite massaging tools to use for at-home facial massage is The Body Shop’s Facial Massager. Not only is it easy to use, it glides onto the skin and makes for an ultra relaxing serum application. When using The Body Shop’s Facial Massager, we like to pair it with the brand’s Vitamin C Skin Boost Instant Smoother. Formulated with vitamin C-rich camu camu from the Amazonian Rainforest in Peru, this antioxidant-rich facial serum was made with dull, tired-looking skin in mind.
For more on The Body Shop’s Facial Massager ($8 MSRP), check out our guide to facial massaging techniques, here.
TRY AN ILLUMINATING FACE MASK
Another way to target dry, dull-looking skin? With a glow-enhancing facial mask, of course! When it comes to using a face mask to help target dry, dull-looking skin, we tend to reach for ones that are not only formulated with skin brightening ingredients, but also have exfoliating properties, too. Exfoliating facial masks use their multi-tasking abilities to slough away dead skin cell buildup from the skin’s surface—much like your favorite exfoliant would—and provide the skin with a burst of glow-enhancing nourishment. The result? Healthier-looking skin that appears softer, smoother, and brighter than before.
What To Use: One of our favorite ways to enhance the look of our glow is with Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Mask. Formulated with cranberry seed and turmeric, this superfood-inspired facial mask can help brighten and energize the look of dull, fatigued skin and restore a healthy-looking, rosy appearance.
For more on Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Radiance Mask ($32 MSRP), see our full product review, here.
DON’T FORGET TO MOISTURIZE
If you want a brighter-looking complexion, it’s time to get serious about the amount of moisture your skin may be receiving throughout the day. Keeping the skin hydrated can help your complexion from becoming dry or dull-looking, it can promote an illuminated look, too! We recommend applying a skin hydrating facial cream or oil after you’ve cleansed your skin in the evenings and a lightweight, skin-brightening facial lotion under your daily makeup in the mornings. If your skin needs an extra boost of hydration throughout the day, try spritzing it with a hydrating facial mist. We share a roundup of our favorites here.
What To Use: When it comes to skin-brightening facial lotions, one of our go-to’s is Garnier’s Clearly Brighter Brightening & Smoothing Daily Moisturizer SPF 15. Formulated with an antioxidant complex of vitamin C & E, pine park essence, and gentle exfoliating LHA—aka lip-hydroxyl acid—the non-greasy formula can turn dull, rough skin into radiant-looking skin that is soft, smooth, and more even in tone. As far as a night time cream goes, we recommend Vichy’s Idéalia Night Cream. Formulated with caffeine, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin B3, this nourishing night cream can help soften, smooth, and revitalize the look of the skin come morning.
Vichy Idéalia Night Cream, $35 MSRP
REACH FOR A FACIAL PEEL
For skin that looks brighter you are going to want to get familiar with facial peels. You can opt for an intensive exfoliation by going for a chemical peel—everything you need to know about chemical peels here—or you can try an at-home option.
What To Use: When it comes to using an at-home facial peel, on of our go-to products to get the job done is L’Oréal Paris’ Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Peel Pads. These dermatologist-inspired peel pads are formulated with glycolic acid—a gold standard radiance booster—to help chemically exfoliate the skin’s surface, ridding it of the dulling buildup of dead skin cells. Just be sure to use this product in tandem with Broad Spectrum SPF 15 or higher prior to heading outdoors.
For more on L’Oréal Paris’ Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Peels Pads ($19.99 MSRP)—and other products in the Revitalift Bright Reveal collection—see our review, here.
DAB ON THE HIGHLIGHTER
We hate to break it to you, but brighter skin doesn’t happen overnight. However, you can fake it ‘til you make it with a skin illuminating highlighter. To create a highlighted effect, simply apply a little to your cheekbones, cupid’s bow, brow bones, down the bridge of your nose, and in the corners of your eyes. For more on how to give your skin a strobe effect, check out our guide to strobing with skin care, here.
What To Use: One of our favorite highlighters is Maybelline’s FaceStudio Master Strobing Stick Illuminating Highlighter. The easy-to-use drugstore solid highlighter stick glides onto the skin to create an illuminated faux glow.
GIVE COLOR CORRECTING A TRY
Another way to fake brighter, more illuminated-looking skin? With color correcting concealers! We love color correcting concealers for their ability to conceal blemishes, reduce the look of sallowness, mask dark under-eye circles, and brighten the overall look of the skin. If you want to brighten the look of your complexion with color correcting concealers, reach for a pink color correcting concealer and dab it onto your cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, the center of your forehead, and anywhere else that may need some extra illumination.
What To Use: Our favorite way to color correct is with Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid. We like the pink shade for its ability to disguise the look of dark circles (on fair skin tones) and highlight our complexions for a more lifted appearance.
For more on Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid ($28 MSRP), see our ultimate guide to color correction, here.
Editor’s note: Some of these products may make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. As such, we’re reminding you to always, always, always layer on a heaping coat of Broad Spectrum SPF 15 or higher on all exposed areas of skin prior to heading outdoors. Don’t forget to reapply often, at least every two hours, and partake in other sun protection measures like seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding peak sun hours.