Check the dictionary and you’ll find that to brighten quite literally means to make lighter—but that definition falls unfortunately short of describing when we mean when it comes to our skincare products. As a benefit, brightening shows up in a handful of our SKUs, and when it comes down to it, it really refers to a benefit that you should see over time: reducing the look of dark spots and evening out hyperpigmentation. In the immediate, you might even notice yourself looking more radiant, glowing, and appearing more even-toned as soon as after the first use.
“But then also long-term, you’ll see an evening of hyperpigmentation and an evening of the complexion,” says Laura Cline, YTTP’s Director of Education. “If there is a tone on your face that over time has become more deeply pigmented than your natural pigment—whether due to stress, sun damage, or even just time—then brightening products will benefit you.”
Cline is referring to two types of stress: internal (which includes hormonal changes that cause melasma) and external (like dark spot-causing sun damage). Vitamin C, our primary brightening ingredient (in all three forms), can help to reduce the appearance of the results of both of these stressors.
When you find a YTTP product with the word “brighten” on it, you’ll find vitamin C in the formula. With continued use of these goods—like the 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum, or the Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask—you’ll see a brightening effect. And you’ll get a more even-toned glow.
So how is that different from the benefit of reducing dullness?
“An exfoliating product would make your skin look brighter in a sense, more radiant, because you’ve sloughed off dead, dull skin,” says Cline. “We do recommend combining an exfoliating product with a vitamin C, like the Energy Serum, because with proper exfoliation, your vitamin C will be able to penetrate better when dead skin cells are exfoliated away.” To get rid of dullness and to brighten, exfoliation and vitamin C are two essential steps in a routine to help with evening your complexion.
As for why exfoliation is an essential piece of the puzzle, as Cline says, “as we age, the cell turnover process slows down, so when you exfoliate, you’re helping slough off the skin cells that are already dead that are more pigmented,”—and, with a vitamin C serum, you’re inhibiting excess melanin from being produced. Double win, if you ask us.