Say goodbye to dark spots.

By Andrea Jordan
September 08, 2020
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This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.

Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve dealt with hyperpigmentation. My pre-teen breakouts left me with more unwanted dots and marks on my complexion than I’d desired. In case you don’t know, hyperpigmentation is just a big scientific word for dark spots on the skin. It’s one of those unfortunate truths about brown skin. We’re more susceptible to scarring from breakouts and blemishes. According to Houston-based dermatologist Suneel Chilukuri, MD, the reason why darker skin scars easier than Caucasian skin is due to the melanin that already exists in our skin. When melanocytes, the name for melanin-forming cells, are activated there is increased production of darker eumelanin, he says. “All patients will scar, but with the darker pigmentation of the skin, some scars are more perceptible.”

So, when I caught wind about vitamin C, the ultimate skin brightener, I was hooked at hello. “Vitamin C is a multi-tasking antioxidant that delivers both protective and restorative properties to the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Deanne Robinson, MD, FAAD. “It helps your skin to repair and recover by smoothing out fine lines, evening out areas of hyperpigmentation, and even encouraging collagen synthesis.” That’s why I perked up when I heard about this powerful ingredient and incorporated it into my daily skincare routine. And trust me, with consistent use, the results are visible.

We often correlate vitamin C with a remedy for colds, which is true when taken orally, but when this brightening vitamin is applied topically, it does wonders on a dull complexion with benefits that go beyond lightening dark marks. Vitamin C smooths the surface of the skin which helps boost the natural radiance of your complexion and protects the skin from free radicals. Most experts I’ve talked to recommend applying vitamin C in a serum or cream in the daytime before applying your daily SPF product (a definite must!) and saving your retinol or more powerful formulas for when you snooze. And the best part is, it’s generally safe for all skin types, even sensitive skin.

If you’re looking to lighten a few dark marks, revive an overall dull complexion, or even smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, I suggest getting a go-to vitamin C product, stat. Thankfully, there are a slew of different formulas, although serums remain the most popular. Here are the top six brightening products to slather on now.

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vitamin c face mask, single use packet
Credit: Courtesy of Target

1 Grapefruit Vitamin C Mask

There’s nothing more pampering than a face mask. Especially a mask that claims to give you a radiant, dewy complexion after just 10 minutes. This combo of grapefruit, vitamin C, and pink kaolin clay gently sloughs off dead skin and clears out pores so you can have a brighter complexion in no time.

Buy It: Yes To Grapefruit Vitamin C Mask ($3, Target)

Vitamin C face serum
Credit: Courtesy of Target

2 Face Serum with Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid

If you’re looking for a product with more long-term effects, you’ll want to grab a serum like this one. It’s formulated with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides so skin is not only brighter, but stronger and more hydrated over time. You’ll want to apply this over your face and neck daily for best results.

Buy It: CeraVe Face Serum with Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid ($20, Target)

L'Oreal vitamin c serum
Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

3 Vitamin C Serum

Ideal for those looking for both anti-aging and brightening, this intensive serum promises results in as little as one week. A little goes a long way with this serum, so don’t be turned off by the tiny tube. It contains 10% pure vitamin C and it has the highest concentration of the ingredient in all of L’Oréal’s skin care products. Since this is more of a treatment than a serum or hydrator, you can apply this morning and evening for quicker results.

Buy It: L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum ($30, Ulta)

Pixi vitamin C cleanser
Credit: Courtesy of Target

4 Vitamin C Cleanser

Robinson says that ferulic acid is vitamin C’s best friend, so it’s no surprise those are the two star ingredients in this cleanser. Ferulic acid is an antioxidant that protects the skin and when paired with other antioxidants, like vitamin C, it maximizes the benefits. While vitamin C brightens the skin, ferulic acid helps the skin naturally repair itself. I love that this cleanser doesn’t leave your skin feeling squeaky clean and it’s a great option for those who don’t want to add yet another serum to their already extensive collection.

Buy It: Pixi by Petra Vitamin-C Juice Cleanser ($18, Target)

anti puff eye roller
Credit: Courtesy of Walmart

5 Anti-Puff Eye Roller

Ah, you’ll apply this de-puffing eye cream with relish. It feels that good. And the vitamin C, caffeine and peppermint leaf extract brighten, tighten and cool the under-eye skin so your peepers look more awake almost instantly. The formula itself is super lightweight so you don’t have to worry about that sticky feeling after you apply. For even more de-puffing benefits, store this eye-roller in your refrigerator. You’re welcome.

Buy It: Garnier SkinActive Clearly Brighter Anti-Puff Eye Roller ($9, Walmart)

hydrating night cream with vitamin c
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

6 Hydrating Night Cream

As we transition into the fall season and cooler weather, our skin needs a little TLC in the form of, well, moisture. This night cream is rich and velvety and combines hyaluronic acid with vitamin C to give your complexion an all-over glow and lock moisture into the skin. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, so it’s safe for even the most sensitive of skin.

Buy It: Cetaphil Rich Hydrating Night Cream ($16, Amazon)

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