25 Brightening Products That Let Me Relive the Glory Days of My Youth

the best brightening products for youthful-looking skin



Life would be so much easier if the secret to a glowy complexion was hiding in a highlighter compact. I mean, don't get me wrong. Highlighters and other dewifying products help, but the ultimate goal is to have skin that permanently looks as though you've been on vacation: bright, healthy, and radiant. But the quest to getting there is like dating. You're gonna come across a lot of things that aren't a good fit, but with enough time and patience, you're bound to find something that works. At least I did! Here are the 25 best brightening products for youthful-looking skin. 


1. Pixi by Petra Flawless Beauty Primer

This stuff is no joke. I sometimes wear it on its own because it's just that good. It corrects uneven skin tone, adds a youthful glow, and helps balance skin hydration.

2. U Beauty Resurfacing Compound

When I first wrote about this product, I had only been using it for three weeks, but now it has been a little over a month. And wow. It truly has changed the overall tone and texture of my skin. Before using this, I was using so many products (you'll see a lot of those below), but this one is basically everything all bundled into one. It's formulated with tons of antioxidants, vitamins C and E, and retinol and does everything from minimizing the appearance of pores to brightening dark spots. I can honestly say my skin has never looked so even and glowy.

3. Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self Tan Drops

On the days when I'm feeling extra bleh, I like to add a few drops of this into my serum because it gives the perfect lit-from-within bronzy glow. Just be sure to wash your hands afterward. Otherwise your fingers will be a dead giveaway to your faux tan. 

4. The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

Before I started using the U Beauty product above, I used this every single night. (I don't like mixing the two because they're both resurfacing compounds.) It's so affordable and seriously works. It's a high-strength lactic acid peeling formula that helps with uneven skin tone and texture and dullness. It's one of the best, most affordable options out there, IMHO.  

5. Versed The Shortcut Overnight Facial Peel 

I don't know about you, but I love a product that does all the work without you having to blink an eye—literally. This lactic and glycolic acid peel renews your complexion by breaking down dead skin cells while exfoliating, brightening, and hydrating the skin. Slather this stuff on before bed and wake up with a seriously brighter complexion. 

6. Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum

This stuff is magic, plain and simple. It's made with over 22 active ingredients, all of which help fight signs of aging. At the end of the day, it just gives my complexion that dewy glow I've always dreamed of. So even though it comes with a pretty hefty price tag, it's 100% worth it in my eyes. To apply it, put a few drops into the palms of your hands and press them into your skin for a few seconds and repeat, pushing and pressing until you've covered your entire face. Trust me—you'll notice results a lot quicker. 

7. Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream

Everyone is obsessed with this cream and for good reason: It seriously transforms dull, tired-looking skin into a glowy dream. It's made with Charlotte's BioNymph Peptide Complex, which reduces the appearance of wrinkles while keeping skin feeling hydrated and looking plump. 

8. Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer

I'm telling you the more makeup you layer onto your skin, the older you'll look. That's why I almost exclusively use this tinted moisturizer. It's lightweight, hydrating, and gives a sheer hint of color that's really all that's needed if you ask me. 

9. Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinol Serum

Retinoid hasn't worked for my sometimes-sensitive skin, but this high-dose retinol serum has. It's lightweight, not drying at all, and delivers results without any of the stereotypical drawbacks. 

10. RMS Beauty Living Luminizer

I'm totally obsessed with this highlighter. It has a translucent, pearl finish that just naturally enhances my skin tone without turning me into a human disco ball. I like to add a few dabs to my cheekbones, down the bridge of my nose, and sometimes above my lips. 

11. Koh Gen Do Spa Gommage Gelwea

I'll be the first to admit that this is fairly gross to use. Gross as in seeing all the dead skin cells falling off your face. If you apply a thin layer of the gel to your skin and massage it in a circular motion, the outermost layer of dead skin cells will come off and leave a seriously soft, youthful-looking complexion. I use this at least once a week!

12. Hum Glow Sweet Glow Skin Hydration

To be honest, I've always been skeptical about vitamins, so I'm surprised that I like these as much as I do. But I swear, after taking them consistently for two months, my skin was brighter and more hydrated, and it's all because of the hyaluronic acid and vitamins C and E.  

13. Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40

I still beat myself up for not wearing sunscreen every single day when I was younger. Had I, I probably wouldn't have as many damn sunspots as I do now. But since I found this stuff, everything has changed. It is hands down the best sunscreen ever. It's made with clean ingredients (aka, doesn't break you out!) and really smoothes and preps skin in a way that's perfect for makeup application. 

14. Nars The Multiple Stick in Orgasm

I've found that adding a subtle flush of color to the cheeks is one of the quickest ways to more youthful-looking skin. 


1. Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb

This cream is so refreshing. It floods my under-eye area with moisture and adds a hint of radiance. I love using this first and layering on a brightening eye cream on top of it. (See below.) It's the perfect brightening combination. 

2. Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Créme

When it comes to brightening ingredients, vitamin C is the gold standard. But this eye cream contains special pigments that instantly brighten and color-correct the eye area. It also smoothes out the skin, making it extra easy to apply concealer.  

3. Johnson's Baby Shampoo

Baby shampoo? Yep, it's probably one of the weirder items in this story. But six years ago when I turned 24, I was hit with blepharitis, aka chronic eyelid swelling. Basically, it's inflammation that happens when tiny oil glands near the base of the lashes become clogged, and the only way to really help the situation is to wash my lids with baby shampoo at night. I can't tell you how much better and brighter I feel when I'm not bogged down by heavy lids!

4. Bausch + Lomb Lumify Redness Reliever Eye Drops

Who knew that bloodshot eyes were so aging? This gal didn't—until I had to deal with it, that is. Thankfully I found these drops that do the trick every time. The clearer the whites of my eyes are, the brighter my entire complexion looks. 


1. KNC Beauty All Natural Infused Lip Mask

When it comes to masks, I don't discriminate, meaning I'll use one on my face, body, or lips. I love these because they're infused with things like collagen and hyaluronic acid, which help with plumping and rose flower oil for hydration. My lips always look rejuvenated after putting one of these on. 

2. Tarte Pout Prep Lip Exfoliant

One thing I've noticed as I've gotten older is how dull and dry my lips are. I hate wearing lipstick because of it. But on the occasions that I do want to add a pop of color to my pout, this lip exfoliant seriously helps. It's a minty scrub infused with maracujua, shea butter, and exfoliating sugar that gently buffs away flakes and creates a smooth canvas for adding lipstick. 


1. St. Tropez Self Tan Classic Bronzing Mousse

When I think of my younger self, my much tanner skin comes to mind. So I tend to feel more confident when I bring that glow back. I've tried my fair share of tanners over the years, and this one is by far my favorite. It's not sticky or smelly and gives the most natural-looking color, IMHO.  

2. St. Tropez Tan Applicator Mitt

The only way to apply an at-home self-tanner is with an applicator mitt. Otherwise, your skin will be blotchy and anything but youthful-looking. 

3. Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bod Buff Smoothing Scrub "N" Mask

Not only is this a great exfoliating scrub, but you can also use it as a treatment mask for your legs. It's formulated with crushed Brazillian quartz crystal which helps polish and smooth skin. I'm especially diligent about using this come summer. 

4. ReTone Exfoliating Cleanser

I have keratosis pilaris (some people like to call it "chicken skin"), which is when tiny bumps form on your arms or legs because of an excess amount of keratin. There's no cure, which is annoying, and it makes me extremely self-conscious, so I'm always looking for things to help reduce its appearance, and this cleanser definitely helps! It's gentle but actually still effective, especially when used with an exfoliating brush.

5. Drmtlgy Exfoliating Body Lotion

In addition to the body cleanser, I love this exfoliating lotion made with lactic acid. I find that when I'm actually consistent with using this, it significantly reduces my keratosis pilaris. Less bumpy skin = more youthful skin. 

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