Even though cleanser is only on the face for roughly 60 seconds or so (yes, one full minute of massage time is the goal!), it is not a product to be underestimated within your routine. Of course, things like serums, creams, and oils—if you use them—are the most important to invest in, as they get the most quality time with your pores. But choosing a face wash that plays nicely with your skin type, pays heed to your concerns, and concurs with your goals is of utmost importance in the quest for healthy, balanced skin.
To be honest, I never thought a face wash would the starring product to help brighten my complexion, but after I swapped a few new options in for my super-basic drugstore formula a few years ago, I noticed almost immediate changes in the way my skin looked, felt, and responded to the products I applied afterward (so much better!). These days, I obsess over my face wash more than any other product within my routine, and since brightening, buildup-busting face washes are my absolute favorite, I've come to know the market pretty well. (And of course, it's actually part of my job.)
So I'm sharing all of my top recommendations with you below. Chock-full of nourishing vitamins, damage-deflecting antioxidants, and cell-sloughing acids, these brightening face washes have the highest reviews, ratings, and beauty editor approval in the biz. (Oh, and I'm also recommending the top glow-enhancing products to round out your routine with.) Keep scrolling!
When it comes to dewy, supple, and positively glowing skin, world-renowned medical aesthetic provider (and founder of The Things We Do) Vanessa Lee is an industry virtuoso. Not surprisingly, her brainchild of a product line produces equally sublime results. This cleanser-exfoliator hybrid, for instance, is expertly balanced with key ingredients like glycolic and salicylic acids, jojoba beads, seaweed extract, lavender, and calendula to leave skin brighter, tighter, and baby-soft.
If you're someone who seeks overwhelmingly positive testimony when shopping around for new skincare products, you might already be familiar with Indie Lee's cult-loved brightening face wash. Antioxidants are the name of the game with this formula, and a powerful lineup of strawberry seed oil, tomato extract, and hydrolyzed wheat protein promotes a lightning bright complexion post-wash.
Yes, this iconic brightening face wash is one of the most expensive options on the market, but it's important to know this organic formula isn't just a basic face wash—it's about three different high-quality skincare products in one. Whether you use it as a cleanser, exfoliator, mask, or all three (yes, really), the all-star blend of apricot, white willow bark, arnica, white clay, olive, and so much more work instantly to leave skin radiant, balanced, and never stripped of moisture.
Think of this vegan, botanical, and cruelty-free face wash as the ultimate brightening pick if you're looking for a cleanser that's both clean and affordable. It features strategic ingredients like cell-sloughing malic acid sourced from organic apples, sugarcane, hydroxy acids, and nonirritating plant-based cleansers to keep pores purged and clear for a lit-from-within finish.
The unique and refreshing smell of cedar, lime, and spearmint isn't the only thing this top-rated brightening face wash has going for it. It boasts a carefully curated radiance recipe of aloe, coconut-derived surfactants, lemon, white tea, sugarcane, and rice seed, so you're left with gleaming, more even-looking skin that is hydrated and cool as a cumber.
There's a reason almost every celebrity and model on earth seems to use and promote this cleanser—it works. Unlike so many other brightening face washes out there, this one starts as a superfine powder (it's composed of ascorbic acid and cell- and sebum-removing enzymes like lipase and subtilisin) before you add a touch of warm water so that it transforms into a lush foam.
Creamy, rich, and foamy, this crème de la crème will never dry or strip your skin despite how effectively it nixes brightness-deterring buildup. Exfoliating ingredients like lipo hydroxy acid are balanced with a dose of moisturizing TLC in the form of glycerin so that instantly and over time, skin looks more vibrant, even, and clear.
Although it's not super well-known, this two-in-one exfoliating cleanser from Reflekt is like an underground secret among the celebrity set. It's safe for all skin types and keeps the skin at peace by gently polishing away dulling dead skin cells and buildup, minimizing the look of pores, and brightening with instantaneous finesse. The brilliant combination of eco-friendly jojoba beads, hyaluronic acid, vegetable collagen, and vitamin B5 keeps skin firm and bouncy with hydration.
It's no secret that vitamin C is considered the holy-grail ingredient where effervescently bright skin is concerned. Therefore, the fact that it's one of the main ingredients lurking in this top-reviewed face wash from esthetician Joanna Vargas is no surprise. To maximize the C's brightening perks even further, Vargas took her radiance potion and infused it with açai and goji berry (hello, antioxidants), hyaluronic acid, witch hazel water, and galactoarabinan—a hero glow ingredient that exfoliates faster and more effectively than any lactic or glycolic acids.
This face wash definitely excels in the brightening department, but the MVP roster of four (yes, four) types of AHAs and an extra boost of flavonoid-rich grapefruit extract help to pave uneven skin texture, reduce congestion, and increase your skin's glow quotient with surprising speed.
This cleanser is a customer favorite at Dermstore, and it's no wonder why once you take a moment to dissect the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink ingredients list. Salicylic and glycolic acids vacuum pores and exfoliate dead surface cells, sucrose laurate effortlessly cleanses away debris without stripping the skin, vitamin E provides moisturizing nourishment, and a finale of vitamin C, licorice, and lily extract provides a major bump of luminosity to resuscitate dull skin.