Beauty: Skin Lighteners & Brighteners

January 10 2013, 6:10 PM

If the whole "New Year, New You" overhaul isn't part of your 2013 resolutions, I say improve on what you’ve got instead. Take a step forward in your skincare routine and add a lightener or brightener to your regimen. In Asia, lighteners are largely used to obtain the culturally desirable look of a flawless, white complexion; in the United States, however, the product primarily targets aging concerns like fading acne scars, lightening dark spots, and giving skin a youthful glow. A couple of things to remember when applying the products: If you’re using one during the day, always add an SPF for sun protection; and even though the FDA allows lightening products to include hydroquinone, which inhibits the production of melanin, the compound has been banned in Europe and other countries because of its harmful side effects (including possibly being carcinogenic)—which is why all of my picks are really skin brighteners and hydroquinone-free. 

Stila just launched its first skincare collection in December, with all the basics like face wash and moisturizer. Light Source (pictured, above) is a spot-correcting and brightening serum with Swiss Alpine Rose extract as the star ingredient. In studies, this high-altitude flower has been shown to renew and repair skin cells and tissue. This effective formulation gradually diminishes dark spots and evens out skin tone, while still being gentle enough to use every day.

Find it: $45; stilacosmetics.com and ULTA stores nationwide

For a more active option, well-regarded skincare line Peter Thomas Roth has its own must-have serum in the battle against hyperpigmentation, sun and age spots, and acne scars: De-Spot Skin Brightening Corrector (pictured, left). With its combination of high-tech ingredients, De-Spot reduces the appearance of dark patches and skin discoloration, illuminates the skin, and can help prevent future discoloration while maintaining skin tone clarity. Plus, it has also shown to be effective on the décolleté (neck line) and top of hands—those two all-important areas that easily show our age. 

Find it: $75; peterthomasroth.com and sephora.com

It may sound like just a face scrub, but Freeze 24-7 Icecrystals (pictured, right) is like a microdermabrasion treatment in a bottle. This anti-aging face exfoliator reduces the look of age spots, acne scars, and excess oil while improving skin texture and restoring a healthy glow. Using tiny diamond-shaped crystals captured in silicone, the lightener removes dead cells without creating micro-tears in the skin’s epidermal (or outermost) layer.

Find it: $65; freeze247.com, shop.nordstrom.com, and beauty.com

If you’re a little hesitant to try a full-on lightener, give an immediate boost to your skin without the commitment. Boots' No7 Instant Radiance Beauty Balm (pictured, left) is a makeup primer with a combination of moisturizers and light diffusing particles (the balm has a pink iridescent glow) that tightens and brightens the skin and softens the appearance of fine lines. Bonus: It's hypoallergenic.

Find it: $15.99; Target stores nationwide and drugstore.com 

Follow fashion editor Georgia Benjou on Twitter at @gabenjou & Pinterest at /gabenjou.