Everybody wants a natural glow, even if no one actually knows what that means because it's just two nice-sounding words that some marketing department stuck together. I mean, does anything objectively constitute a “glow'? Insane hydration levels? Circulation so good it's like you live in a Bikram studio? Literally sticking salad bits to your face until you're one with The Great Kale? I don't claim to have the answer; everyone has to approach glow-ification his/her/zir own way. One thing I do know, though, is that brightening products exist, and they make your skin look good, which is probably the same thing as “glowing' for most of us. So if you're interested in a little over-the-counter help, I got your back— and your front.
Before we get started, one caveat: There are no bleaching or whitening products in this story. I strongly object to anything or anyone trying to make you ashamed of your skin tone, so if you're looking for a fairness cream I would say A) whoever is telling you that your natural shade isn't beautiful is wrong, and B) this article isn't about those. Now, who's ready to hear about how a variety of acids and tiny pieces of metal can make your skin look amazing?
Active Ingredient: Crystals
Results RX Eye Doctor says it contains 'liquid crystals,' like it's the big-screen TV of brightening serums or something. I don't know how it actually works, but it's so cool-looking that I don't care. The opalescent finish is what makes this a standout, and also what produces the immediate, miraculous “glow.” It's ingenious—because it's pearly instead of shimmery, you don't look like you have microscopic glitter everywhere, you just look hot. I put it on my lips, under my eyes, and on top of my cheekbones for maximum “Hey, Girl.” When Ryan Gosling wanders by me at the MoMA and becomes transfixed by my perfect, suspiciously television-like skin, it'll be straight from Bauhaus to my house.
Active Ingredient: Vitamin C
If you've ever thought Fruit Roll-Ups were healthy because they have 100% of your daily value of Vitamin C, congratulations—you're awesome. Also, I found a couple products you might like. Paula's Choice Resist C15 Super Booster is a verrry potent Vitamin C and ferulic acid serum that's as effective as some glycolic peels I've had. If your skin loves being chemically exfoliated, then you and this product will be very happy together. Start off using it once a week if you decide to try it, because this is tough stuff is not for sensitive skin at all.
There's a gentler alternative, of course: Tarte Maracuja C-Brighter Eye Treatment. It's supposed to treat dehydration, fine lines, and dark under-eye circles, but I find that it makes a nice all-over enhancer, too. It has a little bit of Vitamin C to slough off dull skin, a lot of hydrators like mango seed oil, and a couple of minerals like mica and titanium dioxide to refract light and make you look literally more luminous.
Active Ingredient: Daisies
Acid is pretty direct—it just removes damaged skin cells—but other brightening ingredients work differently, like the daisy extract in L'Occitane Immortelle Brightening Essence. Instead of eating away at cells, this serum is supposed to block additional melanin production so you don't end up with hyperpigmentation. If sun damage, uneven skin tone, or acne discoloration are your main worries, give this one a try. It's gentle and did (slightly) fade a couple of my freckles. Plus, it's in a sheer, hydrating serum base that's inoffensive and layers really well under moisturizer.
Active Ingredient: Mystery
Lancôme Visionnaire Advanced Skin Corrector has a proprietary compound in it called “LR 2412' that supposedly helps reduce lines, pores, and unevenness, which initially seems like lies. BUT from reading the bottle, there's a lot of dimethicone, which makes your skin look smoother, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump it up. Instead of skincare, I regard this as the ultimate hydrating primer, because it goes on so well and multitasks really beautifully. The best option for filling in fine lines and layering under foundation.
Photos by Lacey Gattis.