This content includes referral links and/or PR samples/gifted products. Read my disclosure policy for more info.
Take your Omega3s, stick to water, get enough sleep and don’t forget to sneak in that green smoothie into your daily menu.
I mean, who knew that having bright and glowing skin takes that much effort? All of us. Well, most of us, anyway. I mean, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who get to treat themselves to sugary drinks, forget to remove makeup before going to bed, have a skincare routine consisting of makeup-removing wipes and a cleanser and ALSO has a beautiful, bright and glowing complexion. If this is you then… well, in the words of Barnabus Stinson: FRIENDSHIP OVER!
Kidding, of course.
There’s a lot more than just skincare that comes into play as far as healthy, bright, beautiful skin is concerned- but that’s not what we’ll be focusing on today. For some people, adding just one product or making one small lifestyle change can result in a massive improvement. Others and this includes me, are blessed with quite problematic and picky skin that requires a lot of work, consistency as well as some good old trial and error. These, right here, are my bright skin heroes.
Love them in any way, shape or form… or bottle, jar, and tube. Mechanical exfoliants, like scrubs, treat only the top layer of skin and unfortunately, most of the trouble-making build-up cells are way beyond their reach. Chemical exfoliants, on the other hand, dissolve the bonds and intercellular cement between skin cells, allowing it to ease all that buildup away. A lot of scrubs are way too harsh to use on the face anyway and can leave microtears behind. Gentle is always the way to go. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs i.e. glycolic, lactic acids) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA- salicylic acid) are chemical exfoliants that are most commonly used in skincare.
One of my favorite “everyday” kinds of products is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid (2%). It’s a leave-on exfoliant that helps brighten and even out the skin tone, and it also helps keep acne at bay. Stridex is another great BHA product that’s also very affordable- these pre-soaked pads will help brighten the skin and they’re also AMAZING at clearing up stubborn blackheads. Another way I like to use them is after shaving to prevent any bumps and ingrown hairs.
My two favorite peel pad treatments that help keep the skin bright and even-toned are Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel and M-61 Powerglow Peel. The Alpha Beta peel is a two-step treatment- an AHA/BHA combo. Powerglow Peel is a one-step treatment also formulated with Glycolic and Salicylic acids. Both are great for keeping even texture and tone and clarifying acne-prone skin. They’re great for daily use (I never use them both on the same day) for those who are used to using AHA and BHA products, but the treatments can also be used just 3 times a week, eventually building up to daily use. If I were to pick one between the two, it’d probably be the Alpha Beta peel.
This roundup wouldn’t be complete without Pixi’s Glow Tonic, of course. A cult classic, much? It’s probably one of the most gentle AHA products out there that helps balance out the skin very nicely; if you are an acid beginner (in the skincare department, of course- I wasn’t around in the 60s so I don’t have much to share in terms of the use of LSD) or want to introduce acids to your routine, this product is a great place to start.
MASKS + TREATMENTS (OR… MORE ACIDS)
A more intense treatment done a couple of times a week is great for battling dullness. Drunk Elephant’s Baby Facial is formulated with a blend of BHA and AHA acids and a great product for a weekly treatment. I find that with stubborn acne-prone skin (and all the hyperpigmentation that often comes with it) multi-acid products work really well. Despite the 25% AHA formula, this mask is surprisingly gentle- no burning just a slight tingle. Immediate results include smooth, soft and glowing skin (yes, please!) and with regular use, it helps brighten and even out the complexion.
If your skin is in need of a quick “I need my skin to glow, NOW!” pick-me-up before a special occasion or event, Sunday Riley’s Good Genes lactic acid treatment is the way to go. This delivers very impressive overnight results and absolutely makes the skin look brighter and more radiant with just one use. The major downside is the price ($105 for 1 oz of product) and the fact that there simply isn’t any other single product that gives similar results. You can find an awesome rundown and a very thorough writeup of alternative lactic acid products/treatments right here.
Lancome Visionnaire 2-Phase Peel is a leave-on peel that helps fight dullness, discoloration and subtle uneven texture. After cleansing and toning, you apply the “Phase 1” (containing fruit acids) for the first 14 nights and then replace the “Phase 1” with “Phase 2” (a combo of glycolic and salicylic acids) for another 14 days. This peel is very gentle, it doesn’t require rinsing, it won’t make your skin burn or peel and, most importantly, it gives great, I-noticed-a-difference-after-one-use kind of results (no Good Genes kind of overnight magic over here, but a noticeable, overnight improvement nonetheless).
During those times when redness is the main culprit of dullness and the lack of glow, IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Redness Skin Relief Treatment Moisturizer always comes to the rescue. Expressing my usual grievance out of the way: not a fan of the jar packaging. Now, the contents of this less-than-ideal packaging are where love is. It’s a gentle, rich, soothing cream that helps me deal with redness even when my skin is hypersensitive and uncomfortable (which is pretty much the only time when it gets very red). This moisturizer is pretty awesome at neutralizing the redness around the chin and cheeks, while also bringing back some of that bright glow to the skin. Probably not the best product if you don’t like rich/thick creams though. Personally I prefer lighter formulas but I always reach for something heavier when my skin is dry/red/sensitive. If you deal with a lot of redness, I also can’t recommend their Bye Bye Redness Correcting Cream enough- this stuff is magical.
Paula’s Choice Radiance Renewal Mask– an overnight brightening treatment that helps refresh and hydrate skin. This overnight mask is quite gentle and works nicely with combo skin. It definitely won’t give visible overnight results- other than softer, smoother skin- but with regular use, it does help the skin appear more balanced.
Now, it doesn’t matter how many amazing products and treatments you pat onto your beautiful face- none of it will be worth your time, effort or hard-earned mula, if you don’t use sunscreen religiously. This, right here, is your secret to keeping your skin youthful, even-toned and bright. Wear it daily, rain or shine. Sun exposure causes skin damage; it causes your skin to age and wrinkle much faster. This means photoaging, sunspots and, of course, wrinkles. With things like these, it’s much better (and easier… and cheaper) to prevent, rather than treat. If you want to find a good sunscreen for your face, see this article.
Using sunscreen is especially important when using AHA/BHA or Vitamin C products- pretty much anything that concentrates on improving hyperpigmentation. Certain medications can make your skin photosensitive, so that’s also something to look out for. Not wearing proper sun protection while using skin-brightening products can leave your skin vulnerable, and produce reverse results e.g. your acne scars will get darker, instead of getting lighter. So, again, don’t forget your sunscreen.
Now, we’re not talking about the SPF 15 in your foundation or powder. You should always use 1/4 teaspoon on your entire face (at least SPF 30), applying it AFTER your moisturizer, before makeup. I personally prefer to use SPF50 as my skincare routine also includes prescription-strength retinoids. There are physical, chemical and combo sunscreens out there and you can learn more about them, and pretty much everything you need to know about sun protection right here.
Although sunscreen is a must for me, it’s also one of the most frustrating aspects of my skincare routine. The main reason for this is that most sunscreen products cause irritation, are way too greasy for my skin type or leave that ugly white cast behind. Currently, I rotate between Missha All Around Safe Block Soft Finish Sun Milk EX SPF50+/PA+++ and EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for Sensitive or Acne-Prone Skin.
The Soft Finish Sun Milk has a very liquid-like, thin consistency, is slightly mattifying but can cling to dry patches sometimes. UV Clear has a creamy formula, but it tends to make my skin too shiny- there are days when I love it, and days when I feel like it’s turning my face into a greasy mess. I also like MD Solar Sciences Mineral Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 50 UVA-UVB Sunscreen, although I do have to admit that it worked much better for me during my pre-Accutane days when my skin was very oily.
Over the years, I’ve tested (and tossed) MANY sunscreen products and have yet to find one that works with my skin nicely regardless of the condition it’s in. SKIN AQUA Super Moisture Milk was probably an all-time favorite for my problematic skin, although I didn’t test the newer version yet. Many beauty enthusiasts believe Asian sunscreen products to work much better than western formulas and I personally have to agree. Both the Soft Finish Sun Milk and Moisture Milk lack everything I hate about sunscreen products- the unpleasant scent, burning sensation, white cast, and greasy residue.
Okay, looks like I got a little carried away there, no? I’m starting to think that the whole sunscreen thing deserves a post of its own. Well, the takeaway here should be clear: remember to wear sunscreen. It’s kind of ironic that despite me being so passionate or perhaps rather intense, about the use of sunscreen, I have yet to find one that I absolutely love. I’m not giving up though!