In beauty lingo, a brighter complexion really just means a clearer and more even-looking complexion — and assuming that's one of your skin care goals (since you're reading this article), you'll be happy to know that it's easy to give your skin a brightness boost by washing your face with the right cleanser. Typically, the
best brightening cleansers are made with chemical exfoliants, like glycolic or lactic acid, that work to resurface and polish your skin, or antioxidants (such as vitamin C), which are known for their brightening . There are some other clarity-enhancing ingredients that don't fall into either of these categories as well, including and skin-protecting benefits rice water.
That said, cleansers can only do so much for your skin, since they're washed off almost immediately, so if you're really looking to double down on the brightening front, it's best to follow up your face wash with a
vitamin C serum. Don't forget the sunscreen, either (last step, always); while sunscreen can't really reverse any skin damage that's causing your complexion to look less clear or bright than you'd like, it will help prevent future sun damage — so think of it as a long-term plan for brighter skin.
Scroll on to shop seven of the
best face washes for brighter skin, from under-$10 drugstore buys to Korean beauty classics. We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.
Typically, I stay away from foaming face washes, yet
The Face Shop's Rice Water Bright Foam Cleanser remains one of my favorite cleansers of all time. First off, because it truly leaves my skin looking noticeably brighter — and this is coming from a skin care skeptic that balks when brands make claims like these. The key brightening ingredient in here is rice water, but it also contains antioxidant-rich moringa oil, as well as lots of other plant-derived extracts. I like to think that this creamy cleanser's pearl-like iridescence has something to do with its brightening benefits (note that once exposed to water, it'll develop into a foam). And though I also usually steer clear of scented products, I can't get enough of the super-fresh, but not overpowering fragrance.
If you have dry skin like me, use this a few times a week to give your skin a refreshing treat (and slather on the moisturizer afterwards). If you have oily skin, you should be able to use this nightly.
If you have a lot of hyperpigmentation or sun damage that you'd like to fade,
La Roche-Posay's Pigmentclar Cleanser may be able to help. Another cream-to-foam face wash like the one above, this is made with lipo-hydroxy acid, a chemical exfoliant that helps resurface your skin. This is balanced out by glycerin to prevent it from totally drying out your skin, but like with any foam cleanser, this should be followed up with a rich moisturizer. (And if you use cleanser in the morning, be sure to check out the brand's SPF 50 serum, an imperceptible sunscreen that's rich in skin-protecting antioxidants. It'll make the perfect accompaniment to this cleanser.)
Juice Beauty is known for their effective, farm-fresh formulas that harness the powers of plants — many of which are grown on
the brand's own organic farm in California. Take this cleanser, for example: It's made almost entirely of plant-derived ingredients, including, but not limited to: raw cane sugar for exfoliation, hydrating aloe vera, and too many fruit extracts to count. Certified-organic apple juice and lemon juice — which are both rich in vitamins and antioxidants — comprise the base of this formula. All together, these botanicals work together to promote brighter, smoother skin.
Because this contains such a high concentration of fruit-derived exfoliating acids, the brand doesn't recommend this for people with sensitive skin. Major bonus points for being the only cleanser on this list that comes in a handy pump-top bottle.
The New Kid On The Block
Of all the drugstore brands out there, Garnier has been impressing me the most over the last few years with their consistently exciting product launches. Case in point? Their new, brightening-focused Pinea-C line, which includes
this lovely gel cleanser. The sulfate-free formula uses vitamin C (in the form of ascorbyl glucoside), pineapple, and a modest dose of glycolic acid to boost your skin's glow, while glycerin and vitamin E offer some much-needed moisture. I love the watery gel texture as well — a real treat on particularly humid summer days. Follow up with the brand's Pinea-C serum cream if you're interested in trying out the rest of the line.
potent cleanser from L'Oreal Paris is rich in glycolic acid to encourage a smooth, bright complexion through the process of chemical exfoliation — but because this is a scrub, it offers physical exfoliating benefits as well. That said, because it is a scrub as well as a chemical exfoliant, you'll only want to use this occasionally (most experts only recommend exfoliating two or three times a week, but because this is so powerful, once a week should be more than sufficient). At just under $6, it's worth keeping on hand for at-home spa days. Be sure to follow up with a rich, gentle moisturizer or nourishing face mask.
I discovered The History of Whoo in Korea, and until recently, it was nearly impossible to buy their products Stateside. But now the brand is on Amazon, and life will never be the same. This luxe, whipped cream-like
cleanser combines powerful herbal ingredients (like pearl, ginseng, and chrysanthemum water) — many of which date back to the Ancient East — to brighten, cleanse, and nourish your skin. Unlike most foaming face washes, this should leave your face feeling soft instead of tight and stripped. 07
The Cleanser-Mask Hybrid
This is technically a mask, but you could use it as a cleanser too: Leave it on for one minute, or five — your call. Like the first cleanser on this list,
this uses nutrient-rich rice water to promote bright, soft, nourished skin, while jojoba esters help give it a slightly gritty (but not harsh) texture. From beloved K-beauty brand SKINFOOD, it comes in a massive tub that'll last you ages, but costs less than $10 Amazon.