Use code YOURGIFT and get £50 off on any device on MyTripollar

Top 6 Skincare Ingredients to Brighten Your Complexion

We may include products - handpicked by our editors - that we find useful for our readers. When you buy through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Every woman wants to have a radiant, clear, and even skin complexion irrespective of her age or race. It doesn’t matter whether the dark patches or spots are from repeated exposure to the sun, the aftermath of breakouts, or hormonal imbalance. The bottom line is that you tend to lose some level of confidence in your skin when you have an uneven skin tone. 

Top skin lightening ingredients

In this article, we’re going to show you six super effective skin-lightening ingredients that will give your skin that radiant, youthful glow.

Kojic acid

This ingredient deserves a spot on your shelf, especially if you want a lighter, more even complexion. Kojic acid is given the top spot on our list because of its strength and effectiveness. It is a powerful skin-lightening ingredient that is derived naturally from mushrooms. It is super effective for treating melasma and stubborn dark spots.


Kojic acid works primarily by inhibiting tyrosinase production, an enzyme needed in melanin production, delivering a brighter skin tone. Y Claire Chang, MD, of Union Square Laser Dermatology, says, “anyone who wants to improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin should use Kojic acid’. In addition to brightening the skin, kojic acid is also a powerful antioxidant that effectively fights oxidative stress and skin problems associated with it. 

There are several benefits of using kojic acid. First, it inhibits melanin production. By preventing tyrosinase production (an enzyme necessary for melanin production), Kojic acid helps lighten the skin, fade dark spots, acne scars, and melisma. Another fantastic benefit of this ingredient is its ability to fight off free radicals in the skin. Free radicals in the skin are a common culprit of skin discoloration. Overexposure to the sun can lead to the formation of free radicals, which causes breakouts, leading to dark spots and uneven skin tone. Since kojic acid acts as an antioxidant, it fades out dark spots and restores a lighter skin tone. 

Alpha arbutin

Dermatologists have goaded this ingredient as the secret to ultra-bright skin. It is a potent skin brightener that you’ve probably never heard of. Derived from the bearberry plant, arbutin is a powerhouse in the skincare world, offering tremendous benefits when used in the right proportion.

Just like kojic acid, arbutin prevents skin discoloration by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin. It is essential to go for products with alpha arbutin instead of beta arbutin, a cheaper version but less potent.

Alpha arbutin has many skincare benefits. These include improving uneven skin complexion and fading stubborn spots and patches. If you have been battling with stubborn dark spots, this one is for you. Another skin-lightening benefit of alpha arbutin is its sun protection properties. Do you often notice freckles and sunspots on your skin after spending too much time in the sun? This happens due to an enzyme called tyrosinase. This enzyme activates each time your skin comes in contact with UV light. In an attempt to protect your skin from sun damage, it triggers excess melanin production, leading to a darker skin tone. Arbutin reduces skin darkening by preventing the production of tyrosinase.

Alpha arbutin is relatively safe as it doesn’t expose your skin to any danger by killing pigment-producing cells but gently brightens your skin by inhibiting melanin-producing cells. You can pair it with other ingredients like vitamin C and AHA for maximum effectiveness, says Ginger King, a cosmetic chemist and president of Grace Kingdom Beauty.


Mulberry leaf extract 

Rich in vitamin A, C, and E, this antioxidant has been used for centuries for its medicinal and skin brightening properties. It is a natural ingredient that guarantees a whiter and more radiant skin tone without side effects associated with artificial skin brightening ingredients.

Mulberry leaf extracts prevent the formation of dark spots in the upper layers of your skin. It also strengthens the skin’s natural barrier and neutralizes the effects of free radicals. Studies actually found that mulberry leaf extracts work by brightening the skin and fading out dark spots and discoloration. As mentioned earlier, dark spots either as a result of constantly exposing your skin to UV light. Freckles or acne scars can also contribute to darker skin color. By including mulberry leaf extract in your skincare regimen, you can effectively tackle the problem of skin discoloration.

Some of the benefits include skin hydration and nourishment. With mulberry leaf extract in your skincare routine, you can be sure that your skin has enough water to keep it healthy and maintain its natural glow. 


Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is another powerhouse when it comes to skin whitening. It is an essential water-soluble vitamin that has helped reduce signs of aging and acne and keep the skin adequately moisturized. For some dermatologists, niacinamide could be the fountain of youth we’ve all been searching for! Significantly, niacinamide facilitates skin lightening by fading out dark sports. Like kojic acid and mulberry leaf extracts, niacinamide fades dark spots by preventing pigments’ transfer within the skin.

Apart from skin brightening, adding niacinamide to your skincare routine offers some other benefits. It reduces the effects of sun-induced UV rays. Like mulberry leaf extracts, niacinamide keeps your skin protected from photodamage, a significant cause of skin pigmentation. It’s a top pick for those with sensitive skin types as it has anti-inflammatory properties. If your skin is always looking dry and dehydrated, you should try including this ingredient in your regimen as it has an excellent track record for improving skin hydration and moisture. Niacinamide is also known to improve the skin barrier; this puts your skin in a better position to fight off stressors and external damage that can lead to skin discoloration. 

Licorice extract

Licorice extract is from the licorice plant and has long been used for treating different skin ailments. In the late 20th century, it was discovered that licorice plants contain a certain compound- glabridin that absorbs UV rays and a powerful skin whitening element.

Although it may not be as popular as kojic acid, it is gradually making its way up in the skin-lightening cadre because of its amazing results. First, it is a powerful antioxidant that decreases reactive oxygen species, which causes premature aging, dark spots and patches, and skin discoloration. Licorice extract also brightens your skin by getting rid of excess melanin in the skin. It does this without putting your skin in harm’s way. This is due to its rich anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce skin irritation resulting from the prolonged use of licorice extract. Go for licorice extracts in serums as such products will have a higher concentration of the ingredient. 

Vitamin C

This is an all-time favorite for beauticians and dermatologists when it comes to skin whitening and brightening ingredients. The reason for this is not farfetched; vitamin C cuts down melanin production in the skin and defends your skin from the harmful UV rays. 


Vitamin C produces collagen, an essential element that gives your skin its elasticity and firmness. As if this is not enough, vitamin C is also a powerful ingredient that tones the skin and provides that glow with continuous use. No wonder dermatologists often recommend topical application of vitamin C for healthier and more radiant skin.

The most endearing benefit of this ingredient is that it has an excellent safety profile and is safe for most skin types. If you are afraid of trying other skin-lightening ingredients because of the risk of side effects, then go for vitamin C as it is relatively safer than others ingredients. It also protects against sun damage, thereby preventing the formation of dark spots on your skin. For maximum effects, go for a serum with a generous amount of vitamin C on the ingredient list and apply it once or twice per day. You can also pair it up with other ingredients like retinol or salicylic acid.

The takeaway

Achieving a brighter and more radiant skin complexion is not as difficult as it seems. Although there are many skin whitening ingredients on the market, without proper research, you could end up getting your skin damaged and compounding your skin problems. However, with the ingredients above, you can achieve that bright skin tone you’ve always longed for. Don’t forget to do a patch test of any new product on a small part of your skin to reduce your risk of side effects. 

Subscribe to our newsletter
Join Women’s Concepts community and subscribe to our newsletter to get access to exclusive content, offers, and products.
Was this article helpful?
Awesome! Would you like to share it?
That's too bad. Thank you for your feedback!
Continue Reading Below
Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter
Join our community and subscribe to our newsletter to get access to exclusive content, offers, and products.
Your Privacy
We use cookies to improve your experience on our site and to show you relevant advertising. To find out more, read our updated privacy policy.