Cleansers are the first line of defense in your skincare routine. Not only do they slough away any dirt, sweat, makeup, or pollution that your skin has accumulated throughout the day, but they also provide essential vitamins and nutrients, along with buzzy skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid, charcoal, and glycolic acid to hydrate, detoxify, or exfoliate. Of course, it all depends on what kind of cleanser you're using.
Like true beauty editors, we love all kinds of cleansers, although it's true that lately we've been favoring brightening formulas. These products do everything that an effective cleanser is supposed to do with the added benefit of evening our skin tones and giving us that lit-from-within radiance we like to refer to as "the glow factor." (This is especially necessary now that we're coming to the end of a sun-drenched summer.) While there are many on the market, there are only a few that are beloved by both the Byrdie team and the good people of the internet. Keep scrolling to see the 12 best brightening cleansers money can buy.
Indie Lee is one of my personal favorite beauty brands. Its products, like this brightening cleanser, are the reason. You see, each product is clean and natural, with plenty of healthy, skin-loving ingredients in each bottle. In this cleanser, there are vitamin C, antioxidants, and various plant extracts to illuminate and even the complexion. "I've been a big fan of Indie Lee for a few years now," writes one Sephora reviewer. "I absolutely love this facial cleanser. My skin always feels so fresh and bright after I use it. It’s gentle and perfect for taking off eye makeup too. The scent is subtle but natural. Highly recommend!"
Behold: a brightening micellar water. When's the last time you've seen that? This Laneige cleanser melts away makeup while maintaining the skin's natural hydration levels, which is why it's a good option for people with dry and dehydrated skin. The secret is in berry extracts and an antioxidant blend of vitamins B and C. "I've been using the Vitamin Brightening Cleansing Water for about a month now and I love it," writes one customer. "I've been using it post workout and it takes all the dirt that accumulates during my boxing sessions. It doesn't irritate my skin (I have sensitive skin) and my face feels so fresh after using it. I highly recommend using this product after any workout."
Here's a cleanser that has a cult following and for good reason. It's formulated with vitamins A, C, and E; antioxidants; and salicylic acid to cleanse the skin, clear it of potential blemishes, and illuminate it from the inside out. But don't take it from us. Take it from a real customers: "I splurged and purchased this cleanser because of all the great reviews. It does cost a pretty penny for being a cleanser but I really like and use it sparingly in my routine. I feel that a little of this product goes a long way. My skin is really improving and looking better than it has in years. The scent is pleasant and I really like how non-irritating this cleanser is. It is very gentle and does a great job."
Shout-out to this cleanser for being especially effective against sun damage. That's never more necessary than this time of year, when we're approaching the end of summer. It's all thanks to organic lemon, apple and sugar cane hydroxy-acids, which exfoliate, refine, and brighten. There's also algae to calm skin and dandelion and sage to purify it. This cleanser is glow-giving. That's for sure.
Acure is an organic drugstore beauty brand that just underwent a major makeover (these bright, minimalist bottles are what you can now expect to see lining the beauty aisle). This gel cleanser uses blackberry and pomegranate to simultaneously provide brightening effects and antioxidant protection. It's also 100% cruelty-free and vegan. Yep, we're sold.
Korres is a Greek brand responsible for some of the loveliest-scented products on the market, like this Exfoliating Cleanser. Sure, it gently sloughs away dead skin, makeup, and impurities, but it does so while brightening the skin with fruit extracts. My favorite part is the soft, floral fragrance. Every time you use it, it smells like a wild rose bush suddenly sprang up in your bathroom sink. It's like the Disney princess of brightening cleansers.
La Roche-Posay is one of those brands that feels extremely luxurious on your skin, but not your wallet (all hail French pharmacy brands!). This cream cleanser uses chemical exfoliants to target dark spots and hyper-pigmentation, unveiling newer, brighter skin underneath.
This cleanser from beloved drugstore brand Burt's Bees is formulated with 98.6% natural ingredients. The MVP is daisy extract, which brightens skin and improves the appearance of dark spots. And customers are seriously impressed. "I'm very impressed by this facial cleanser! I was hesitant on trying something new, because my face is very sensitive. But I went all in! Best decision honestly, my original skin is oily, slight redness from previous past “teen” acne and have slightly uneven skin tone. My new skin is popping! Glowing! And soft! I have been using for 2 weeks and have notice a significant difference. Oiliness gone! Uneven tone gone! I’m steady to step out in the world with a fresh face without makeup!"
Kaplan MD's cleanser contains 22 organic extracts. It exfoliates the skin for a more radiant complexion while maintaining moisture levels and providing an effective cleanse. It even keeps future damage at bay with ginger root, which acts as a powerful antioxidant against aging free radicals. Basically, it's one of those good-for-anything cleansers you can use all year round to improve the health of your skin.
Ole Henriksen's Truth skincare line is jam-packed with brightening ingredients—including one of the best and most effective of them all, vitamin C. This product is particularly unique since it starts off as a gel before transforming to an oil before settling as a milky texture. The reason it changes texture is to provide a deep clean while still hydrating the skin. That's not just talk, either. Sephora customers give it rave reviews. "This is the best face wash I have ever used. If you use it properly on dry skin it will melt your make up (including eye make up) right off. It seriously melts it away. At first I thought it would leave my skin oily, but it doesn't at all. It absorbs quickly and leaves your skin feeling moisturizer and clean, not that sand paper dry feeling you get after most cleansers. Will definitely be buying again!"
Shiseido's White Lucent Cleanser uses ultra-fine micro particles to boost clarity and radiance. While it's definitely illuminating, some Sephora reviewers even say it helped alleviate some of their acne. "Hands down the best cleanser I have ever had. I have had it for about 6 months and haven't even gone through the whole tube. A pea-size dollop is more than enough and it rinses totally clean. I have very dry skin and it doesn't make my face feel tight. Also, after using it for a few months, I started to notice my skin become more even-toned. I use it with the Benefiance Lotion ($45) so I assume it is this line that helps with that. I rarely use foundation anymore! Love it. Totally worth the price."
Glytone's name has to do with the brand's number one skincare ingredient: glycolic acid. This skin-exfoliating and radiance-lending acid encourages cellular turnover for a more radiant complexion (which is why it's the main ingredient in so many chemical peels). Because of this and its smoothing and anti-aging effects, it's one of team Byrdie's all-time favorite ingredients.
Now that you know of our (and the internet's) favorite skin-brightening cleansers, be sure to check out the 16 face masks Byrdie editors swear by for getting glowing skin ASAP.