6 Acids with Brightening Superpowers
Acids are essential skincare ingredients. They trigger the epidermis to head into full remodel mode, reducing the appearance of fine lines, smoothing, undulling, and hydrating for renewed radiance. All acids are brighteners in that they clear away dull, dry skin to reveal a fresher appearance, but some earn extra points for the ways they take on excess pigment. Here is a shortlist of the best.
Mandelic acid enhances brightness in two ways. It inhibits the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase to block pigment from forming. It helps lift existing pigment by exfoliating dead cells from the surface. Mandelic acid has a larger molecular structure than other AHAs, so it’s absorbed by the skin more slowly and doesn’t cause irritation that can trigger hyperpigmentation. It also has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Mandelic acid is a particularly good choice for skin of color or sensitive types because of its gentle action.
Transform tone and texture with this gentle, multi-tasking formula that encourages cell renewal, kills acne bacteria, and inhibits pigment production.
Kojic acid is a natural skin lightening compound derived from mushrooms. It works by blocking the production of tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for melanin synthesis. It also helps exfoliate skin and stimulate cell renewal, which is beneficial for removing existing pigmentation, plus it has photoprotective qualities. Kojic acid fades dark spots and prevents new pigment formation making it ideal for combatting melasma, hyperpigmentation, and age spots.
A high-performance dark spot corrector to fade stubborn discoloration and boost cell regeneration for a brighter, more consistent tone and texture. Kojic acid is blended with hydroquinone and vitamin A to lift excess pigment, speed renewal, and protect against future damage.
Glycolic acid disperses pigment on skin’s surface through the sloughing off of dead cells. It also works to directly reduce melanin formation by inhibiting melanin production.
In addition to accelerating cell turnover, glycolic acid stimulates collagen production and promotes a smoother texture and more consistent tone. Because of its small molecular size, glycolic penetrates more quickly than other AHAs, so it can be quick to produce results. It can also be more irritating.
Glycolic acid and lactic acid aid in pigment dispersal from the skin's surface and encourage healthy cell function to help prevent new pigment production. The exfoliating formula loosens and lifts cellular debris to clear the way for better absorption of your brightening corrective serums.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
This antioxidant powerhouse interacts with copper to inhibit the melanin-stimulating enzyme tyrosinase, reducing the formation of pigment and encouraging a brighter, more even tone. It also has a potent photoprotective effect to reduce melanin triggers. And it’s essential to collagen synthesis, so it supports a firmer skin structure.
Promotes even tone and smooth texture. The brightening and firming formula also includes lactic acid for gentle exfoliation and niacinamide, which suppresses melanin synthesis, reduces inflammation, and bolsters the skin barrier.
Though it can be derived from fermented milk, lactic acid is often sourced from the fermentation of plant-based carbohydrates. Like other AHAs, lactic acid works by dissolving the proteins binding skin cells together, which results in a sloughing off of dead cells to help fade existing pigment. Its larger molecular structure means lactic acid works mainly on the skin’s surface, which places it among the most gentle of the AHAs. While slower to achieve depigmentation results, lactic acid is an excellent choice for those with extra-dry, sensitive, or reactive skin, or those new to acids in skincare. In Vivant formulas, lactic acid is often used to balance more aggressive ingredients.
This powerful formula blends lactic acid, vitamin A, and antioxidant grape seed oil for dramatic results. The moisture-rich lotion lifts excess pigment as it exfoliates cracked, calloused, rough skin leaving smooth, bright, ultra-soft skin in its place. Excellent for stubborn dark spots on the back of the hands or body. It can be used on the face if skin is acclimated to level two or higher of Vivant’s vitamin A therapies.
While not technically an acid, vitamin A is converted into retinoic acid in the body, where its potent antioxidant properties get to work. It disrupts the oxidative process induced by environmental stressors to prevent and repair cellular damage. Vitamin A also brightens skin by accelerating cell turnover, which removes surface-level pigmentation. As a bonus, vitamin A boosts collagen production, thickens, and firms the skin. Vitamin A is often used in combination with other AHA brighteners to maximize results.
Vitamin A, plus lactic acid and kojic acid make this a potent formula for brighter, more even tone and texture. Ideal for skin new to vitamin A.
This acid cocktail is the pinnacle of Vivant’s multi-tiered vitamin A therapies. The formula is a who’s who of brightening ingredients including vitamin A, glycolic acid, citric acid, kojic acid, and lactic acid, plus melanin-inhibiting, ceramide-boosting niacinamide. Your skin must be acclimated to vitamin A therapy to use this advanced serum—this is level three—but it’s worth the climb up the ladder.