Brightening cream vs brightening serum: What’s the difference and why should you use them?

In the end, your ultimate choice might depend on your skin type and desired results. 

Dark spots, acne scars, melasma and other skin issues that change your skin tone are annoying. But you already knew that since you’re reading this article. Not only are they unsightly, but it’s hard to know how to treat them since there are so. many. options. All of which claim to even out skin tone. A good place to begin is with over-the-counter brightening creams or brightening serums. They sound similar (as are their effects), so what’s the difference between the two? And which one is best for you?

Why do you need brightening cream and serums?

Anyone who experiences uneven skin tone (so, most of us) can benefit from the illuminating effects of a brightening cream and serum. They help lighten dark spots and other skin darkening conditions — which can be the result of hormones, acne, health issues, age or ineffective skincare — while boosting skin’s overall evenness. They tend to be a more cost-effective approach to treatment versus outpatient treatments like lasers, which is why most skin professionals recommend starting here. 

What causes uneven skin tone & dark spots?

There are a few health issues that can cause the appearance of uneven skin tone, some which are in your control (like SPF protection) and others that aren’t (like hormones): 

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy (typically melasma) 
  • Overexposure to the sun (without using any SPF)
  • Unhealthy lifestyle (poor sleep, smoking, pollution)
  • Vitamin deficiencies (B12, D, etc.)

Understanding what might be causing your uneven skin tone can help with figuring out the right treatment, which we always encourage you to discuss with a dermatologist. And while most brightening creams and serums are designed for the face, hyperpigmentation can also happen on other areas of the body like the underarms, groin, and legs. 

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What is a brightening cream

Just like it sounds, a brightening cream is typically thicker and more emollient (think like a moisturizer) than a brightening serum. Its consistency makes it ideal for dry or sensitive skin types. Brightening creams can also be used as a spot treatment for dark spots or hyperpigmentation.

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Benefits of brightening creams

  • Thicker and more emollient, making it ideal for dry or sensitive skin types
  • Can be used as a spot treatment for dark spots or hyperpigmentation
  • Can be used daily and is suitable for daytime use

Drawbacks of brightening creams:

  • Depending on the structure of the cream, it can be heavy for oily skin

What is a brightening serum

A brightening serum is typically lighter and more liquid than a brightening cream. This makes it ideal for oily or acne-prone skin types. As a bonus, brightening serums can also be used all over the face to brighten the complexion.

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Benefits of brightening serums:

  • Lighter and more liquid, making it ideal for oily or acne-prone skin types
  • Can be used all over the face to brighten the complexion
  • Can be used daily and is suitable for daytime use (although remember to apply SPF to avoid exacerbating existing hyperpigmentation)

Drawbacks of brightening serums:

  • Depending on the structure of the serum, it can be drying for dry skin

Brightening cream vs brightening serum 

Now that you know the pros and cons, which one should you choose? There’s no right or wrong answer because it really depends on your skin type and your desired results. If you have dry or sensitive skin, brightening creams are a great option. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, a brightening serum is a better choice. And if you want to brighten your complexion all over, in addition to fading dark spots, a brightening serum is the way to go.

Brightening products for melanin-rich skin

For those with darker skin tones, it’s important to pay attention to what’s in your brightening products because they can either lighten overall skin tone or exacerbate existing dark spots through harsh ingredients. 

Because melanocytes (the cells that create melanin) are super sensitive and create more melanin in response to inflammation or injury, a gentle formula will be key to fading and stopping new dark spots from forming.

What is the best brightening cream?

Not all brightening creams are made equal. Some can actually lighten your overall skin tone depending on the ingredients (hydroquinone, we’re looking at you). Because of this, we worked closely with a woman of color chemist and dermatologist to produce the best brightening cream that suits all skin types and colors, especially those with melanin.

Our airy Cloud Cushion is a soft, cushiony moisturizer that instantly soothes inflammation, deeply hydrates dry skin, and repairs your skin barrier to help brighten the skin. Our formula is infused with Peptides, Ceramides, and Snow Mushroom to help prevent dark spots from forming. Created especially for people of color with sensitive skin, it’s suitable for all skin tones.

brightening cream before and after, dark spots treatment before and after, cloud cushion before and after

What are the brightening ingredients in Cloud Cushion?

Our formula uses a few brightening ingredients that will never alter or change your natural skin tone. They’re proven to work and we tested the formula on 50 women with skin of color for the exact right dosage:

  • Niacinamide: A brightening agent that improves the appearance of uneven skin tone and texture by soothing inflammation. 
  • Tucuma extract: A natural emollient with brightening antioxidants to fade dark spots 
  • Tetrapeptide-30: A brightening peptide that helps to reduce redness and the appearance of dark spots and brighten the skin.

How to use Cloud Cushion brightening cream:

  1. Apply brightening cream with our Fufu Spoon or your finger to clean, dry skin
  2. Use your fingers to smooth the cream onto clean face, neck and décolletage
  3. Allow the cream to absorb for a few minutes
  4. Follow with SPF during the day

What is the best brightening serum?

Like brightening creams, not all brightening serums are good for skin with melanin. The best brightening serum will brighten your complexion without changing its natural tone while also being suitable for your skin type. 

Our brightening serum is a milky, hydrating serum that helps brighten and resurface the skin. It’s made with an encapsulated version of Vitamin C that’s super stable so it won’t turn orange (or smell bad :). Milk Marvel has the exact right dosage to efficiently fade and prevent dark spots *and* promote collagen production, all while being gentle on the skin. No stinging or irritation here. The formula is also oil-free and non-comedogenic, making it suitable for people with oily or acne-prone skin. 

Milk Marvel Serum is a unique, fragrance-free milky serum specifically developed to help fade dark spots and prevent new ones from forming. Powered by our Smart Melanin Technology, the solution is infused with Niacinamide, Amber Algae, and Encapsulated Vitamin C to help brighten the skin and improve its overall texture.

milk marvel before and after, skin serum before and after, vitamin c serum before and after, eadem

What are the brightening ingredients in Milk Marvel?

Our ingredient formula is clinically tested on skin with melanin so it’s proven to work on skin of color. We call this Smart Melanin Technology, and Milk Marvel includes brightening ingredients, such as:

  • Amber Algae: A brightening agent that helps even out the skin tone. 
  • Ethyl Ascorbic Acid: A special encapsulated form of Vitamin C, this antioxidant brightens the skin and helps to reduce the appearance of dark spots. 
  • Licorice Root: A brightening agent that helps to remove excess pigmentation, reduce the appearance of dark spots, and brighten the skin. 
  • Niacinamide: A brightening agent that improves the appearance of uneven skin tone and texture by soothing inflammation.

How to use Milk Marvel brightening serum:

  1. Apply brightening serum with a dropper to clean, dry skin
  2. Gently pat the serum into your skin until it is fully absorbed
  3. Allow the serum to absorb for a few minutes before applying moisturizer (optional)
  4. Always follow with SPF during the day

So should I use a brightening cream or a brightening serum?

Basically, a brightening cream and brightening serum are both great options for brightening the skin (no surprise). Your choice will come down to your skin type and desired results. Our Smart Melanin™ formulas use different brightening ingredients to address all aspects of melanin overproduction — from preventing it to fading existing dark spots — which are the root causes of hyperpigmentation. The end result? A brighter complexion in every way. 

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