Dermatologists have long touted vitamin C as the be-all, end-all of antioxidants in skin care — and for good reason. Decades of research show that, used topically, ascorbic acid and its derivatives can lighten hyperpigmentation, encourage collagen production, and brighten the complexion overall, which are three things we'll never say no to.
But when it comes to stamping out dullness, C isn't the only game in town. In fact, if you ask some derms, the idea of relying only on vitamin C as a one-and-done solution for brightening may even be... outdated. To start, the ingredient is notoriously difficult to stabilize, which means we may not be getting the illuminating power we think we are. Variables such as light, pH level, temperature, and simply the quality of the formulation can affect how well your C does its job.
Los Angeles-based dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, and researcher Ronald Moy, MD, has thrown his weight behind epidermal growth factors (or EGF, enzymes that repair damaged DNA) as a brightener that may outperform the classic antioxidant. He’s created a line called DNAEGF Renewal with the ingredient at the center, and conducted research that indicates a multitude of skin benefits. “Considering the Nobel Prize [in Chemistry] was just awarded for the concept of DNA repair in 2015, it’s a really new concept,” Dr. Moy says.
But growth factors aren't the only promising ingredients giving C a run for its money: Those well-suited for skin during pregnancy and breastfeeding, those deemed more effective for deeper skin tones, and a handful of plant-derived molecules round out other derm favorites. Ahead, 7 illuminators Dr. Moy and Miami-based dermatologist S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, are eyeing as the glow-makers of the future — that happen to be available today.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.