Can You Brighten Skin Naturally?

March 9, 2016

My skin has been looking seriously dull and dry as of late. I don’t want to use products that have a bunch of chemicals, and prefer to go with all-natural, organic stuff—but I do want whatever I’m using to actually work! Are there any products that can brighten and tone skin without lab-formulated chemicals? —Sam A.

You know that person. The one who relies on a single beauty product—usually something like organic virgin coconut oil or raw shea butter or unfiltered apple cider vinegar—to keep his or her complexion clear, glowy, and wrinkle-free?

I am not one of those people.

My medicine cabinet contains no less than four different SPF lotions and at least a dozen types of face masks, along with a few cleansers and two different types of toners. My skin is ultra-sensitive, both to the chemicals my dermatologist recommends for anti-aging and to certain natural oils (almond oil and my pores are sworn enemies), so I’m pretty careful about what I use on my face.

That’s why I love it when Alexis Wolfer, natural beauty expert and the founder of the popular blog The Beauty Bean, shows me her favorite DIY treatments for healthy, gorgeous skin. Her recipes are always made from a few natural ingredients you can get at the grocery store, or find right in your pantry.

She stopped by Thrive HQ  to show me how to make a DIY antioxidant skin-brightening mask using pumpkin, coconut oil, lime juice, and raw sugar. Yes, it tasted delicious, but it actually gave me a serious glow!

Pumpkin flesh is high in vitamin A, also known as retinol. (Retin-A, the gold-standard of anti-aging treatments, is a type of vitamin A that’s been processed in a lab to be even more concentrated and effective.) And then there’s the vitamin C found in both the pumpkin and lime juice that sloughs off dead skin cells to reveal brighter, more even skin. There’s even evidence that vitamin C works as an antioxidant and protects skin cells from free-radical damage, which minimizes signs of aging that show up on your face in the form of wrinkles and dark spots.

DIY Antioxidant Skin Brightening Mask

This mask is low-maintenance beauty at its finest—a four-ingredient recipe that’s unbelievably simple to put together, takes 15 minutes to work its magic, and even tastes good (trust me).


2 tablespoons fresh, boxed, or canned pumpkin
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 tablespoons raw sugar


  1. Whisk together the pumpkin, lime juice, and coconut oil until thoroughly combined and smooth.
  2. Add sugar and stir until just mixed.
  3. Apply to skin, and allow to dry, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. As soon as it’s dry, with wet fingertips massage in small circles to exfoliate. As you do, the sugar will dissolve.
  5. Wash off with warm water.

Wolfer recommends using it up to three times a week (note: if you don’t exfoliate regularly, start with once a week and go from there). If you’re interested in natural skin brightening without spending time in the kitchen, try these organic ready made products.

Exfoliating peel

Earth Science’s Papaya Glycolic Gentle Skin Peel is similar to our our DIY mask, in that papaya is rich in vitamin C and vitamin A—and has powerful enzymes that exfoliate to renew and smooth skin.

Clay mask

Bentonite clay won’t brighten skin per se, but it can help draw out pore-clogging impurities while simultaneously tightening skin, for an “airbrushed” look. Get even more out of this Thrive Market favorite by combined with apple cider vinegar instead of water, which increases the tingling power of the f.a.e bentonite clay mask; it’s like you can feel the clay in the mask sucking out the dirt and grime. We’re not the only ones who love it—it’s one of our highest-rated beauty products (59 reviews with a 5-star average!).

Daily moisture

You should be using a sunscreen daily—yes, even when it’s overcast—to protect from sun damage. But layering on a serum first can lock in moisture and deliver a powerful dose of nutrients without greasiness. Avalon Organics Vitamin C Renewal Serum smells incredible and harnesses antioxidant power to diminish any discolored spots on the cheeks, forehead, and chest—and remember to always apply sunscreen last to make sure you’re not diluting your SPF!

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Michelle Pellizzon

Certified health coach and endorphin enthusiast, Michelle is an expert in healthy living and eating. When she's not writing you can find her running trails, reading about nutrition, and eating lots of guacamole.

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