The 8 Best Lightening Creams Without Hydroquinone In 2020

Achieving a lighter skin tone can be safe and effective thanks to these high-tech moisturisers.

Hydroquinone is just a big no-no. It can serious health effects and damage your skin permanently. So, how does one lighten or brighten the skin in a safe and effective way? Meet our favourite lightening creams, chose for their ability to even skin tone, restore luminosity and fight clusters of pigmentation. A lightening cream could be the skin wingman you’ve been looking for to help you achieve the skin tone you’ve been battling to nail down.

A close up of a middle aged model patting cream into her cheek, smiling she looks down - 700 x 420A close up of a middle aged model patting cream into her cheek, smiling she looks down - 700 x 420

A powerful moisturiser that gently brightens the skin.

This vegan moisturiser delivers some pleasing surprises along with its outstanding hydration abilities. The C-Tetra technology coined by Medik8 combines Vitamin C and Vitamin E to protect skin from factors that cause premature ageing. But that doesn’t mean Medik8 C-Tetra Cream 50ml is only suitable to defend youthful complexions. Mature skins will benefit from its ability to restore radiance for a lightening and brightening effect. This is all thanks to Vitamin C, which works to lighten pigmentation and helps prevent melanin production.

The lightweight texture of Medik8 C-Tetra Cream 50ml penetrates the deep layers of skin to deliver hydration and antioxidants. What it won't deliver is phthalates, parabens, and alcohol, as it's free of these ingredients. And because this brightening moisturiser has a breezy citrus scent, you’ll have no problem using it regularly for best results.

Powerful Peony makes this a safe choice if you’re after a lightening cream without hydroquinone.

Here’s a skin-lightening solution that will suit the temperament of oily skins as well as normal and combination complexions. Antipodes Manuka Honey Skin Brightening Day Cream contains antioxidants sourced from Grape Seeds and Kiwi Fruit, which help repair the effects of sun damage and scarring. These two ingredients contribute to a lightening effect on the skin, while the Kiwi has a prime role in further lightening skin, freckles, and age spots.

An enzyme from Peony flowers also promotes pigment lightening. The pretty Peony has a history to back this up: it’s been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to lighten skin. That makes Antipodes Manuka Honey Skin Brightening Day Cream a safe alternative if you’re after a lightening cream without hydroquinone.

Now, for the exotic stuff: Bee Venom and Mamaku Black Fern provide a gentle lifting effect, which mature skins will also love. More bee power comes from the natural antibacterial properties of Manuka Honey, which addresses skin blemishes.

An all-rounder that addresses pigmentation while caring for your skin.

Pigmentation can lead to an overall darkening effect on the skin and needs to be fought from multiple angles to keep skin looking light and bright. Intraceuticals Opulence Moisture Brightening Cream does a sterling job of protecting the skin from environmental aggressors that can lead to premature ageing and hyperpigmentation.

Nonapeptide-1 and Carrot Polypeptide encourage collagen production and improve skin-cell turnover for that youthful appearance we all crave. With botanical brightening agents and antioxidants from delicious sources such as Ginger, Intraceuticals Opulence Moisture Brightening Cream is an excellent choice for daily skin hydration, protection, rejuvenation, and lightening benefits. It’s the all-rounder face cream you’ve been dreaming of.

‘Beauty sleep’ takes on new meaning thanks to this lovely detoxing moisturiser from Murad. Applied to your skin before bed, Murad Environmental Shield City-Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser 50ml works to neutralise environmental damage overnight with a high concentration of antioxidants. These are sourced from Marrubium Plant Stem Cells, which promise to fight and repair free-radical damage, and help detox and strengthen your skin’s barrier. You’ll probably want to consider this product for your skin if you live in the city and are exposed to many pollutants daily. Pollution can be equally ageing as the sun.

Next enter Vitamin C, which helps to brighten and even your skin tone. And let’s not forget hydration, which is essential for your skin at night when it moves into its regenerative cycle. Murad Environmental Shield City-Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser 50ml feeds your skin with a blend of nourishing botanicals such as Jojoba Oil.

Ditch dullness and brighten skin on a cellular level.

Is your skin making you look tired and wiped out? That's dullness. SK-II has formulated what may be the best lightening cream without hydroquinone to return luminosity and brighten your skin: Cellumination Deep Surge EX.

Let’s take a closer look at the brand’s Advanced Whitening Complex, which brightens dark spots and pigmentation. It's a blend of vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and organic acids that work together to boosts the skin's ability to self-rejuvenate.

Use SK-II Cellumination Deep Surge EX every morning and night to get that gorgeous skin tone back on track—and keep it that way. This lightening cream is also primed to inhibit the production of skin pigments. Despite being loaded with features, this daily moisturiser isn’t heavy on the skin. It’s lovely and lightweight, working well beneath makeup to give you a fresher face day by day.

Brighten and protect the skin with this smart daily moisturiser.

There are no surprises here: Pixi Vitamin-C Lotion is a mighty warrior against dull skin and pigmentation. Its hero ingredient, Vitamin C, is a popular brightening agent. This antioxidant vitamin inhibits the production of melanin, gently fading brown spots and patches.

Pixi Vitamin-C Lotion is also infused with Orange Flower Water, citrus-derived oils, and Ascorbic Acid. The acidic features in this lotion slough away dead cells from the skin’s surface, leaving it brighter and smoother. In response to the exfoliation, your skin will be triggered to move into healing mode, increasing its production of collagen and elastin. The result? Lighter, firmer, smoother skin, thanks to this lightweight formula you can use every day.

Finally, Vitamin E nourishes and conditions skin, while Willow Bark Extract helps refine and exfoliate pores. Everything you need for a beautifully, balanced skin.

Clinique iD: Moisturiser + Concentrate for Uneven Skin Tone

Here's how to customise your moisturiser with brightening benefits.

Clinique iD: Moisturiser + Concentrate for Uneven Skin Tone

Skin types and needs vary wildly. Hormonal changes, stress, and other factors can also have you reeling from normal to dry or oily within weeks. That's why we love Clinique’s ingenious moisturising and treatment system. Clinique iD: Moisturiser + Concentrate for Uneven Skin Tone gives you the power to adjust to your skin's changing needs.

The first step is to choose your hydration base and create your Clinique iD. Your choices include Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+, Dramatically Different Oil-Control Gel, and Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly. Each bottle comes not quite full; this space allows you to add 10 ml from an Active Cartridge Concentrate.

To add skin-lightening benefits to your blend, use the Active Cartridge Concentrate for Uneven Skin Tone. It contains concentrated actives, including Japanese Angelica Root, to even tone and brighten.

Tackle dull, dark skin head-on with this intense Vitamin C solution.

One of the most annoying signs of premature ageing is dark patches and pigmentation. Mesoestetic harnesses the power of a high concentration of stable Vitamin C to beat these skin bullies. The antioxidants in mesoestetic energy C intensive cream also give your skin superpowers to overcome the effects of ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Naturally, other signs of ageing such as fine lines and dehydration are also addressed—all necessary steps in achieving an even and bright skin tone. The winner here in mesoestetic energy C intensive cream is Osilift, extracted from oats. Osilift has an immediate tightening effect on the skin and tackles fine wrinkles and expression lines in the longer term.

How-To Use Antipodes Manuka Honey Skin-Brightening Light Day Cream

Brand and product inclusions are at the sole discretion of Adore Beauty’s highly trained Customer Service team. We do not seek or accept payment from brands or individuals listed in our guides.

So, let's recap the 8 Best Lightening Cream Without Hydroquinone

  1. Medik8 C-Tetra Cream 50ml

  2. Antipodes Manuka Honey Skin Brightening Day Cream

  3. Intraceuticals Opulence Moisture Brightening Cream

  4. Murad Environmental Shield City-Skin Overnight Detox Moisturiser 50ml

  5. SK-II Cellumination Deep Surge EX

  6. Pixi Vitamin-C Lotion

  7. Clinique iD: Moisturiser + Concentrate for Uneven Skin Tone

  8. mesoestetic energy C intensive cream