Many confuse skin-brightening skin care with skin-whitening or lightening and visa versa.
Skin Lightening, Brightening & Whitening: Everything You Need To Know
Skin whitening, skin brightening, skin lightening. Ever wonder what the difference is?
In this comprehensive guide you will learn everything you need to know about skin lightening, whitening and brightening. You will not only learn what these terms mean, you will also learn what is appropriate for you and what to avoid so that you can have healthy, bright, even toned skin.
All women, regardless of age or ethnicity want even, clear and radiant skin. For most women, the challenge to achieve radiant skin begins with dark spots or hyperpigmentation caused by the accumulation of melanin (your natural skin pigment). Hyperpigmentation can be intensified by genetics and ethnicity. For black and brown skinned women of African, South East Asian and Hispanic descent, hyperpigmentation can create an uneven skin tone.
For women of European or Asian descent, blotchiness and spots caused by sun damage and the aging process stand in the way of clear and radiant skin. Other roadblocks to clear skin are dryness and breakouts caused by hormonal fluctuations related to life changes like menopause and stress.
Even though they sound the same, there is actually a significant difference between skin lightening, whitening & brightening. Before deciding on your skin care routine, it is very important to understand all three of these categories, their pluses & minuses, and even the potential risks to your health which may be involved.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about these topics, including:
Why “skin whitening” is potentially hazardous to your health, and is not recommended
How “skin lightening” helps fix blemishes on your skin, and can be done naturally
How “skin brightening” will make your skin look refreshed, vibrant & beautiful
Skin whitening also known as skin bleaching is a treatment designed to give you a skin tone lighter than the one you were born with. This is generally achieved by the use of chemicals. These chemicals are often dangerous and the treatments are often painful.
The goal of skin whitening is to lighten or fade your complexion beyond the natural skin tone. To see your natural skin tone, just look at your under arms. Skin whitening is controversial and could have potentially dangerous side effects. Unless you actually want to involve a medical professional in your skin care treatment, then “skin whitening” is probably not what you’re looking for. We do not recommend “skin whitening”, so we’re going to move on to “lightening & brightening”.
In contrast to skin whitening, “skin lightening” has a positive function other than achieving a lighter complexion. In order to understand what skin lightening actually is we first need to understand what hyperpigmentation is.
Skin Lightening and Hyperpigmentation
How Does Skin Lightening Work
Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition that refers to any darkening of the skin. Dark patches form usually on the face and hands or other areas that are commonly exposed to the sun. This darkening of the skin occurs when an excess of melanin, which is a brown pigment that gives our skin its color, forms deposits in our skin. Although hyperpigmentation is harmless many people are uncomfortable with the way it makes them look.
Hyperpigmentation spots are often caused by repeated exposure to the sun. Freckles and other darkened skin areas can become darker from sun exposure. This happens by the melanin absorbing the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays in order to protect the skin from overexposure.
Another form of hyperpigmentation is Melasma. Melasma spots are larger than the spots caused by sun damage. They appear as symmetric blotchy hyperpigmented patches on the face, usually the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead, chin, and upper lip. They are most often caused by hormonal changes. Pregnancy and the use of birth control pills can also bring about the overproduction of melanin, due to hormonal changes.
Acne and other skin diseases may cause hyperpigmentation, leaving dark spots after the condition clears.
To deal with hyperpigmentation, skin lightening products are formulated to even out skin tone and restore the skin’s natural color before the hyperpigmentation sets in. If you want to see your natural skin color, look at the inner part of your upper arm.
How Skin Lightening Works
The goal of skin lightening is not to bleach your skin, but to fade out unwanted blemishes by inhibiting melanin, which gives your skin its color.
Within the many different layers of our skin, there is a layer called the basal layer. In this layer, our skin cells form and divide to create the outer skin layer. In this layer, there is a cell called a melanocyte. This cell is responsible for transporting melanosomes which are cells that contain pigment (melanin) which gives us our skin color. Located in the melanocyte is an enzyme called tyrosinase. This enzyme is responsible for the production of melanin. Hyperpigmentation is caused by this enzyme over producing melanin.
To remedy this, many skin lightening products have been formulated to inhibit tyrosinase, essentially stopping it from over producing melanin. Skin lightening products that include tyrosinase inhibitors are not only for people with hyperpigmentation. Many people with even skin use these products to prevent hyperpigmentation in the future as it is far easier to prevent hyperpigmentation than to correct it once it is present in your skin. Unfortunately even if hyperpigmentation is corrected it can return due to our skin having a memory. Another reason skin lightening is recommended for people with even skin is sometimes hyperpigmentation lies beneath the surface of the skin and will emerge in later life.
“Skin Lightening” reduces pigmentation, lightens discoloration, eliminates blemishes and evens skin tone. Importantly, it can be done through simple skin care products, and does not require any type of medical procedure. Skin lightening products target particular areas of discolorations like age spots and hyperpigmentation from acne breakouts and bruising. Lightening creams work to reduce the melanin pigmentation in a particular area on the skin. Lightening products are best used for a limited period of time.
What Are Some Common Skin Lightening Ingredients?
Hydroquinone (This is not recommended. Continue reading to learn why)
Skin Lightening Creams
Skin lightening creams are designed to treat hyperpigmentation by reducing melanin in your skin. (Hyperpigmentation is caused by excessive amounts of melanin in areas of your skin.) These creams can be used to smooth out age spots, acne scars and other discolorations resulting in an even skin tone.
There are many skin lightening creams, some over the counter products, and some can only be obtained with a prescription. Prescription lightening creams generally contain hydroquinone and corticosteroids (steroid medication). Products containing these ingredients in some countries are only available with a prescription as they have potentially dangerous side effects if misused. Mercury is another banned substance often found in skin lightening creams.
When you buy products over the counter make sure to check the ingredients. Do not buy anything with hydroquinone, corticosteroids or mercury. There are many highly effective products that include natural ingredients.
Hydroquinone: A Skin Lightening Option Which Is Not Recommended
Do you find skin lighteners irritate your skin? This can be frustrating as many lightening products on the market have ingredients that can irritate and even damage delicate skin. If you have sensitive skin and still want to get the benefits of skin lightening you will be happy to know that there are many natural skin lightening alternatives.
The most common ingredient found in skin lightening products over the last 50 years is hydroquinone. What makes this ingredient so sought after is that it effectively decreases melanin in skin. This makes it a potent skin lightening ingredient for someone looking to lighten dark spots, freckles, acne scars, and more. Until recently it was considered to be the safest and most effective treatment for hyperpigmentation including age spots, melasma, sun damage, and other discolorations. The Local Government Association has recently announced that Hyroquinone is dangerous and should be avoided.
How Does It Work?
Hydroquinone works by decreasing the number of melanocytes present in your skin. Melanocytes are cells that produce melanin, which is what makes your skin, eyes and hair darker. Less melanin means lighter and more even skin tone.
The Dark Side of Hydroquinone
Hydroquinone isn’t for everyone. It can irritate sensitive skin and may result in redness, itching or dryness. Although the itching and redness often fades over time some people find that their skin can’t tolerate it. Research suggests there may even be lethal side effects associated with long term use of synthetic hydroquinone. One possible side effect is exogenous ochronosis, which is a skin disorder that could potentially leave blue-black spots on your skin, especially if you are of African descent. Due to its toxicity and potential side effects the European community banned its use in cosmetics, and limited its availability to prescriptions. In the US the FDA announced in 2006 that it could potentially cause cancer.
The great news is there are plenty of natural skin lightening products that are completely natural and have none of the side effects. Here are just a few.
The following ingredients will lighten your skin naturally, without the risks associated with Hydroquinone.
Bearberry extract is a completely natural skin lightening ingredient found in the bearberry shrub which contains arbutin, a natural skin lightener and brightener. Arbutin is a distant cousin to hydroquinone, but is completely natural. It makes the enzyme that is responsible for producing melanin inactive like hydroquinone does, providing you the benefits of hydroquinone such as lightening and brightening your skin tone while also correcting hyperpigmentation problems like age spots, freckles, melasma, and acne scars. Since it is completely natural it has no side effects.
Another benefit of bearberry extract is it contains sun protection filters that can reduce the effects of sun exposure helping to slow the effects of aging.
Licorice Root Extract
Would you believe that licorice is not only used in candy. It is also a powerful natural skin lightener that is often used to treat hyperpigmentation such as age spots, sun damage, melasma and more. It is not only a skin lightener but is also can be used to control excessive oil on your skin.
Licorice root extract is perfect for people with sensitive skin as it can be used to calm down redness, puffiness and itching. Since it has amazing anti-irritant abilities it has far fewer side effects than hydroquinone.
Looking to effectively treat melasma? Kojic acid which comes from fermented mushrooms inhibits the over production of melanin in unevenly pigmented skin. This makes it a potent ally in brightening everything from freckles to melasma. Kojic acid has become revered worldwide for its skin lightening abilities. It therefore makes sense that it is found in numerous skin lightening products.
This ingredient is produced after rice is malted for the making of sake. By inhibiting melanin, which is known to darken the skin, kojic acid brightens and lightens your skin instead.
This lightening agent is found in grains like wheat, rye and barley. It is not only effective in lightening skin, but is effective in treating numerous skin conditions too. Azelaic acid was originally used to treat acne. It also reduces inflammation and decreases the production of keratin. Keratin promotes the growth of acne bacteria.
Azelaic acid does two things:
It inhibits melanin production.
It combats hyper-pigmentation by suppressing the growth of melanin producing cells.
Azelaic acid effectively targets hyperpigmentation while has little effect on normally pigmented skin like freckles. This makes it ideal for treating hyperpigmentation disorders.
Niacinamide actively reduces jagged pigmentation and age spots effectively lightening and soothing your skin. Niacinamide increases ceramide and fatty acid levels in skin effectively increasing hydration levels in your skin. This ensures you softer, smoother skin which is less prone to irritation. In the long term well hydrated skin ensures you firm and wrinkle free skin.
Citrus extracts are a rich source of vitamin C which destroys free radicals in your body. Free radicals are cells that cause aging. Citrus extracts give your skin a radiant glow while rejuvenating it from the inside. Lemon juice naturally whitens skin and effectively removes dark spots. It is also used to mildly exfoliate your skin due to its acidic content by safely peeling off the top layer of your skin. Researchers have also found that citric acid can be used to significantly reverse photo aging and sun damage.
Glycolic Acid is the most active and beneficial of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) in skin care. It is generally used as a natural skin exfoliant and moisturizer. Glycolic Acid not only evens out skin discoloration, but also helps minimize fine lines and wrinkles. AHA’s such as Glycolic Acid can assist other ingredients in skin lighteners by allowing them to penetrate farther into the skin.
Also an AHA, Lactic Acid mimics the properties of Glycolic Acid but is typically better suited for individuals with sensitive skin. AHA’s such as Lactic Acid can assist other ingredients in skin lightening by allowing them to penetrate farther into the skin.
Found in a wide array of ointments, lotions, pills, and soaps, this ingredient is packed with antioxidants and designed to effectively lighten the skin. Not only does this ingredient help with skin whitening, it also contributes to tissue repair and regeneration.
Packed with Vitamin C and citric acid, lemons are made with organic bleaching agents that not only brighten your skin but also give it a healthy glow as well. Our very own Oralight Supplements are made with lemon fibers and other natural ingredients, guaranteeing fresh and healthy skin. Not only do lemons leave a refreshing scent on your skin, they also contain citric acid which is a well-known natural bleaching ingredient. Just make sure to apply a rich moisturizer to your skin after the lemon treatment, to avoid dryness.
Made popular in Japan, Mulberry extract is another all-natural choice that will deliver results with consistent use. It may not be the most effective or potent, but it will get you a lighter skin tone over time.
Mulberry extracts are known to help skin. They are widely used by many people all over the globe for purposes of skin lightening. Significant research has been gathered to prove the anti tyrosinase activity of mulberry plants produces the desirable effects as far as skin lightening is concerned. Furthermore, the extract is known to slow down the ageing process. It contains rich anti-oxidant properties thus making it extremely beneficial for preventing wrinkles formation As a result, someone who uses mulberry extract will have flawless, silky smooth skin for many years to come.
Cosmetologists also promote the extract and recommend it for effective skin lightening. The roots and the barks contain excellent healing properties and this is one of the main reason why they are used for producing mulberry extract popularly used as a skin lightener. The extract can additionally be used for removing residual rough skin as well as impurities that may be present on the skin. The extract is also recommended by cosmetology experts because it lowers melanin production that occurs as a result of UV exposure. When used as a skin lightener, mulberry extract resolves all issues related to uneven skin tone thereby allowing a user to have a pleasant skin tone after use.
This vegetable, which is packed to the gills with amino acids, is a great choice for people who want to get their glutathione naturally. Other green foods like avocados, asparagus, and broccoli have also been proven to contain a notable amount of glutathione as well.
This wonder-plant is not only gentle and soothing on the skin, but effective in reducing redness and skin discoloration as well. By rubbing the insides of the plant (the gel part) on your face, you will make your skin feel brighter, refreshed, and altogether lighter.
Like aloe vera, honey is both a bleaching aid and a moisturizer all at once. A lot of times, your skin feels uneven and patchy because it’s dry and rough. By incorporating honey into your routine, your skin will look lighter, more even, and feel softer at the same time.
Like lemons, oranges have bleaching properties that can really lighten your skin. On top of that, these super-fruits also pack a vitamin C punch and make your skin feel more elastic and soft.
One of the best nutrients for your skin, yogurt is very nutritious and provides a lot of benefits. For one, it has lactic acid which has been proven to brighten skin, and it also moisturizes really well, so your face will feel soft and smooth.
Skin Lightening: The Bottom Line
Skin lightening is not skin bleaching. If you want to restore your skin’s natural tone there are many over the counter natural skin lightening products. Makari skin lightening products are naturally infused and hydroquinone free. Here are a few samples:
Brightening is more about increasing radiance and restoring vibrancy to skin. Skin brightening products remove dull cells and reveal radiant, glowing skin. Skin brightening products are an integral part of a skin care regimen to combat aging and for a smooth even skin tone.
What ingredients should you look for in a brightener?
Alpha & beta hydroxy acids
Brightening from the inside out with Oralight Supplements
A quality skin brightener should be formulated from compounds that show promise in lightening skin tone, a function that may also include reducing the prominence of freckles and other sun spots. Optimally, a skin brightener will also offer anti-wrinkle benefits to further promote the youthful appearance of facial skin. Of course, skin brighteners should also be able to help skin appear brighter and more radiant, just as their names suggests.
There are many promising skin brightening products available today that can be used to make skin appear brighter and more youthful.
As mentioned previously, we do not recommend “skin whitening”, and believe that the brightening & lightening options mentioned above are far safer & more beneficial. But just to cover our bases, here is what’s involved in skin whitening.
Again, we do not recommend any of the options listed below. This is just an FYI.
Prescription Medications: While one can get an over the counter drug, a fast regiment prescription drug may be able to help whiten the skin using more intense chemicals, such as hydroquinone, a popular ingredient found in many skin whitening creams. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only allows hydroquinone at two percent concentration in commercial products, but doctors can prescribe much higher concentrations. Other drugs a doctor may prescribe are Retin-A or other retinoids. all of which are derived from vitamin A.
Chemical Peel Treatment: This kit can be found at home or beauty salons. For faster results, one can gain access to stronger chemicals by reaching out to a medical professional. Such as their dermatologist or plastic surgeon. In this treatment, acid burns away the top layer of the skin while new skin emerges with noticeable improvement.
Dermabrasion: Performed by a doctor, a rotating wire brush is used to sand off the skin. This method helps with surface scars, deep wrinkles, discolorations, and the process helps new skin grow quicker. This may take several treatments and each treatment will show whiter skin than the previous.
Laser Resurfacing: Using a beam of infrared light to repair the skin. The laser can go deeper into the skin layers without causing damage to the surface of the skin and accelerating new skin growth. Once the skin heals, the new layer of skin will be whiter.
While these options may make your skin whitening dreams come true, there are many side effects and recovery takes time. Laser whitening may cause bruising, skin dryness, sensitivity to sunlight, tightness, swelling, scarring, skin infections, skin texture difference, pigmentation, skin redness, and irritation. While Deep chemical peel treatments can cause permanent damage such as hyperpigmentation (skin darkening) or hypopigmentation (skin lightening). if you undergo very aggressive treatments to whiten your skin it may become raw and ooze forming crusts all over.
In addition, there are those that should not or cannot do skin whitening. For instance, those with a history of heart-related disorders, recurring fever or cold sores, a tendency to scare, should avoid undergoing chemical peel treatment for skin whitening. While people with really dark skin may want to be wary and should try to avoid it as well.
While it may seem appealing, and even the ‘thing to do’, to go through a more intense skin whitening process. It is important to see the scary aspects of this process as well and to think deeply about if whitening is truly the process for you.
There may be a better solution for you than generic whitening bleach or having to go through a whitening skin process. Makari might have the lightening product that may help you feel like you are whitening without the dangerous process of doing so. These products are safe, effective, and natural. They will help you to feel beautiful and safe in your own skin and look like a true beauty.
Try out these products to test out Makari’s alternative methods:
Brightening Exfoliating Soap: This bleach alternative removes impurities, improves skin texture, gives a natural radiance and resurfaces the skin’s texture.
Which Option Is Best?
Many people want brighter, glowy even-toned skin. Skin of color has to be careful with lightning because it can produce irregular patches of pigmentation. Therefore, you want to take a gentle and cautious approach. Don’t rush the lightening process, use products specific to skin type and keep skin hydrated to maintain a healthy balance.
Skin Whitening, Lightening & Brightening Q&A
What is Skin whitening?
Skin Whitening is a treatment designed to give you a skin tone lighter than the one you were born with.
What is Skin Lightening?
Skin lightening is a treatment designed to treat uneven skin caused by hyperpigmentation, such as sun damage or melasma.
What is Skin Brightening?
Skin brightening is a treatment designed to increase skin radiance by removing dead cells .
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmention is a common skin condition where the skin becomes darkened. It is commonly caused by sun damage or melasma.
What is Hydroquinone?
Hydroquinone is a skin lightening ingredient commonly used in skin lightening products. This ingredient can irritate skin and result in redness.
Are there hydroquinone alternatives?
There are may natural alternatives. Here are a few: bearberry extract, licorice root extract, kojic acid, azelaic acid, niacinamide, citrus extracts, glycolic acid, lactic acid, glutathione, lemon, mulberry, spinach, aloe vera, honey, oranges and yogurt.