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Most people, regardless of ethnic or racial background, will eventually struggle with some kind of pigmentation issues skin lightening issue.   These issues occur when someone’s body produces an excess amount of melanin.  This commonly occurs as people age which is why dark spots are sometimes called ‘age spots’.

There are many reasons why people may want to use a product to lighten their skin tone. Some of the more common reasons are listed here:

  • To reduce age spots or brown spots
  • To reduce blemishes caused by acne or other skin disorders
  • To reduce freckles
  • To give an even skin tone
  • To reduce dark patches on skin
  • To brighten the overall complexion by lightening sun damaged skin.
  • Reduce scar marks

The ingredients are something one should consider carefully before choosing a skin lightener.  Watch for harmful ingredients like mercury or other bleaching agents.  Mercury is a primary ingredient in some skin lightening creams because it is fast and effective.  Unfortunately, Mercury is also poisonous and can cause many unpleasant side effects including brain damage.  Soaps, creams and other products that contain mercury have been prohibited for sale in the United States but they are often available in other countries or smuggled into the USA illegally.

Steroids like clobetasol propionate and fluocinonide are other harmful bleaching agents which are frequently found in skin lighteners.  Though there are legitimate reasons for doctors to prescribe steroids, they should not be used in most skin lightening products so avoid them if you see them listed on a product label.

Despite what is commonly thought, there are some ingredients that are safe and effective.  Among them are:

  • Licorice Extract contains glabridin, which is a safe herbal skin lightener. Glabridin inhibits pigmentation by preventing tyrosinase activation. Tyrosinase is an enzyme which acts as a catalyst in melanin synthesis. Licorice extract also has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Glycolic Acid is a AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) which is a powerful exfoliant and produces a natural brightening of the skin. It also supports collagen synthesis and moisturizes the skin, thus minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant which supports collagen production. Forms of Vitamin C like L-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate, either individually or together, have been shown to reduce melanin formation and provide a skin whitening effect when applied topically.
  • Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins for skin care. It supports the repair, rejuvenation and restoration of skin by controlling normal activities of the DNA. It is found in skin products as Retinyl Propionate. Enzymes in the skin convert retinyl propionate to retinoic acid. Retionic acid is known to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation.

Anytime someone is using a skin lightening product they should also use a high level, broad-spectrum, sun screen.  This is because skin lightening tends to reduce the melanin in the skin which is what protects the skin from UV rays.  When choosing a sun screen make sure to get one with a high enough SPF to give you adequate protection.  A minimum of SPF 30 to 50 is recommended for anyone using skin lighteners.

Most skin lighteners contain Vitamin C and Vitamin A. It is important that our skin is daily replenished with these two vitamins as they are easily damaged by daily exposure to the sun.

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