Almost everyone desires to flaunt more even skin tone. If you are not born with it, then you need to teach your skin to slow down it’s overproduction of melanin. Melanin is the pigment in our skin that gives it color. But when skin begins to overproduce melanin, this leads to uneven skin tone and dark spots. The skin enzyme, tyrosinase, is responsible for this overproduction of melanin. So, your skin lightening product needs to proactively counteract the activity of tyrosinase.
As a result, the skin is left with a lighter, more even skin tone. In addition, skin lightening products are also exfoliants that induce mild skin-peeling to help resurface a lighter skin layer.
Now, what are the causes of skin discoloration? It could be hormonal like melasma, acne, age spots, freckles or hyperpigmentation. Or, it can also be some sort of skin trauma like insect bites or an injury. And, above all, sun exposure aggravates dark spots.
What ingredients should you look for in a skin lightening product? Hydroquinone has been controversial for a few years. It has been banned in many Asian and European countries as OTC products (see our interview on ABC News on this here). While in USA it is still allowed but up to 2% or less in a formula. Some products also contained mercury which has also been banned, as its long-term use can lead to mercury poisoning. Hydroquinone and mercury can also cause the skin to be hypersensitive to the sun’s rays.
There have been many safe and natural alternatives to such compounds like glycolic and lactic acid, kojic acid, niacinamide, vitamin A derivatives (retinol, tretinoin) and vitamin C derivatives. Some very effective natural ingredients to look for are arbutin (also different forms like deoxyarbutin, alpha arbutin), emblica powder, mulberry extract, soy and licorice.
Now, the main focus is how should we use them? They can speed up the natural lightening process if used correctly. Less is more when it comes to skin lightening products. It is best to dab the product onto each dark spot instead of slathering it on your entire face. In addition, you should use a strong sunscreen throughout the treatment. Skin whitening is a time-taking process. Results will not be seen instantaneously, you will need to be patient for at least 4-6 weeks to see any change. And don’t always trust the back of the box, ask your dermatologist how long you should use your skin lightening cream and how often.
In the midst of so many products, we sampled the best ones. As you all know, Asians are advanced in skin lightening technology. Shiseido has a White Lucent line dedicated strictly for skin lightening. Newly launched White Lucent Intensive Spot Targeting Serum ($125.00) contains yomogi extract and angelica root extract that accelerates cell turnover and diminishes melanin. Avon ANEW CLINICAL Luminosity Pro Brightening Serum ($54.00) is a dual product: It has an anti-dark spot helix formulated with injectable grade l-aspartic acid to help inhibit melanin as a brightening gel. Clinique has got the Even Better line for treating uneven skin tone with Clinical Dark Spot Corrector ($49.50) — the most effective. Estée Lauder Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator ($135.00) works wonders for skin of all ethnicities.
So, ladies, are you looking forward to spotless skin this summer?
– Upasana Sahu, cosmetic chemist
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