What is skin whitening?

Skin whitening cream.

Broadly speaking, skin lightening is any means of lightening skin pigmentation. Most of the time the applications are topical, but sometimes they also involve things like lasers or surgical procedures. There are a few different reasons why people look for these types of products and services. Sometimes certain skin blemishes are noticeably darker than others, and lightening creams or treatments can give the skin a more unified, blemish-free appearance. This tends to be more common with marks that are really noticeable, as well as those that are on the face and hands. In communities and cultures where naturally dark skin is seen as a negative attribute, people sometimes also seek to lighten the skin that covers the entire body, often in an effort to pass as a different race or to gain access to opportunities that, otherwise, they might be unavailable. Most topical whiteners have temporary effects and must be reapplied more or less constantly to give consistent results. Some ingredients are more effective than others and many come with at least some side effects.

Understanding skin pigmentation in general

Papaya can be a natural way to lighten the skin.

Generally, a person’s skin color depends on melanin, which is a type of pigment produced in melanocyte cells. People are usually born with certain predetermined levels of melanin, which, among other things, determines the relative darkness or lightness of their skin. Environmental factors, particularly exposure to sunlight, can cause melanocytes to increase their melanin production. This can result in considerable darkening of the skin. In some cases, this sun damage appears in the form of brown age spots.

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Arbutin is a skin lightening product that can be extracted from the bearberry bush.

Hyperpigmentation or excessive darkening of certain areas of the skin can also occur after an injury or due to skin conditions such as acne. Pregnancy or hormone therapy can also stimulate melanocytes and lead to a type of hyperpigmentation called melasma. In this skin condition, brownish spots can appear on the face.

How skin whiteners work

Mulberry extracts can be used to make skin lightening projects.

Skin whitening products can help reduce excessive pigmentation. Whitening creams typically contain ingredients that hinder the process by which melanin is produced. Hydroquinone is a chemical often used for its skin lightening effect. Over-the-counter skin lightening products may contain 2% hydroquinone. Typically, a prescription is needed for a skin lightening cream with a 4% or greater concentration of hydroquinone.

Skin whitening cream works by reducing or suppressing the production of melanin in the body.

Topical skin lightening creams and lotions often contain chemical agents like hydroquinone and azelaic acid. Some lightening creams contain plant extracts that can have a lightening effect on the skin. A dermatologist may prescribe a high-concentration lightening cream or perform a procedure such as a chemical peel for pigmentation irregularities.

Dependence on natural ingredients

Many products claim to be “all natural”, usually because they rely on naturally sourced ingredients, in particular acid. Many, for example, feature kojic acid and azelaic acid as their active ingredients. Several skin lightening products include arbutin, which can be extracted from blackberry, bearberry, or cranberry. Papaya, lemon and orange are among the fruits that can lighten the skin naturally. These fruits can improve the complexion when included in large amounts in the diet or when their juice is applied directly to the skin.

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Topical skin lightening products sometimes include a form of vitamin A, such as tretinoin, in addition to hydroquinone. This formulation may be beneficial in skin conditions such as melasma. Many lightening creams also contain a sunscreen to protect the skin from further damage from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

chemical peels

Whiteners can also include chemical peels using fruit acids or other peeling agents. The procedure typically involves applying a peeling solution, such as an alpha-hydroxy acid, to exfoliate darker, more pigmented skin. A dermatologist can perform a procedure known as dermabrasion to lessen acne scars, brown spots, and similar pigmentation problems. In this technique, the surface of the skin is lightly rubbed with a special device.

laser options

Laser treatment is among the recent options available to improve skin’s appearance. It may be used for uneven skin tone, and forms of hyperpigmentation such as melasma. This treatment can be directed specifically to the affected areas, or performed on the entire face.

Potential Risks and Precautions

People usually need to be careful when using these products, even those billed as natural, as they can and often do have side effects. The chemicals in bleaching creams may cause local redness and irritation. In some people, regular use of bleaching cream could result in skin discoloration, chronic dryness, and infection. Not all skin lightening procedures are suitable for every skin type, either. For instance, laser treatment could cause adverse changes in pigmentation in some people.

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