Skin whitening means regular application of chemical substances on the skin to lighten skin tone by reducing the concentration of melanin. Various chemicals have been found to be effective in skin whitening. Few have proven to be hazardous or have questionable safety concerns, adding to the controversy around their use and impacts on the skin. The amount of melanin in the skin determines the skin color. Higher the concentration of melanin, the complexion of skin is darker. Melanin is a pigment secreted by specialized cells called melanocytes. In order to lighten the skin, people apply the best skin lightening cream. However, proper knowledge to lighten the skin is crucial to prevent skin poisoning.
Skin whitening products are also known as bleaching creams, lighteners, or skin brighteners. Many people use lighteners to treat skin problems such as discoloration related to hormones, age spots, or acne scars. Sunlight exposure, hormonal changes, and exposure to certain chemicals are the main factors enhancing melanin production.
The most widely used ingredient in skin whiteners is hydroquinone. Steroids and retinoic acid derived from vitamin A are the drugs utilized for some skin whiteners. On the other hand, some skin whiteners utilize natural ingredients like kojic acid, a compound that is derived from a fungus and arbutin, a compound extracted from various plants.
Specific areas with high pigmentation such as birthmarks and moles might be de-pigmented to match to the surrounding skin. Long-term use of skin whiteners can sometimes lead to increased pigmentation. Facial skin can become thinned and the area surrounding the eyes can have increased pigmentation leading to ‘bleach panda effect’. Few products have mercury as their main ingredient. Such skin lightening products can lead to mercury poisoning which in turn leads to outbreak of psychiatric and kidney problems.
There are multiple natural and synthetic products, which can brighten the color of any skin. However, before resorting to any such medication, doctor should be consulted for proper guidance.
Methods adopted for skin whitening are:
1. Caring for skin daily:
- Wear sunscreen everyday with high SPF to curtail melanin production due to exposure to UV rays.
- Regular cleaning, exfoliating and moisturizing skin.
- Consumption of more water and follow a healthy diet.
- Smoking should be quit.
2. Using proven synthetic products and treatments:
- Using skin whitening cream containing ingredients such as vitamin C or arbutin, kojic acid, etc.
- Use Retinoids– Acidic form of Vitamin A is used to make retinoid creams.
- Try chemical peel – It burns away the surface layer of skin which are highly discolored or pigmented, revealing the lighter-colored and fresher skin underneath.
- Microdermabrasion– A small sealed vacuum with a moving diamond tip is applied on the face during the treatment. Dead skin cells are sucked and removed into the vacuum. This is a good option for people whose skin is sensitive.