Summer is over in our part of the world, but the traces of fun we had in the sun is still evident on our skin. Freckles, dark spots and tan lines are still obvious and are here to remind us of the adventures we had at the beach.
If you’re worried about your skin tone being too dark or uneven, don’t fret. Your skin can be bright once again with the help of natural whitening ingredients. Even naturally dark skin can be a few shades lighter with the help of the things we find in nature and in our kitchen. But first, how did we even get into the whole business of skin lightening?
Skin lightening is a huge business not only in Asia, but also in other parts of the world. According to this Huffington Post article, the skin whitening product industry is worth nearly US$ billion worldwide.
Although there are more skin whitening products these days than ever before, skin lightening is not entirely new. In ancient China, women used ground pearls mixed with hot water to lighten their complexion. The idea of skin whitening caught on with the rest of the Asian countries, and today, pale skin is no longer just an option, it is the norm.
Depending on where you are from, people will have different opinions about natural skin color. Golden, tanned skin appeals more to Westerners, who associate the bronzed look with a person’s socioeconomic status or ability to take vacations and bask in the sun.
In most parts of Asia, though, people prefer pale skin over dark ones. Among women, white skin is associated with elegance and wealth. Our preference for whiter skin takes us back to ancient China where high-class women remain indoors most of the time and do not get much sun exposure. Hence, the porcelain skin.
Skin whitening creams and lotions can help you even out your skin tone or make it a few shades lighter. However, there’s a caveat: not all of these products are deemed to be safe for prolonged use, so it is best to consult your dermatologist first before buying an over-the-counter bleaching product.
What’s in your skin whitening cream?
Modern science made it possible for everyone to have different options when it comes to skin lightening. From the expensive skin lightening surgery to the more affordable chemical peels, there is a method suited for anyone who wishes to whiten their skin.
The most inexpensive option, though, is using a skin whitening cream. However, results are not instant, and just like the other treatments available, there are a couple of risks involved.
Not all of the ingredients found in skin lightening products are safe. Mercury is one of the ingredients commonly used in skin whitening products, and it’s been known to cause kidney damage along with skin discoloration, rashes, and scarring. Does your skin whitening product contain mercury? Look for the words mercurio, mercurous chloride, calomel, and mercuric on the label.
Another ingredient to look out for are steroids. Used to lessen the appearance of acne scars and other pigmentations, steroids may cause thinning of the skin, which leads to exposed capillaries, bruising and even more acne. Though only applied topically, whitening creams with steroids can also elevate your blood sugar level, and that could lead to diabetes. It’s best to avoid products that contain this ingredient as it may cause more harm than good for your skin.
Is hydroquinone safe?
Hydroquinone or tocopheryl acetate is one of the most effective skin whitening ingredients. It prevents formation of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Most skin bleaching creams contain up to 2% hydroquinone, which is deemed safe for nonprescription use. A dermatologist can prescribe a skin whitener with a higher dose of hydroquinone if needed.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), hydroquinone is generally safe to use. However, the FDA lifted the rule in 2006 due to evidence suggesting that hydroquinone may be carcinogenic and may cause a condition called ochronosis.
There are still mixed reviews on whether hydroquinone is safe or not. For one, effective natural alternatives such as bearberry and mulberry break down into hydroquinone once they are absorbed by the skin.
The decision to use hydroquinone is up to you. While this ingredient is effective, it might not be best for prolonged use.
Healthy alternatives for whiter skin
The healthiest way to achieve whiter skin is still the natural way. The results may not be instant, but the good thing about it is that these alternatives are chemical and toxin free.
Do your skin a favor. Take a look into your pantry and see which of the following natural ingredients are available to whiten your skin:
Many skin whitening products contain lactic acid, an organic compound found in yogurt. In addition to hydrating the skin, the lactic acid in yogurt helps exfoliate the skin to bring back its natural glow. When used together with the ascorbic acid in fruits such as lemons (see below), the whitening effect becomes apparent in a matter of three months. It also helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and helps treat acne.
Use plain yogurt mixed with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to gently peel away dead skin that make the complexion look dull. Apply a dollop of the yogurt mixture to clean face and massage in circular motions. Leave on for 15-20 minutes before rinsing with cold water. This nourishing mask will help moisturize the skin as well as take away impurities to reveal a brighter skin.
Lemon contains citric acid, a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that help exfoliate the skin. It helps remove dead skin cells to reveal healthier skin. The great thing about lemon juice is that it doesn’t just help lighten the skin, but it also helps keep oiliness at bay. When using lemon juice as a skin whitener, be sure to put on sunscreen before leaving the house to avoid having phytophotodermatitis.
To create a skin lightening mask, mix 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice, cucumber juice, tomato juice and sandalwood paste. If sandalwood is not available, you make substitute it with yogurt. Blend everything together and apply to clean skin. Let it sit for 20 minutes before rinsing. Moisturize skin and put on sunscreen.
Aloe vera gel
Aloe vera is known as an excellent moisturizer. But did you know that it’s also a great skin lightener? The aloe vera plant contains the organic polymer called lignin, which is responsible for making trees grow taller and for transporting liquid within the plant. When used in skincare, lignin can help reduce facial pigmentation. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), using lignin helps in rapid skin lightening.
There are no fancy methods required when using aloe vera for lightening the skin. Simply cut an aloe vera leaf in half and squeeze out the gel. Apply the gel on areas you want to lighten and leave on for about 20 minutes before rinsing with cold water. Do this at least once a day for two weeks.
Many skin whitening products these days claim to have papaya enzymes called papain, which helps promote skin renewal. Papain gently exfoliates the skin to reveal healthier skin cells. However, it does not contain bleaching agents that will lighten the skin significantly. Nevertheless, papaya is great for lightening hyperpigmentation, but it’s not recommended for use by people who are allergic to latex.
To lighten acne scars and prevent pimples from coming back, use this papaya, honey and lemon mask. Mash ¼ ripe papaya with 1 tablespoon of raw honey and ½ teaspoon lemon juice. When the mixture is lump free, apply the mask onto clean face and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
The bottom line
Lightening your skin tone is possible with just the use of natural ingredients. Safer and easy to find, natural whitening alternatives can make your skin glow without looking unnaturally pale. Make sure to clean your face with a natural face cleanser like the Biconi Radiant Skin Cleanser Bar and moisturize your face with our nourishing Virgin Coconut Oil.