Skin lightening (also called bleaching and whitening) is a controversial skincare procedure, that often involves harsh and toxic chemicals (like mercury) with questionable safety guarantees. While we won’t delve into the arguments about whether the procedure should be done, we are happy to let our readers know that if they are interested in skin lightening and blemish reduction, nature also has safe options to try.
To lighten the skin and provide an even complexion free of blemishes, we need to address the concentration of melanin in our skin. The first step is prevention. Exposure to UV radiation (like from the Sun) causes melanin to be created in the skin, as a protective measure. Melanin is in fact an amazing absorber of light, dissipating over 99.9% of UV radiation. While the melanin protects our skin, it also darkens it and can make our complexions uneven.
Therefore the first and most important step to safe and natural skin lightening is to avoid exposure to the sun, and wear sunscreen to protect your skin when you are out.
Natural Ingredients with Skin Lightening Properties
With our skin safely protected from the sun, we can now take a look at the various natural options we can apply to our faces. The most commonly used chemical to inhibit melanin production is hydroquinone. Unfortunately, hydroquinone has a dubious safety record. The European Chemicals Agency identifies hydroquinone as harmful if swallowed, capable of causing serious eye damage, may cause allergic reactions to the skin, and is implicated in causing cancer and genetic mutations. Despite that, 100,000 tons of it are used in the EEA every year. Let’s avoid this, shall we?
There are natural sources of hydroquinone, or more specifically, glycosylated hydroquinone called arbutin. Plants in the heath (ericaceae) family, which grow in acidic and infertile conditions, are typically used as sources. Arbutin is most often extracted from bearberry, but found throughout the family of over 4,000 species (including blueberries, cranberries and azalea). Arbutin shares the same risk profile as hydroquinone, however.
Alternatives to Hydroquinone and Arbutin
If you’re looking for safer and gentler options to lighten your skin or hide blemishes, then you’re in luck!
Vitamin C in its myriad of forms (including ascorbic acid) is a proven skin lightening agent, as well as a powerful antioxidant, and is found throughout the plant world. In fact, antioxidants in general are found to lighten the skin, including Vitamin E and glutathione.
Rice and Chickpea flour both have lightening properties, and are a great base for creating DIY cosmetics.
Tastier options exist as well, though eating chocolate and licorice root won’t have the same effect as putting it on your face! Our Chocolat powder facemask is a great option for those with oily skin, looking for gentle lightening and blemish reduction.
Whichever methods you choose, and for whatever reasons, it’s important to listen to your skin and your body when trying skin lightening products. Play it safe, take it slow, and do it naturally. This way you can ensure a beautiful, even complexion without risking damage to yourself.
Have you tried any skin lightening methods?