Skin lightening products -- also known as bleaching creams, whiteners, skin brighteners, or fade -- work by reducing a pigment called melanin in the skin. Most people who use lighteners do so to treat skin problems such as age spots, acne scars, or discoloration related to hormones. It is also a technique used to lighten naturally dark skin.
Skin lightening products do come with some risks. As with any new product, be sure to read the label and know the facts before you buy and apply a skin lightener. Organic natural products are a bext choice when trying to lighten your skin.
Changes in skin color will often resolve themselves. For instance, tans fade when the amount of direct exposure to sunlight is reduced. But over time, certain discolorations, such as "age" spots or "liver" spots, become more or less permanent.
Some people apply skin lightener to their entire body to change their complexion, but this can be very risky. The active ingredient in some skin lighteners is mercury, so bleaching can lead to mercury poisoning.
Mercury is a toxic agent that can cause serious psychiatric, neurological, and kidney problems. Pregnant women who use a skin lightener with mercury can pass the mercury to their unborn child.
The use of mercury as an ingredient in skin lighteners is banned in the U.S. However, some skin lighteners produced outside the U.S. may still contain mercury.
The most widely used ingredient in skin lighteners sold in the U.S. is hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is not safe.
The FDA regulates the use of hydroquinone in the U.S. Over-the-counter skin lighteners can contain up to 2% hydroquinone. Dermatologists can write prescriptions for lighteners that contain up to 4% hydroquinone.
Other skin lighteners use drugs such as steroids and retinoic acid, which comes from vitamin A, as active ingredients. And some skin lighteners use natural ingredients such as kojic acid -- a compound that comes from a fungus -- and arbutin, a compound found in various plants.