Skin Lightening and Scar Removal

The act of skin lightening has been gaining attention and popularity during the last 20 years as more people are doing it and more products become readily available. From over-the-counter creams to full body procedures, skin lightening has become a cosmetic and even cultural practice. Skin lightening uses chemically-based substances that reduce melanin concentration in the skin and impedes melanin production within the body. Melanin is what gives our skin color or tone.

People with fair skin often turn to skin lightening products to reduce the appearance of discolored scars, age spots, liver spots, freckles, and sun spots, as well as discoloration associated with skin disorders. Many cosmetic products exist to help reduce the appearance of these scars and spots, spurring the popularity of the practice and reinforcing the ideal that even, fair skinned tones are to be coveted. Uneven skin tone can also be a cause for many to turn to skin lightening products in hopes to achieve radiant, youthful looking skin similar to what we expect to see on television. Even without scars, acne, and sun spots, uneven skin tone can ruin a person’s self confidence, making topical treatments an easy way to take control of our skin.

But some cultures don’t stop at evening out skin tone and instead prefer skin lightening measures that affect the entire face, arms, and hands. This is a common practice in India and a few other regions where fairer skin carries the notion of regality and elegance. And there is the sexual appeal to the practice as well, as many products are available for bleaching of the underarms, genitals, and anus.

Skin lightening for spots and scars

Combination skin lightening treatments are most common because they cost considerably less than cryosurgery and laser treatments. A combination treatment can include any number of topical products and products meant to be taken orally. More effective creams contain ingredients that inhibit melanin production and a sunscreen to protect the area and surrounding skin, and these are paired with a prescribed retinoid.

Hydroquinone, a common cream used to reduce the appearance of scars, can be used as a skin lightening tool for many trouble areas. It is available over the counter or as a stronger formula by prescription. Hydroquinone must be used with a sunscreen because it causes photosensitivity, which means the area is more susceptible to the sun’s rays and may tan faster than surrounding skin.

Mulberry, bearberry, white mulberry, and paper mulberry extracts all contain arbutin, a skin lightening substance that decreases melanin production. Arbutin is obtained through the leaves of bearberry, blueberry, mulberry, and cranberry bushes, and it works in similar ways as hydroquinone but is often preferred because it is a naturally occurring substance.

Niacinamide, a compound of the Vitamin B3 (Niacin), is a safe skin lightening product as it provides other benefits to your body. Niacinamide can help reduce acne breakouts; decrease the redness caused by acne and rosacea; and it is also known to smooth wrinkles.

Aveeno Skin Brightening Daily Treatment: Aveeno features vitamins A and C, as well as soy extract, in its skin brightening treatment to even skin tones while diminishing wrinkles, fine lines, and discoloration. It contains an SPF 15 sunscreen yet is hypoallergenic and oil free, making it an ideal skin lightening option for people with sensitive or oily skin.

Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum: This serum is designed to even skin tones, reduce dark spots, and improve the skin’s overall radiance. Marketed for any skin type, Vinoperfect Radiance Serum is used to get rid of acne marks, scarring, stretch marks, and dark spots with viniferine, olive squalene, caraway, mint, and galbanum. The skin lightening serum is noncomedogenic.

Intilight: This hypoallergenic product claims to be safer than most creams you can buy in stores as it does not include perfumes, mercury, hydroquinone, kojic acid, retinol, or salicyclic acid. Manufacturers claim it is a safe skin lightening treatment for dark skin patches, underarms, nipples, genitals, and anal bleaching without the negative effects of harsh chemicals. According to, the product delivers results in as little as three weeks.

Porcelana Skin Lightening Cream: Porcelana offers a daytime and nighttime version of this cream for constant coverage of areas that you want lightened. It is a spot cream, meaning it is not meant for all-over use. The main ingredient is hydroquinone, and the cream includes vitamins and minerals as well.

Shiseido White Lucent: This nighttime brightening cream is a moisturizer that brightens skin tone while hydrating dry skin. The product’s website states that the cream will help repair skin after a long day of taking sun damage and exposure to other “stressors.” Shiseido has a number of skin lightening products for the face, neck, and eyes, as well as skin spots. Reviewers claim to have noticed a difference in their skin tone and smoothness in as little as two days.

What to know before using skin lightening products

Melanin is formed in the skin through oxidative reactions with tyrosine (an amino acid) and tyrosinase (an enzyme). During the process, tyrosine is converted to DOPA (dihydroxyphenylalanine) by the tyrosinase, then the DOPA is converted to dopaquinone. Through an auto-oxidation process, dopaquinone becomes dopachrome, and lastly it becomes either DHICA or dihydroxyindole. This combination forms eumelanin, which is a dark pigment, if the DHICA and dopachrome tautomerase oxidase. With different components present, other colored pigments can be created. Most skin lightening treatments aim to impede melanin processes and to eliminate any outcomes that result in the presence darker pigments.

The majority of skin lightening creams and treatments take several months for results to be noticeable or achieved, so it is important to learn about any topical creams you want to try before using them. After all, it can be costly, time consuming, and frustrating to use a product for several months without seeing noticeable results. For severe scarring or pigment concerns, consult a dermatologist to discuss possible skin lightening treatment options so you can make the best decision to improve your skin tone.


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