Skin Lightening Treatment Options

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best skin products - pigmentationMany people use skin lightening products or treatment options to treat various skin problems, including acne scars, age spots or hormone-related discoloration. They can also be used to help lighten skin that is naturally dark. Skin lightening products include skin brighteners, whiteners and bleaching products.

They work by reducing melanin, which is a pigment, in the skin. There are some risks associated with skin lightening products. Make sure you know all of the facts and read the label carefully before purchasing or apply any skin lightener to your skin.

How Is Skin Color Determined

How dark one’s skin is depends on how much melanin is present in the skin. The pigment melanin is produced by melanocytes, which are specialized cells. Dark skinned individuals have more melanin in their skin. The amount of melanin present in an individual’s skin is largely determined by one’s genetic makeup. Melanin production can also be affected by being exposed to certain chemicals, skin damage, hormones and exposure to sunlight.

skin whitening treatmentSkin color changes often resolve on their own. For example, a tan will fade when direct exposure to the sun is reduced. However, over time, liver spots, age spots and other types of skin discolorations become more permanent.

The Skin Bleaching Option

Skin bleaching refers to a cosmetic treatment that is used to even out one’s skin color and to reduce skin discoloration. Bleaching creams can be purchased either by prescription or over the counter.

Some individuals apply skin lightener over their whole bodies in order to change their skin color. However, this can be potentially quite risky. Some skin lighteners contain mercury as their active ingredient, which can cause mercury poisoning. Mercury can be toxic and can result in serious kidney, neurological and psychiatric problems. Women who are pregnant should not use skin lighteners containing mercury, as this can be passed on to unborn children. In the U.S. mercury is banned for use in skin lightener.

How Skin Lighteners Work

Skin lighteners all contain one or more active ingredient that help to reduce how much melanin is present in the skin in the area where the skin lightener is applied.

In the U.S., hydroquinone is the most commonly used ingredient. The use of this ingredient is regulated by the FDA. Skin lighteners that are sold over the counter can contain a maximum of 2% hydroquinone. Skin lighteners that are prescribed by dermatologists can contain a maxiumum of 4% hydroquinone. Before using any product containing hydroquinone make sure you consult with your doctor first and carefully follow his or her instructions.

lighten skin naturallyDrugs like retinoic acid and steroids are used in other types of skin lighteners. The active ingredient may be vitamin A. Other skin lighteners make use of kojic acid, arbutin and other natural ingredients. Kojic acid is from a fungus, while the compound arbutin is found in different plants.

Potential Risks From Using Skin Lighteners

Potentially being exposed to mercury is one of the biggest risks that can come from using a skin lightener. One study sowed that almost one in four skin lighteners that was produced in Asia but sold in the United States had mercury in it.

Other potential risks that come with using skin lighteners include:

  •  Bleaching agents can cause allergic reactions or skin irritation. This even includes natural ingredients.
  •  Untreatable or unwanted skin discoloration can be caused by using hydroquinone.
  •  Using steroids on large parts of your body can potentially increase the risk of developing health issues related to having too much steroids absorbed into one’s body.
  •  Some skin lighteners contain steroids that can increase the risk for poor wound healing, acne, skin thinning and skin infections.
  •  Using skin lighteners long-term can increase risk for skin cancer when exposed to the sun. Sunscreen should always be used when you are out and exposed to the sun and also when a skin lightener is being used.
  •  Using skin lighteners for prolong periods of time can lead to your skin aging prematurely.

Precautions To Take When Using Skin Lighteners

Dermology Skin Care

  •  Before you use any skin lightening product, discuss it with your doctor first and get specific instructions for how to use that particular skin lightener
  •  Make certain that the product contains no mercury. Sometimes mercury is listed under a different name, like mercurio, mercurous, mercuric or calomel.
  •  Make certain that any skin lightener bought over the counter that contains hydroquinone has 2% or less of the chemical
  •  If the label does list hydroquinone as an ingredient but does not provide an amount, do not assume it is safe for use. There are some products made overseas that contain higher levels of hydroquinone than the U.S. allows. Also, labels are not always accurate.

Any questions you might have about any skin lightening product you are considering buying should first be discussed with your pharmacist or doctor to make sure that it is safe to use. Other treatment options may also be recommended by your dermatologists, including laser treatments, microdermabrasion and chemical peels.

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