The trend for pale skin in recent years has led to a massive surge in demand for skin whitening products, which include skin brightener creams.
This trend is being seen worldwide, in people of all ethnic backgrounds, in stark contrast to the previous popularity of having deeply tanned skin.
Skin colour is determined by the amount of melanin in the cells; melanin is a dark pigment and how much of it is present can vary with each of us. The amount of the pigment you have is partially determined by your genetics, however there are a range of other factors that play a role, including exposure to sunlight and chemicals.
Skin brightening creams contain a chemical that reduces the amount of pigment in the skin, and they are normally used to reduce the appearance of dark spots.
The current desire for pale skin has led to a growing number of people applying the cream to their entire body. Depending on the products that are in the cream, this can be dangerous, so check the label carefully before you start. Mercury was previously a common ingredient, but is now banned in some countries because it is poisonous.
If the packaging says that the cream contains mercury, you should avoid using it.
The most popular component for skin whitening creams is now hydroquinone.
This chemical reduces the amount of melanin in areas where it is applied, and it’s available over the counter in a mild form of the cream. If you have skin discolouration that requires you to see a dermatologist (a doctor that specialises in disorders of the skin), it can be prescribed in a stronger dose. But, if you want to lighten your skin for purely cosmetic reasons, then it is highly unlikely that a prescription will be given.
There are a number of alternatives to hydroquinone as an active ingredient in skin whitening creams, such as retinoic acid (which is derived from vitamin A), and steroids.
Other products use natural ingredients that have been derived from plants, which may be kinder to the skin. If you are considering the use of skin brightening creams, then you should always follow the instructions provided, and do not apply it more frequently than is stated. This could lead to a range of adverse effects, including permanent discolouration or uneven patches of pigment across the body.