Over The Counter and Spa Treatments
One medi-spa option is Microdermabrasion, a skin-care technique that uses tiny rough grains to buff away the surface layer of skin. It can improve many unwanted skin conditions such as; sun-damaged skin, blotchy skin, acne scars and dark spots, or melasma. It also reduces fine lines, wrinkles.
There are also a wide variety of natural and formulated topical skincare products that help remove skin discoloration and even out skin tone. They range from straight bleaching and lightening solutions to cleansers and lotions. Many of these topical creams until recently used an active lightening ingredient called Hydroquinone in varying percentages. Buyers beware if using these chemicals in your facial care. Hydroquinone has been categorized as a toxic chemical and one of the most common active ingredients in skin lightening creams. It is still legal in the US despite having been banned for use in cosmetics in the UK. Hydroquinone has not only been known to irritate skin, but can also cause permanent skin damage and hyperpigmentation in rare cases.
You can also find bleaching creams containing steroids without searching too hard, and some manufacturers even stoop so low as to use mercury, a highly toxic heavy metal.
Straight skin bleaching is designed to turn off melanin production and eliminate unwanted pools of pigment already present in the skin. As with any chemical-based product, use with caution.
In 2006, the United States Food and Drug Administration revoked its previous approval of hydroquinone and proposed a ban on all over-the-counter preparations. (1) The FDA stated that hydroquinone cannot be ruled out as a potential carcinogen.
Consequently, many manufacturers have begun to produce natural alternatives which mimic the skin lightening properties of hydroquinone. Ingredients such as kojic acid and licorice have become quite popular along with more advanced ingredients like Alpha-Arbutin. When combined, these ingredients can often produce results that even surpass hydroquinone but without the associated risks.
Natural Skin Lightening
If you choose to bleach your skin and are concerned about harmful reactions, look for “paraben-free” and “Hydroquinone-free” options for lightening dark discolorations such as age and liver spots.
Natural skin brighteners such as those listed below, can dramatically improve cellular renewal in addition to firming and brightening the skin. Look for products whose main components are:
- Alpha Arbutin
- Kojic Acid
- Licorice Extract
- Mulberry Extract
- Glycolic Acid
- Lactic Acid
- Lemon Juice Extract
- Vitamin C
- Camellia Sinensis (green tea) Leaf Extract
- Peucedanum Graveolens (Dill) Extract
Here’s a great natural at-home mask you can make with a green papaya to brighten your skin. Enrich and beautify your skin with honey, yogurt, and papaya.
1/2 cup unripe papaya, diced
1 teaspoon plain yogurt
1 teaspoon raw honey
1 large glass or ceramic bowl
1 bath towel
1 small spray bottle
1. One-half cup of unripe, diced papaya. This contains natural alpha-hydroxy acids and high levels of papain, an enzyme that helps dissolve dead skin cells.
2. One teaspoon of plain yogurt. The yogurt adds lactic acid (another alpha-hydroxy) and gives the mask a creamy texture.
3. One teaspoon of raw honey helps the skin to retain moisture.
4. Blend the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Apply to clean skin using fingers; leave on for 8 to 10 minutes. When left on, the mask should tingle slightly. If you have sensitive skin or prefer a gentler exfoliation, use ripe papaya, which has less papain. Rinse off using cool water and pat dry. Finish by applying a gentle moisturizer.
You will see some immediate results with skin bleaching/brightening products, but the best results will be achieved after six to 12 months of continued use.
Natural Zinc Oxide moisturizers will also restore hydration and defend against free-radical skin damage, protecting skin from further damaging (and darkening) UVB and UVA rays.
Looking for Something Stronger?
As you can see, there are many ways to naturally lighten or brighten your skin. But what if you have tried them all with little result? Then you may want to consider more advanced options such as micro-dermabrasion, IPL laser treatments Retinoids. Following are some basic explanations of products and procedures currently on the market and how the treatments work.
Retinoids are derived from vitamin A but contain a different chemical structure; retinoids may limit oil production, reduce skin oiliness, and prevent acne and pigmentation. In addition, retinoids improve visible wrinkles and dark spots for pigmented skin types, and can even act to prevent further acne outbreaks in oily skin. Dermatologists recommend you start retinoid use slowly, beginning with the lowest strength available, sparingly, especially if you have rosacea, acne or skin redness. Expect two weeks of use before your skin can tolerate the treatment without redness or flaking. Despite the initial reactions, many find the end results to be well worth it.
TIP: HOW TO PROPERLY USE A RETINOID
1. In your hand, mix a pea-size portion of retinoid with a couple of
drops of Vitamin C serum if desired to smooth the mixture.
2. Apply to face and neck using upwards strokes – don’t forget the back of your hands.
3. Place a trace of product on your fingertips and apply gently on the skin area under the eye (never on top of the eyelid or around the eye).
4. Use once every three days for two weeks or until no redness or dryness is visible.
5. At the end of two weeks, apply the mixture every other night for another two weeks
6. After the first two weeks of use, you can use the cream nightly and indefinitely.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) and Vascular Lasers
Dermatologists use Intense Pulsed Light, or IPL (a combination of different colors of light) to remove the dark spots, broken blood vessels and enlarged oil glands that produce excess oil and cause acne. There are various types of IPL, some more powerful than those used in salons. IPL can also be used in combination with a topical medication called Levulan that makes the skin sensitive to light and intensifies the treatments effect. When used in a combination with Levulan, the light therapy becomes know as Photodynamic Therapy, or PDT. This treatment is effective for dark spots and oiliness and is also a highly effective treatment of flushing, redness, visible blood vessels and other symptoms on the rosaecea spectrum.
The effectiveness of any treatment will vary according to one’s skin type, how often the product is used and in what amount and how often it is applied. It is normally advised to use the same treatment for 4 -6 weeks to determine the effectiveness.
(1) United States Food and Drug Administration (2006) Skin Bleaching Drug Products for Over-the-Counter Product Use; Proposed Rule. Docket 1978N-0065. (Report).
Author - R. Dupree