​How Safe It Is To Use Skin Lightening Creams?

​How Safe It Is To Use Skin Lightening Creams?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
  1. When it comes to medications and procedures involving skin health, you would think that dermatologists, the skin experts, will have the final word on every skin issue women and men face everyday. However, just like in any other medical practice, a diagnosis is always as good as the physician’s opinion — of course, it is backed by the best available information ‘THAT’ the physician is aware of.


    Where skin lightening is the subject, things get shadier, and the experts are in a silent squabble over what works and not, but more so what’s safe and what isn’t.


    The trouble with skin lightening creams

    Traditionally, skin lighteners have used lead and mercury as active ingredients. When eventually these were found to be highly toxic, these were taken out of the market. Unfortunately, women insisted on lightening their skins with these highly unsafe ingredients. In fact, mercury persists as an ingredient in many substandard whitening products manufactured outside of the US. Mercury has been banned by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for all topical products since 1990.


    Some time later, hydroquinone became a popular skin lightening ingredient that scored a very high efficacy in terms of whitening the skin but, was later shown to poorly perform safely. Hydroquinone has been marked as highly toxic. It kills otherwise healthy cells and is suspected to be carcinogenic.


    Countries in Europe, and even Australia and Japan have banned hydroquinone. In the US, though, hydroquinone continues to be sold over-the-counter (up to 2% concentration) and obtained by prescription (up to 4% concentration). The FDA has yet to issue the final result of a study that decided the fate of hydroquinone use in the US. In the absence of study results, FDA favored a status quo distribution of products containing hydroquinone.


    Despite the status quo ruling of the FDA, many consumers and dermatologists have turned their backs on hydroquinone. Since then, the market has seen a steady rise in the number and diversity of skin lightening products in the market, ranging from chemical to 100% botanical whitening actives only.


    Some of the more popular active ingredients are arbutin which can be derived from many plant sources, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Niacinamide, and a host of plant extracts.


    Somehow, it is retinol that has seem to have taken the place of hydroquinone when it comes to skin lightening. Vitamin A derivatives, apparently, do not just stimulate higher levels of collagen production but also inhibit melanin production — which is the main mechanism of skin lightening products.

    Then, there are procedures like Cosmelan.


    The safer options?


    Might the following options be safer options? Read on:

    1. Retinols, retinoids and tretinoin. It has become common knowledge that these ingredients have negative side effects to the skin. Specifically, these ingredients cause the skin to become more photosensitive and to thin out. Plus, these are also known to be highly irritating to the skin. So, is it a safer alternative to hydroquinone? In some ways, yes, because it’s not toxic but, there are those side effects to be dealt with.


    2. Chemical peels. The length of use, practice and experience render these skin lightening procedures safer than most. However, that does not mean that these do not come with risks. There is always a risk of burning the skin and of permanent discoloration associated with chemical peels. So, make sure to get it only from a licensed and experienced professional..


    3. Cosmelan. It is, in a way, a chemical peel. However, the active skin lightening ingredient is kojic acid which is derived from a specific type of mushroom. Kojic acid is applied to the skin as a mask. The first treatment is applied in the clinic and the rest of the medication is done at home. It is commonly prescribed for use in conjunction with laser treatments. Is it safe? Judging from the length of time people have trusted this procedure, yes.


    4. Laser skin resurfacing. Depending on the degree of skin lightening desired, this can be ablative or non-ablative. The first wounds the surface of the skin which results to longer downtime but is necessary for the treatment of severe cases of darkened skin. The latter goes straight to the deeper layers of the skin without wounding the surface. Are lasers safe? Generally, yes.



    Beautiful, radiant skin is nice to have, and soft, supple skin is nice to hold. However, always consider the risks before deciding to change anything about your skin.

Leave a Reply