There’s a dirty little secret to the skin care industry that, if you thought about it, would make you think twice before you purchase your favorite skin care products. That secret? Anything applied to the skin, be it make up or antiperspirants, is absorbed by the skin just as if it had been eaten.
So what, you’re thinking. How does this affect you and why should you care? Well, if you know anything about skin you’ll know that a) it’s sexy and b) the skin that most of us wear is prone to blemishes including moles, age spots, acne scars and birthmarks.
To address this issue, many consumers turn to skin lightening, which, as the description implies, lightens the skin, for an even complexion and reduction of said skin blemishes.
But there are things you should know about traditional skin lightening products. With that in mind, let’s look closer at how skin lighteners work. And at this end of this article, we’ll look at a natural alternative to this alarming issue.
Traditional Skin Lightening
Your skin color is determined by a dark pigment, called melanin. That, in turn, is produced by specialized skin cells, melanocytes. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin. Though largely genetic, melanin levels are influenced by other factors, including hormones, certain chemicals, sunlight exposure and skin damage.
In that light, skin bleaching is a cosmetic procedure, to lighten the skin, for an even complexion and reduced dark spots and skin blemishes. Common skin lightening products are available over the counter or with a prescription from a dermatologist.
Skin lighteners reduce melanin. And many consumers apply such products to their entire body for months and even years.
Don’t Buy Skin Lighteners with Mercury
The problem with most common skin lightening products, and the practice of using them, is that many products contain high levels of mercury – a toxic agent that can trigger severe psychiatric, neurological and kidney problems. Long-term use of skin lighteners with mercury may induce mercury poisoning.
The health concerns related to mercury are so severe that mercury is now banned from skin lighteners manufactured in the United States. That said, mercury is still common in skin lightening products made in Asia. And it remains a problem in the United States. According to at least one recent study, one in four skin lightening products sold in this country are formulated with that toxic agent.
Most skin lighteners sold in the United States contain an active agent, particularly hydroquinone, which is limited by government regulation from 2% concentration for over the counter products to 4% for lighteners prescribed by a dermatologist.
Other skin lighteners use drugs, including steroids and retinoic acid. And though safer than products with mercury, it remains advisable to take precautions with common skin lighteners, as such products can:
- prematurely age the skin
- heighten risk of skin cancer
- cause skin infections and thin the skin
- cause skin discoloration
These risks remain high with skin lighteners that contain steroids and hydroquinone. And again, we come back to that basic principle: that which is applied to the skin is directly absorbed by the bloodstream.
How to Choose a Safe Skin Lightener
Of course, people will always love skin with great complexion. For that reason, skin lighteners will continue to sell. If you’re in the market for a safe skin lightener, know that they’re out there. But to find a good skin lightener, think of the following.
First, before using a skin lightener, consult with your doctor. A qualified physician can review your medical history and determine if skin lightening is right for you.
If it is, always review the ingredient list of a skin lightener you purchase. No over the counter skin lightener should have hydroquinone in a concentration higher than two per cent. And pay very close attention to ensure there’s no mercury in the formula – it’s sometimes called calomel, mercuric, mercurous or mercurio.
Natural Skin Lighteners
You might also consider a natural skin lightener. Some products, including Illuminatural 6i by the Skinception line, are formulated with an emphasis on plant-derived compounds and anti-inflammatories. Add a few safe patented peptides to the list and a natural skin lightener may be a healthier and safer alternative for those looking for an effective skin lightening product.
Don’t think that natural means weak either. In a recent clinical study, 89% of participants who used niacinamide – a derivative of vitamin B3 – reported a ‘noticeable’ or ‘significant’ improvement in dark pigmentation.
If you’re interested in a natural skin lightener, look for a product that contains no mercury, steroids or hydroquinone. Instead, there should be an emphasis on niacinamide, alpha-arbutin, plant-based sun filters and natural exfoliants.
At present, Illuminatural 6i by Skinception is one of the few skin lighteners that meets these prerequisites, and studies indicate it may produce significant lightening in less than four weeks. And being natural, should be safe for long-term use.