Do you ever wonder why we always want what we don’t have? Specifically, I am referring to what I call the “Skin Color Paradox”. Why do sun-worshipping girls of the West desire the golden, tanned skin of models like Adriana Lima? In stark contrast, why do ladies of the East consider porcelain and fair skin tones, like that of Cate Blanchett to be the pinnacle of envy (she is the spokes model for SK-II after all!)?
Well, whether or not you’re a beauty nerd that has an addiction to applying too much bronzer (you know who you are!), or you’re a beauty nerd that carries an umbrella when you’re in the sun (you know who you are too!), you may still be interested in whitening/brightening ingredients in general. Do you have age spots or sun spots that you want to fade? Or do you just want a general all over brightening effect to liven up dull, tired-looking skin? (After writing a final last week, I need all the help I can get)!
Before you go rushing off to the stores to buy your whitening/brightening products though, you may want to familiarize yourself with the following whitening ingredients. This, of course, brings me back to the title of this post: Who or which, should I say, is the fairest of them all?
♥ Hydroquinone – It works by decreasing the melanin in your skin (melanin are the pigments that gives your skin its color). Currently in the US, you can still purchase skincare formulated with up to 2% hydroquinone. Anything above 2% is considered a drug and would require a prescription. Recent studies have revealed that hydroquinone is a suspected carcinogen, so my recommendation is to avoid products formulated with hydroquinone. This ingredient is already banned in the EU, Japan and Australia.
♥ Kojic Acid – is the by-product from the fermentation process of Japanese sake. Its mechanism of action is via the reduction of melanin production. Typically, kojic acid tends to be less stable in cosmetic formulations, oxidizing easily when exposed to air or light (analogous to a slice of apple turning brown when left on the counter for a couple hours). In large doses, it is also suspected to be a carcinogen.
♥ Arbutin – an effective skin-lighting active ingredient found naturally in bearberry, cranberry, mulberry or blueberry shrubs. Patents protecting the rights to use straight arbutin in cosmetic formulas will make it difficult for many beauty brands to use this ingredient; however, many companies dodge the patent issue by formulating with plant extracts such as mulberry, which contains arbutin as an active component.
♥ Licorice – contains the active glabridin which is known to inhibit melanin production, while also exhibiting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This is a favorite ingredient for many Asian skincare brands!
♥ Vitamin C – does not necessarily “whiten” or affect melanogenesis (melanin production) per se, but is known to give the skin an all over brightening effect.
Some of my favorite skin brightening products include: Shiseido White Lucent Brightening Moisture Cream (uses Vitamin C and M-tranexamic Acid), Dior Snow White Reveal Illuminating Eye Treatment (uses mandarin peel extract), Boscia Restorative Day Moisture Cream with SPF 15 (uses mulberry extract), Ole Henrikson Enlighten Me Pigment Lightening Serum (uses lactic acid, lemon and mulberry extracts)
Another product that I would love to try, which was featured on another blog called ‘Women Love Beauty’, is Shiseido’s Haku Melanofocus! It seems to have garnered great reviews, but I think you can only purchase in Asia! Has anyone tried this line?