My skin is darker than I want it to be, I’d like to lighten my skin and make it more fair. What can I do to achieve this?
Unfortunately, skin lightening is dangerous to undertake.
The most common chemicals used to lighten the skin are hydroquinone, its derivatives and monobenzone. Skin lighteners work by either removing melanin from the skin or by disrupting the production and deposition of melanin in the skin. Hydroquinone and monobenzone work by inhibiting melanin production in the skin. Monobenzone is the stronger of the two chemicals and can cause permanent damage to the melanin producing cells of the skin, it is used to completely depigment the skin of people with vitiligo.
Hydroquinone has been banned in the EU, and monobenzone is only available by prescription and used under the guidance of a dermatologist or vitiligo specialist.
Use of hydroquinone and dermatologist will irritate the skin and reduce the skin’s ability to protect itself from UV light. People using these chemicals must use an SPF with UVA and UVB protection daily. Risk of developing melanoma and skin cancer is not only increased while using these chemicals, there is also the possibility of the skin darkening beyond its initial colour, due to the inflammation caused.
Hydroquinone (and monobenzone, though its use is not for casual cosmetic skin lightening) is best used for spot treatment.
There are natural extracts that have been shown in studies to lighten skin. Bearberry extract and arbutin are commonly included in skin lightening products and marketed as natural. While they are natural, they still contain hydroquinone – just in different forms. Kojic acid is also a common skin lightening ingredient that is marketed as natural, but the chemical itself is unstable and degrades and becomes ineffective when exposed to light and oxygen.
Famous celebrities who have been rumoured to have lightened their skin are usually just wearing makeup, or are no longer tanning. You can prevent darkening of the skin by using a high SPF product that has UVA and UVB protection, preferably with the sunscreen zinc oxide. Again diligent use is necessary. You may also look for Japanese sunscreens that use a sun protection ranking system known as Persistent pigment darkening (PPD). PPD measures how much the product will protect you against darkening caused by UVA light. A PPD rating of 10 for example will allow a person 10 times more UVA protection than unprotected skin.
What you might want to focus on as opposed to skin lightening is skin evenness. Sometimes the dissatisfaction we see with our skin colour is a lack of uniformity and evenness. Creams with niacinamide will help even your skin tone and achieve a uniform pigmentation safely. The combination of niacinamide and n-acetyl-glucosamine may be even more effective. Look for a minimum of 4% niacinamide and 2% n-acetyl glucosamine in the product.
I know you may want to lighten your skin tone now, but focus on evenness first, then re-evaluate. Jumping in to a harsh and potentially dangerous treatment as hydroquinone or monobenzone may cause irreversible damage. I understand that in certain cultures lighter skin is perceived to be valued more, and companies like Unilever have taken advantage of this, but your personal health is more important than cultural and social views.