In Canada and the United States hydroquinone is the standard treatment for skin lightening. Dermatologists prescribe 3-4% formulations to correct moderate hyperpigmentation (uneven skin tone and brown patches on the skin).
Hydroquinone is a strong inhibitor of melanin production – a process that involves many chemical reactions in the skin resulting in melasma, dark spots and freckles. The active ingredient in hydroquinone works by interfering with or inhibiting one of these reactions or by killing melanocytes (specialized skin cells that produce melanin).
While Hydroquinone is considered one of the most effective skin-lightening agents available, its use is strictly regulated in many African and Asian countries, and it is banned in the European Union (EU) and Japan.
That’s because, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States, “hydroquinone has cancer-causing potential.”
So what are the skin lightening alternatives?
While hydroquinone may be one of the most effective skin-lightening treatments, there are other, more natural extracts that are clinically proven to lighten dark patches and spots. Perhaps it’s best to consider one of these skin brightening, skin lightening alternatives or look for these ingredients in your next jar of anti-aging, tone-perfecting cream:
Arbutin – Arbutin is derived from the leaves of bearberry, cranberry, mulberry or blueberry shrubs, and also is present in most types of pears. It can have melanin-inhibiting properties and is often considered an alternative to hydroquinone. In fact, it is simply a milder, naturally occurring variant of synthetic hydroquinone and works in much the same way. Arbutin is applied topically in a cream formulation at 10-20% concentration or look for products like Kate Somerville’s Complexion Correction.
Licorice Extract – Licorice Extract absorbs UVA and UVB rays – this inhibits the process of melanin production from occuring. It also acts as a de-pigmenting agent by inhibiting the production of melanin.Aloe – Aloe has subtle skin lightening properties, such as the absorption of UV light and it also moisturizes aging skin.
Niacinamide – A unique form of Vitamin B3, Niacinamide is an effective skin lightening compound and is also good for dry, flaking, aging skin. It’s usually not used as a skin lightening agent all by itself, but is an additive in many skin lightening formulas.
Kojic acid – This acid is derived from a fungus as a byproduct of grain fermentation. It inhibits melanin production but can be too irritating for regular use and there is some debate as to its safety. Some controversial research has suggested that kojic acid may have carcinogenic properties in large doses, while other studies show that kojic acid is not carcinogenic although it can cause allergic contact dermatitis and skin irritation.
Glycolic Acid – Glycolic Acid is the most active and beneficial of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) in skin care. It is generally used as a natural skin exfoliant and moisturizer. Glycolic Acid not only evens out skin discoloration, but also helps minimize fine lines and wrinkles. AHA’s such as Glycolic Acid can assist other ingredients in skin lighteners by allowing them to penetrate farther into the skin.
Want something more natural than that?
Soy Milk – There some evidence that washing your face with unpasteurized soy milk every day for 3 months can even out skin tone. The ingredient in soy milk inhibits enzymes that are involved in the production of melanin.
Or try these three home remedies using simple ingedients like Potato – Almond – Lemon