Alison is a freelance writer on health, nutrition, skincare, and pets, especially cats and dogs.
Many people affected by skin blemishes and scars are turning to lightening creams to fade them. This article seeks to address the questions people have about using skin lighteners, such as how to choose the right product, how to use it and what precautions to take. I'll also provide some alternative solutions to the problem.
Skin Blemishes Can Be Caused for Many Reasons
Blemishes can be caused by:
- Scars left behind after an acne breakout.
- Age spots (also sometimes called liver spots).
- Dark patches of pigmentation caused as a result of taking contraceptive pills.
- Freckles, moles or birthmarks.
Although there are many for whom none of the blemishes mentioned above cause them the slightest concern, for many others, perhaps the majority, the distress caused can vary from minor irritation to acute embarrassment. In extreme cases, depression, withdrawal from the world and acute emotional problems can result.
How to Choose a Good Skin Lightening Cream
It is perhaps unsurprising that skin lightening products have huge appeal, but there are some very dubious products on the market.
Some are illegal imports, others continue to be sold because people are unaware of the potential problems that might be caused by the ingredients.
Look for the product that does not contain the following items:
- Hydroquinone (the most dangerous skin bleaching agent that acts as a carcinogen)
- Mercury (read more about this on the FDA website)
- Artificial Colours
These substances have been banned in many countries, but one should be careful while selecting a lightening cream.
The Dangers of Illegal Ingredients in Skin Lighteners
This quote from the UK's NHS Website highlights the dangers of illegal ingredients in skin lighteners.
“Unfortunately, many skin-lightening creams contain illegal compounds that can damage your health,” says Indy Rihal of the British Skin Foundation. “The most common compounds are high-dose steroids.”
Some creams also contain hydroquinone, a bleaching agent that is banned from use in cosmetics.
The damaging effects of these products are taken seriously by the law. In 2007, a couple in London who had sold non-prescription skin-lightening creams were fined £70,000.
In March 2009, a man who sold unlicensed medicines and banned cosmetics, including skin-lightening creams containing corticosteroids and hydroquinone, was ordered to pay £80,000 in fines, costs and repayment of illegal earnings."
The Dangers of Hydroquinone Skin Whitening Creams
Ingredients to Look for in Skin Lightener Products
Look for these key ingredients in any skin lightener you choose.
- Vitamin E oil (acts as an antioxidant)
- Vitamin B3 (improves elasticity of the skin)
- Licorice extract (reduces pigmentation)
- Glycolic and salicylic acid (removes spots and lightens the skin), spot deacti-complex (brightens the skin)
- Lemon extracts (moisturises the skin)
- Vitamin C (lightens the skin)
- Alpha hydoxy acid (exfoliates skin)
All these ingredients are available in a variety of products. One will never find all the ingredients mentioned above in a single product. However, always look for a combination of lightening agents, exfoliating agents, and antioxidants. There are many manufacturers that offer lightening creams, choosing a well-known and trusted brand in this case is a very good idea.
How to Lighten Scars With Scar Fading Cream
The correct way to use this kind of product on your skin to apply it directly on the scar or blemish and rub until it is absorbed completely by the skin.
It is essential to apply any such product in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. However, in most cases the advice is to use a gentle, circular motion until the cream is completely absorbed to ensure deep penetration of the essential ingredients.
With many skin lighteners, this process can be repeated twice a day and one can stop using the product once the skin is lightened to the desired skin tone.
Once the product has dried onto the skin, apply a sunscreen of SPF 30 if you are going out in the sun in order to protect your skin.
Some products have specific instructions for application. For instance you may be required to wash off the product after a specific time or apply moisturiser after use. Be sure to read the directions on your chosen product very carefully to avoid any possible negative side effects.
The most important thing in using any skin lightening product for fading blemishes is keeping at it!
Scars and blemishes will fade little by little so even though the change might be imperceptible day by day, taking a picture of your skin on the first day of use and again in a week, a fortnight, a month, will reveal the difference most noticeably!
Products That Help With Hyperpigmentation
Treating Your Skin Without Lightening Cream
My personal recommendation would be The Body Shop tea tree blemish fade night lotion.
I love using natural products on my skin and I am a great fan of tea tree oil because of its anti-bacterial as well as natural properties.
It not only improves the appearance of blemished skin but it also helps to prevent future blemishes. It also controls oiliness and is available at an affordable price.
Precautions During Skin Lightening Treatment to Fade Blemishes
- Check the cream for any possible side effects. Apply a small amount on an inconspicuous part of the skin and observe for 24 hours. If you are going to use the product on your face, use it on a sensitive area of your skin such as behind your ear, inside the crook of your elbow, or the inside of your wrist. Do not use it if inflammation or irritation occurs.
- Remove all the makeup prior to applying any paste or cream on your facial skin. Make sure you skin is thoroughly cleansed and dried before application.
- Avoid applying the cream on areas that are unaffected by blemishes. It would make the lighter part even more light which would make matters appear worse.
- Do not forget to pay special attention to moisturising any areas treated with skin lighteners. The bleaching action of the cream can make the skin very dry.
- Avoid going out in sunlight after applying lightening formula on your skin. If this is unavoidable, apply a sunscreen cream or lotion with a high SPF (30 or more).
- Do not expose the skin to lightening products for more than the time advised on the specific brand you have chosen. It may damage the skin.
- Do not bleach any area of skin where you have already used acne treatments or other skin care products containing glycolic acid or alpha-hydroxyl acid.
- If you experience a burning sensation or rash appearance on the face, in spite of all the precautions, rinse your face thoroughly and gently apply pure coconut oil to the irritated area. As an alternative to coconut oil, you could rub ice over the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes.
So What Have We Learned About Skin Lighteners?
Most of all, we now have a clear idea of the ingredients in skin lighteners to avoid—no matter how much hype the manufacturers may put out, some ingredients are just plain dangerous. Hydroquinone, for example, has been banned in the European Union (EU) since 2001.
We have also learned about the precautions to be taken with any skin lightening product and also, that there are alternatives to skin whitening products that will effectively fade scars and blemishes.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on March 14, 2016:
Thanks Ann810 - yes, it is good to know that blemish and scar fading creams and lightening creams without Hydroquinone are available but it's important that people know what to look for on the product label when buying.
Ann810 from Sunny Cali on March 12, 2016:
Hi Alison, it's good to know there are fade creams that doesn't contain Hydroquinone.
Alison Graham (author) from UK on May 21, 2014:
Hi mamaboys, the dark spots are a build up of the pigment melanin. The brightening serums work in various ways on this dark pigment (so they don't affect other areas of the skin) and the result is a lightening and fading of the dark areas. Hope this explanation helps.
mamaboys on May 20, 2014:
Hi, does a brightening serum lighten only dark spots?
Alison Graham (author) from UK on May 29, 2013:
Hi Writer Fox, that is actually a stock photo I bought to illustrate the point that people do want to fade their blemishes. What I tried to make clear in my article is that although skin lighteners can work well, there are precautions to take and ingredients to avoid. Many readers might prefer to use other, effective alternatives such as the ones I highlight above.
Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on May 26, 2013:
Those are amazing before and after photos. I've often wondered if those products really work. I guess they do.