My skin lightening experiment!
I have been experimenting with products of late and one of the product groups I have tried over the last 4 months is skin lightening creams. Now don’t be alarmed, of course I used only natural products that contain herbal or vitamin skin whitening ingredients. There were no skin bleaches such as uric acid or hydroquinone in any product I put on or even near my skin. These ingredients are potentially damaging to the skin. Nor do I in any way promote the use of lightening agents for the purpose of making overall skin tone lighter. However to help manage pigmentation and age spots, they can be useful. So the results of my experiment: I just wish I had taken before and after photos of my skin. As I didn’t I will just have to explain…and so back to January.
Over summer, despite my best efforts I always get freckles. This year after two weeks at the beach I not only had freckles but also light brown pigmentation all over my cheeks and nose that almost joined the freckles together. From a distance it looked like I had applied brown blush all over my cheekbones. I have the type of skin that burns when I look at the sun, so I am careful to protect it using sunscreen, hats and often long sleeve shirts or an umbrella to cover up. Living in Queensland still makes it hard to avoid sun damage and so over the years I have developed some light sun spots on my forehead and the side of my face. My hands and arms are also covered in permanent freckles that don’t fade anymore. I have grown to accept this about my skin and so generally don’t get too worried about it. However, this January I decided that I was going to see if skin lighteners really worked (I don’t recommend things I can either prove on myself or find the appropriate research for). Over the next 3 months I applied a skin whitening cream to my face and the backs of my hands at night only. During the day I used a moisturizer with SPF 30.
The results were extraordinary. After about 6 weeks I noticed that the background pigmentation on my cheeks had faded dramatically. After 3 months, it was like it had never existed and all the normal freckles I have had gone as well. I have to stress, this pigmentation was not long term or hormonal pigmentation but nonetheless I hadn’t expected such a remarkable result. My hands started to look freakish because they were so much paler than my arms…so I stopped it and just used on my face. It is now May and some of the long term sun damage areas have faded. There is only one remaining that is on my nose near my eye and I think this is more about not applying the cream properly rather than the cream not working. In any case I am stoked with the results!
Naturally I wanted to know how lightening products worked so I researched the key ingredients:
- Bearberry Extract – blocks tyrosinase which is an amino acid involved in the formation of melanin and therefore skin colouration
- Kojic Acid – sourced from fermenting rice and works by inhibiting the formation of pigmentation. This means it helps blocks new freckles and sun damage.
- Vitamin C – several forms of vitamin C have been shown to reduce melanin formation and provide a skin whitening effect when applied topically. These include l-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate, all of which are in fat soluble form.
- Natural AHAs – increase skin cell turnover so newer un-pigmented cells come to the surface faster
The process of normal skin colouration is extensive and occurs in various stages. Usually most skin lightening treatment will target several stages of this process at once. The most crucial step is the first where tyrosinase converts to tyrosine and by blocking this step, it follows that you can block the entire melanin formation process. Then as skin cells die and turn over, new lighter skin cells come to the surface. This is why the process of lightening the skin takes up to 4 months. Skin cell turnover is approximately 90-120 days. If you choose to try a skin lightening cream or serum to manage pigmentation, be aware that it will take time so don’t expect overnight results.
I do want to make a note about hormonal pigmentation. While the ingredients I discuss above may help reduce pigmentation, unless the underlying driver of the pigmentation is addressed and any hormonal imbalance is normalised, it is likely to return.
The cream I used to get these results is Devita Rx Complex KBA Hyperpigmentation Formula. It is a moisturiser as well so I didn’t need to apply anything over the top. There is also a Devita Skin Brightening Serum that contains the same ingredients designed for use under moisturisers. I have ceased using the lightening cream over winter but continue to use an SPF 30 moisturiser. I am considering starting to use it again in the lead up to summer as a way of minimizing the effects of sun exposure.
I would love to hear if you have had any experiences with lightening creams that have work, or not.