Women have been trying to achieve perfect skin for thousands of years. Unfortunately, as a person ages, the skin can become mottled with brown spots and uneven tone. The skincare and beauty industry is aware of this, and it seems that every year, there are new skin products coming out that promise to remove those dark spots and restore that flawless skin. The questions is, is it safe to lighten your skin? That will depend on the approach.
First, it is important to understand what gives skin its color in the first place. Pigmentation in skin is produced by a substance beneath the skin called melanin. This is a pigment that is produced in skin cells called melanocytes.
The amount of melanin in a person’s skin determines his skin color. The more melanin found in the skin cells, the darker the skin. People with fair skin have lower amounts of melanin.
As a result, their skin color reflects the color of the bluish-white connective tissue beneath the dermis and the red blood cells that circulate in the blood vessels of the dermis.
When a person with fair skin exercises, the red color beneath the skin is more apparent because exercising dilates the blood vessels and allows more blood to circulate. The face becomes redder. The red color is not as apparent in people with darker colored skin because the melanin overshadows the redness.
Melanin production is affected by the amount of exposure to UV radiation from the sun. People who are indigenous to geographic areas where UV radiation is more intense have naturally darker skin than people who live in areas where UV radiation is less concentrated.
Over the evolution of man on the planet, the skin color of the early settlers adapted to the amount of sun radiation that they were exposed to. These genes are passed on to the generations following them. So now, there is a wide spectrum of skin tones found from people all around the world, based on their ethnicity.
Because melanin production is triggered by UV radiation, people who have been overexposed to the sun end up with darker skin. Unfortunately, excessive sun exposure sometimes trigger an uneven amount of melanocyte production. There may be areas on the face where there are more melanocytes than others. Thus, over-exposure to the sun can result in dark spots and unevenness in skin tone.
The skincare industry has spent many years trying to find agents that will block the production of melanocytes. The premise is that if no melanin is produced, skin will eventually become lighter as the old, dark outer layers of skin exfoliate as part of normal skin turnover.
One ingredient that has been widely used in skin-lightening products is hydroquinone. People who used skin-lightening products containing hydroquinone reported positive results after using the products for a while. Hydroquinone has been classified as safe by the FDA when it is used as a topical product.
However, misuse of hydroquinone can lead to serious and harmful skin problems. Therefore, it is important to use hydroquinone products as directed by a skincare or medical professional. Overuse or abuse of the product will result in harmful consequences.
There are other ingredients that show potential in blocking the production of melanin in skin. These include kojic acid, which is derived from mushrooms; arbutin, which is extracted from the bearberry and mulberry fruits; and azelaic acid that comes from grains like wheat, barley and rye. Other substances like retinoids and vitamin C also contain properties in lightening skin.
For an effective skin-lightening routine, it is often necessary to combine methods in order to achieve the best results. Skin-lightening regimens should only be followed under the advice of a dermatologist. Because potent chemicals are involved, one must be very careful with applying treatments to the skin to minimize irritation or other adverse effects.
Usually, an exfoliant is included that will help the skin with shedding the outer damaged and discolored layers of skin cells. Then, a product with a melanin inhibiting agent is applied to the skin. The last step involves diligent protection of the skin from further exposure to the sun.
When you exfoliate the outer, darker layers of skin cells, you are actually removing a layer of protection from your skin. If you expose your unprotected and sensitive skin to the sun, your face will react adversely, possibly with breakouts, rashes, and sever sunburn.
Therefore, before you go outside, it is critical that you apply a broad spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF factor of at least 30. The sunblock should be applied liberally all over your skin, with reapplication after every couple of hours.
In addition, a wide-brimmed hat should be worn to shield your face from sun exposure. Better yet, try to stay indoors when the sun’s radiation is at its strongest, usually between the hours of 10am to 4pm.
Melanin offers your skin a layer of protection from the sun. So, when you want to lighten your skin, it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. Following a strict routine of proper exfoliation, melanin production control, and most importantly, protection from further sun exposure, can help you achieve the skin tone that you desire.
It is important to realize, however, that it may be harmful to attempt any procedure in extremes. Advice and recommendations from a health professional should always be followed closely for the safest results.