Do you suffer from uneven, blotchy skin? Do you have unattractive discoloration or dark sports on your face? Skin lightening creams and peels can help you achieve a glowing, even skin tone that is free from discoloration and spots. Whether you want to erase spots caused by old breakouts or fade damage caused by too much time on the beach, keep reading for more information on skin brightening ingredients and products that really work.
Are you looking for targeted treatment of problem areas on your skin? If so, the right treatment method might depend on your skin tone. Be sure to check out our quick guides before reading more about the specific products
Select the guide that is most relevant to your current skin tone below:
Although each skin whitening product is different, there are a few proven ingredients that many companies utilize in their formulas. Each ingredient works differently and some can cause irritation. It’s always important to read the label before you put any substance on your skin and to test all products on a small patch of skin before applying to the entire face.
The first ingredient in question is hydroquinone AKA quinol. Banned in some countries and considered a possible carcinogen, hydroquinone is FDA-approved in the US for topical use. This chemical compound “bleaches” the skin and can cause irritation for individuals with sensitive skin. Hydroquinone inhibits the enzyme needed to produce melanin (tyrosinase), thus decreasing production of melanosomes (organelles that store, synthesize, and transport melanin) in melanocytes (skin pigment cells). Normal concentration is 2% and results from skin brightening treatments including hydroquinone are usually seen after 4 weeks of use.
Kojic acid is our second ingredient. Derived from a mushroom, kojic acid has a natural golden color and works to lighten the skin by inhibiting melanin production. In other words, it counters pigment function, which results in a more even skin tone over time. Kojic acid has been shown to fade freckles, stretch marks, age spots, scars, and discoloration. This substance also destroys free radicals, boosts cell activity, and is considered to be a safer alternative to hydroquinone.
Lactic acid works to erase discoloration, scars, and spots caused by sun exposure or acne. This ingredient also stimulates the production of collagen, providing anti-aging benefits and increasing a cell’s “turnover rate,” which results in a lighter, more balanced complexion. Lactic acid is found naturally in the human body and is a humectant, which means it can take moisture from the air and use it to hydrate the skin. Lactic acid is considered less irritating than other skin lightening ingredients and works by inhibiting the production of melanin. Lactic acid is actually found in sour milk!
White Objective by Bioderma
White Objective is Bioderma’s answer to pigmentation problems. With the “WO” patent, Bioderma’s product offers biological lightening technology that is said to fade current brown spots, provide the user with a clear and even skin tone, and prevent future discoloration. Active ingredients include a form of Vitamin C (ascorbyl glucoside) and anti UVA/UVB filters. Vitamin C fights current discoloration and provides long-term benefits by reducing the amount of melanin in the epidermis and preventing future hyperpigmentation. Anti UVA/UVB filters protect the skin from solar radiation, preventing future skin damage with SPF 27 and UVA 14. Other skin lightening ingredients include niacinamide and licorice root extract.
White Objective has a light, pleasant texture that will not irritate sensitive skin. For best results, apply to freshly washed face and neck each morning. This product can be applied directly on brown spots. The formula is fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and hypoallergenic. You can purchase a 30mL tube of White Objective on Amazon for $29.65.
Bioderma’s product has a 4/5 star rating. Users love that White Objective hydrates as well as lightens. One bottle can last as long as three months. On average, results appeared after about a month of daily use. This product can be used on all skin colors, but does not work well on oily skin.
The biggest complaint was that White Objective claims to protect your skin from the sun, but offers only 27 SPF. The formula contains lots of synthetic ingredients often found in sunscreen that can be irritating and does not have the protective benefits of sunscreen.
Perfect Image Gel Peel with 50% Lactic Acid
Perfect Image’s professional gel peel uses a high concentration of lactic acid along with kojic acid and bearberry extract to accomplish results that include lighting and homogeneity of skin tone. Additional plant extracts including licorice root, green tea, and cucumber, which provide the skin with antioxidants and vitamins that help heal damage from age and the environment. These vital nutrients also help to prevent future damage and discoloration. Perfect Image’s formula works by inhibiting melanin production and can be used to treat the following skin concerns:
- Age spots
- Sun spots and brown spots
- Fine Lines
Perfect Image’s formula is paraben-free and uses only natural preservatives. For best results, apply the peel to freshly cleaned skin and leave on for 2-5 minutes. A slight burning sensation upon application is normal, but it should dissipate quickly. Rinse with cool water and repeat every 2-3 weeks. If you notice skin irritation, repeat every 4-5 weeks instead. Hydrate your skin afterwards with a moisturizer. You can purchase this product in a 30mL bottle on Amazon for $34.95 (one bottle contains enough product for 15-20 peels).
With a 4/5 star rating, this chemical peel compares to those you would get in a spa, but is drastically cheaper! Users noticed softer, lighter skin but warned not to use more than directions advise. Follow directions exactly or you risk damaging your skin further. Users reported that this product helped to clear up the skin problems including:
- Melasma spots
- Sun damage
- Large pores
A few users noticed results after the first use, but most users noticed results after the second or third peel. This triple-action peel fights signs of aging, post-acne marks, and discoloration from sun damage. You’d be hard pressed to find a better peel for the price.
Lumi*Essence Organic Advanced Brightening Repair Treatment
This organic formula depends on kojic acid to improve symptoms of sun damage including dark spots, freckles, discoloration, dull skin, and uneven complexion. Other active ingredients include:
- Alpha-arbutin, which is derived from cranberry leaves and berry shrubs
- Skin lightening agents to prevent the conversion of enzymes that form pigment
- Pineapple and papaya extracts for exfoliation and reduction of dark spots
- Niacinamide to inhibit the transfer of melanosomes to the skin cells
- Milk thistle as an antioxidant and healing agent
This product does not include toxic ingredients or hydroquinone and has a lightweight, lotion-like texture that absorbs quickly and leaves skin looking and feeling fresh. Directions say to use in the morning and at night after cleansing and exfoliating. Users must wear sunscreen (at least 30 SPF) when spending time out of doors because this product does not act as a sunscreen. Most topical skin treatments make the skin more susceptible to sun damage.
Lumi*Essence claims to improve damage caused by the sun only and works best on light to medium skin tones. You can purchase a 2 ounce bottle of Lumi*Essence on Amazon for just $30.
Despite the fact that all three products claim to fade dark spots, there are other products out there specifically formulated for dark spots. If you’re looking for targeted treatment as opposed to general skin lightening, follow this link to read an article that reviews two such products and discusses melasma spots, age spots, sun spots, and dark circles beneath the eyes.
All three products reviewed above have a similar price, great customer reviews, and a 4/5 star rating. The product you choose should depend on your skin concerns, goals, and skin type. If you are looking to correct sun damage only, choose the organic Lumi*Essence product (but not if you have dark skin). If you’re looking for a strong formula to combat serious discoloration and are also looking for acne fighting or anti-aging benefits, choose the chemical peel (but not if you have sensitive skin). If you are looking to generally even out your skin tone and/or have sensitive skin, I would recommend the first product: White Objective. That being said, all three are great, inexpensive formulas that should produce great results when used correctly. Remember to wear sunscreen!