Why 7 Skin Brightening Ingredients Beat Avocado Toast
When we think about healthy skin a few words come to mind: clear, bright, flawless, hydrated, and so on. Many of these adjectives revolve around skin brightening. The process of skin brightening aims at lightening dark spots, freckles, hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and even acne scars to reach a smoother and younger appearance.
For years chemical brightening agents like hydroquinone have been incredibly popular. However, in recent years researchers have taken a deeper look into the effects and safety of these products and found that in some cases hydroquinone causes dry skin, irritation, and ochronosis (skin darkening) the exact opposite effect that the user was trying to achieve.
To understand how skin brightening ingredients work, we need to understand the major components of our skin’s complexion. At the base layer of our skin, there are cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes manage the pigmentation in our skin, eyes, and hair by producing melanin. This process is called melanogenesis.
When UV light touches the skin, the process begins. Melanin is created in the melanocyte and then wrapped in melanosomes, these contain enzymes and also function as a storage and transportation system that brings the melanin to the skin’s surface. More melanin results in darker pigmentation to create a defense from the sun.
Unfortunately, sometimes melanin is concentrated in small areas resulting in an uneven appearance thus creating a desire for skin brightening ingredients. Chemical ingredients like hydroquinone work by blocking key enzymes in melanogenesis and have been proven to function in skin lightening, but they can also contain carcinogens which bring a plethora of negative effects.
Natural ingredients work through a similar process but are far safer. Vitamins, extracts, and acids can be used to help your skin look its best. Here are 7 natural skin brightening ingredients that may work for your skin:
1. Vitamin C
Lately, vitamin C has been gaining popularity as a skin brightening ingredient. It works by blocking the enzyme tyrosinase which is essential to the production of melanin. Blocking melanin production results in skin lightening.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. This means that it protects against UV damage and other pollutants. People with sensitive skin may find that Vitamin C stings or causes redness in the skin, however, it is safe to add to your daily skincare routine.
Vitamin C comes in a few different forms. In cosmetic products, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is the form that dermatologists recommend. In this form Vitamin C hydrates and absorbs easily. Ascorbyl palmitate and ascorbic acid sulfate are other forms of vitamin C used in skin products like serums and creams that you can be on the lookout for.
2. Vitamin E
Another popular skin brightening ingredient is Vitamin E. Like Vitamin C, it is a powerful antioxidant. While Vitamin C guards against UV damage (aging), Vitamin E guards against UVB (the rays that cause sunburns) together these two vitamins combined have an even more powerful effect on the skin. In addition to sun protection, Vitamin E can also treat scars, stretch marks and provide natural moisture to the skin.
When combined with lemon juice and applied as a mask Vitamin E can also function as a skin lightening treatment. Simply mix a 2:1 ratio of Vitamin E oil to lemon juice, apply to clean skin, let dry and then rinse with cold water. This process is recommended to be repeated twice a week for best results.
4. Licorice Extract
Licorice contains 2 active ingredients that work toward skin brightening: glabridin and liquiritin. Glabridin is anti-inflammatory and promotes skin brightening by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase. Liquirtin helps to break up and remove pre-existing melanin. Licorice extract has been used to treat dark circles under the eyes but it can also help even out your overall skin tone.
5. Kojic Acid
Kojic acid is a byproduct of the fermentation of different fungi. Like Vitamin C it also works to block the production of tyrosinase, thus limiting the amount of melanin you produce. Due to its natural origins, it has gained popularity in the skincare market.
Typically in products, it is found in concentrations of 1% - 4%. However, like any other ingredient it may cause redness and irritation in some users. Dermatologists recommend performing a patch test on a less visible portion of your skin (behind knee, wrist, inner elbow) when using any new products to ensure you do not have a negative reaction all over your face.
6. Mulberry Extract
This natural extract has been shown to be as effective as kojic acid. Dr. Erum Ilyas, board-certified dermatologist stated: “Mulberry plants have several compounds that have been extracted from both roots and stems, with known ability to block tyrosinase.” If your skin reacts negatively to kojic acid, mulberry extract is more generally tolerated by sensitive skin.
7. Willow Bark Extract
Willow bark extract is actually a beta-hydroxy acid that is related to salicylic acid (the main ingredient in many acne treatments.) A huge component of willow bark extract is salicin, the natural form of salicylic acid. It helps to exfoliate the skin by removing dead skin cells and promoting new cell growth.
You can find this skin brightening ingredient in spot treatments, serums, and exfoliating peels. Spot treatments can be used daily, while exfoliating peels should be limited to once or twice a week.
8. Papaya Extract
Also seen in products as papain, papaya is the final natural skin brightening ingredient on our list. Like willow bark extract, papaya contains hydroxy acids which, as previously stated, brighten the skin by exfoliating away dead skin cells and promoting new cell growth.
Papaya or papain can be found in many products today. It is used in cleansers, peels, masks, and scrubs. It is recommended that you use products containing this ingredient once or twice a week.
With so many natural alternative skin brightening ingredients, chemical products should be a last resort. These 7 ingredients have proven to cause the skin brightening effects we seek. However, it is crucial to remember to patch test any product that is new to your skin. Patch testing, doing your own personal research, and trial and error can help you find that perfect product for you. Best of luck!
Written by Kiana St Onge