Categorized | Skin Care

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Skin Lightening

Regardless of your racial or ethnic background, eventually most people will struggle with some kind of pigmentation problem. Skin can appear darker than normal in concentrated areas, or you may notice blotchy, uneven patches of discoloration or freckling. Many people, as they age, also develop dark spots which are sometimes referred to as “age spots.” Skin pigmentation problems occur because the body produces too much melanin.

There are good reasons, though, why people may want to use a product to lighten their skin tone. Here are some of them:

o To reduce age spots or brown spots

o To reduce blemishes caused by acne or other skin disorders

o To reduce freckles

o To give an even skin tone

o To reduce dark patches on skin

o To brighten the overall complexion by lightening sun damaged skin.

o Reduce scar marks

o Reduce birthmarks

When choosing a skin lightener read the ingredients carefully. Look out for harmful substances like mercury and other harmful bleaching agents. In January 2005 the New York City Health Department issued a warning against the use of “skin lightening” creams containing mercury or similar products which do not list ingredients. Many countries use mercury in high levels in skin lightening products because it can make the skin become fair quickly, but mercury has serious side effects on other parts of the body. Mercury is poisonous and can severely damage the brain, nervous system and kidneys. While soaps and creams that have mercury added to them are prohibited for sale in the United States, these products are often imported illegally in the United States.

Other harmful bleaching agents frequently found in skin lighteners are steroids like clobetasol propionate and fluocinonide. There are legitimate medicinal uses for these steroids, but all steroids have potentially harmful side effects. Use of such products should be controlled by a doctor.

Ingredients which are safe and known to produce effective results are:

o Licorice Extract contains glabridin, which is a safe herbal skin lightener. Glabridin inhibits pigmentation by preventing tyrosinase activation. Tyrosinase is an enzyme which acts as a catalyst in melanin synthesis. Licorice extract also has anti-inflammatory properties.

o Glycolic Acid is a AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) which is a powerful exfoliant and produces a natural brightening of the skin. It also supports collagen synthesis and moisturizes the skin, thus minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.

o Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant which supports collagen production. Forms of Vitamin C like L-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate, either individually or together, have been shown to reduce melanin formation and provide a skin whitening effect when applied topically.

o Vitamin A is one of the most important vitamins for skin care. It supports the repair, rejuvenation and restoration of skin by controlling normal activities of the DNA. It is found in skin products as Retinyl Propionate. Enzymes in the skin convert retinyl propionate to retinoic acid. Retionic acid is known to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation.

When using a skin lightener, it is advisable to use a high level, broad-spectrum sunscreen because skin lighteners tend to reduce the melanin in the skin which makes it vulnerable to UV rays. Sunscreens are made in a wide range of SPFs, or sun protection factors. As a general rule, the higher the SPF number, the more protection against sunburn and other skin damage the sunscreen provides. To get the most protection out of sunscreen, choose one with an SPF of at least 15. If your skin is fair, you may want a higher minimum SPF of 30 to 50.

Most skin lighteners contain Vitamin C and Vitamin A. It is important that our skin is daily replenished with these two vitamins as they are easily damaged by daily exposure to the sun.

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