Skin whitening and lightening treatment

melanin determines the color of the skin. Melanin is a type of skin pigment that is produced by the melanocytes. Individuals with the dark complexion have more melanin.

The melanin content in your skin is decided by your genetic makeup. Certain factors such as hormones, skin damage, exposure to sunlight, exposure to some chemicals may also affect the production of melanin.

The skin color can change. For example, when direct exposure to sunlight is reduced, sun tans fade. However, over a period of time, some discolorations such as “liver” spots or “age” spots become more or less permanent.

What does Skin Bleaching mean?

Skin bleaching is a type of cosmetic procedure for diminishing skin discolorations and to even out the skin color.

Some individuals apply skin lightener to their whole body in order to change their complexion, but this may be dangerous. Since some of the skin lighteners contain mercury, so skin bleaching may result in mercury poisoning.

Mercury produces toxic effects and may give rise to neurological, psychiatric, and kidney troubles. Pregnant women who make use of skin lighteners containing mercury can pass the mercury to their unborn child, causing birth defects.

What are the uses of Skin whitening?

Particular areas of abnormally high pigmentation like birthmarks and mole may be depigmented to match the skin around that area.

On the other hand, in a case of Vitiligo, unaffected skin may be whitened/lightened in order to give a more uniform look.

If used for a long time skin whiteners may result in pigmentation increasing to joints of toes, fingers, ears, and buttocks. The facial skin may get thinned and the region surrounding the eye may have more pigmentation resulting in a ‘bleach panda effect’.

Skin lightening treatments:

Combination Treatments:

Most of the skin-whitening treatments, which can diminish or block some amount of melanin production, target inhibition of tyrosinase. The majority of treatments make use of mixtures of gels or topical lotions comprising of melanin-inhibiting ingredients along with a sunscreen, and a prescription retinoid. Based on the skin’s response to these treatments, exfoliating agents – either in the form of chemical peels or topical cosmetic agents – and lasers may be used.

Hydroquinone treatment:

Hydroquinone is thought to be the main topical component for stoppage of melanin production. Its ingredients have strong antioxidant properties.

Hydroquinone is a strong inhibitor of melanin production, such that it arrests the process of making of substance responsible for skin color. Hydroquinone lightens the skin and can only disturb the synthesis & production of melanin hyperpigmentation .

Topical hydroquinone comes in 2% (available in cosmetics) to 4% (or more) concentrations (available by prescription or from a physician), alone or in combination with tretinoin 0.05% to 0.1%.


Arbutin is obtained from the leaves of cranberry, bearberry, blueberry, or mulberry shrubs, and may also be present in a most type of pears. It may have melanin-inhibiting properties. Arbutin and other plant extracts are thought to be safer options to commonly used depigmenting agents in order to make the skin fairer. Arbutin exists in two isomers, alpha, and beta; out of the two, alpha provides higher stability over the beta. Hence, alpha is preferred to beta for skin lightening.


Glutathione is a tripeptide molecule seen in mammals. It prevents oxidative damage to skin as it has strong antioxidant properties. Glutathione is also linked with skin lightening ability. Glutathione uses various mechanisms for exerting action as skin whitening agent at different levels of melanin production as follows:

o   It prevents the synthesis of melanin.

o   Its antioxidant property provides protection to the skin from UV radiation and other external as well as internal stressors generating free radicals responsible for causing skin damage and hyperpigmentation.

Glutathione can be used in combination with many other agents like vitamin C to increase its absorption, N-acetyl cysteine to boost its level, and other antioxidants like vitamin E. Some oral intake of glutathione could have harmful effect when used in combination with other skin whitening agents like hydroquinone which is cancer producing element and monobenzone which causes irreversible depigmentation.

Glutathione for skin whitening is available in soap, lotion, cream, injectable and in the form of nasal spray.

Topical application of Glutathione does not result in efficient absorption by skin cells.

The intravenous mode of administration provides direct absorption of glutathione in the systemic circulation and hence is the most preferred one.

Other components that can be used as Skin whitening agents include – kojic acid, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), azelaic acid, Alpha hydroxyl acids (AHAs), Niacinamide, licorice extract, etc.

Other treatment options:

A small amount of research has shown that oral supplements of ellagic acid, pomegranate extract, ferulic acid, vitamin E, can prevent the production of melanin.

Laser Treatment:

Ablative as well as non-ablative lasers can have an overpowering effect on melasma. However, outcomes are inconsistent. It may result in either increased or decreased pigmentation. Generally, individuals having dark complexion pose problems with Laser treatments.

The q-Switch Nd: YAG laser releases high energy light towards the affected region, thereby destroying unwanted skin cells which then permits the skin to generate new cells to replace old ones. In a q-Switch mode, the laser produces 2 wavelengths; which are useful to address skin lesions. The laser penetrates the skin deeply without harming the uppermost layer of skin and stimulates the production of collagen and vital proteins that are beneficial for a young and healthy skin.

Best Laser treatment for Age Spots

Laser Treatment for removing age spots

Apart from lightening your skin tone, this laser procedure also helps to improve complexion, resulting in smoother and fairer skin.

In summary, Skin lightening or skin whitening is a cosmetic dermatological procedure which uses chemical agents for lightening the skin tone. Skin conditions such as age spots, liver spots can benefit from Skin lightening. Skin whitening may prove to be a beneficial treatment for skin disorders such as vitiligo, melasma where the functioning of skin pigment melanin is either hyperactive or impaired. Treatment options for Skin whitening include hydroquinone, glutathione injections, usage of components such as kojic acid, azelaic acid, licorice extract and Laser treatment. Always remember, a beauty of skin is not only about the skin color, but even skin tone. Hence while going for any skin lightening and skin whitening treatment, the first and the foremost thing is to consult the best Cosmetic Dermatologist who can address all your queries and put all your concerns to rest. It is the matter of your skin after all.

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