The skin is the largest organ of the body and acts as the first line of defense in combating infection and disease. Therefore it is important to treat any skin pigmentation problems with care, to prevent damaging the layers of skin and making the problem worse.
Traditionally synthetic ingredients like hydro-quinine and mercury have been the main ingredients used in skin bleaching products. Both are effective skin lighteners that work by inhibiting the production of melanin (dark skin pigmentation) in the short term. However, recent research shows that in the long term these ingredients can be toxic and, if used for extended periods of time they can actually work in the reverse, by reacting with the sun’s UV rays to cause increased pigmentation and premature aging.
Fortunately science has discovered a number of natural whitening ingredients that are just as effective for lightening the skin, without the harmful side effects. These ingredients can help you to achieve a whiter complexion in two ways:
- By absorbing harmful UV rays from the sun
- By inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin which causes the dark pigmentation
8 Natural Ingredients That Whiten Skin
1. Citrus extracts – lemons and orange peel are natural skin bleaching agents that can be found in many skin lightening recipes. Vitamin C plays an important role in the production of collagen fibers that help to support your skin and keep it firm. When applied topically, in its ascorbyl form, Vitamin C has been shown to slow down hyperactive melanocytes. These are the cells that produce melanin in the basal layers of the skin which causes the skin to “tan” or become darker.
2. Kojic Acid – is a white crystalline powder that comes from a fungus (like a mushroom) in Asia. It has been used for many years in Japan as a natural alternative to hydro-quinine and is very effective in whitening the skin. Kojic acid works by inhibiting the function of tyrosinase, the protein responsible for making the brown pigment, melanin. It also acts as an antioxidant and is suitable for sun damaged or sensitive skin
3. Liquorice Extract (Glycyrrhiza glabra) – the liquorice plant is a legume, a member of the pea family, that has been used as far back as ancient times for medicinal purposes. The juice derived from it’s roots is well known in China as a treatment for all kinds of skin ailments and in the early 1990’s, Japanese scientists identified the compound glabridinin in liquorice, which is found to absorb UVA and UVB rays and acts as a powerful and effective skin whitening element.
Clinical studies show that glabridin has the capacity to inhibit the activity of the tyrosinase enzyme by as much as 50% without damaging the skin cells. Liquorice extract is effective in treating post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (including dark spots) and it can be used to reverse the damage caused by acne scars. Liquorice extract also contains anti-inflammatory properties that help to soothe the skin and reduce redness
4. Bearberry Extract – comes from the leaves of the bearberry plant and not the fruit. Bearberry or beargrape is used as an astringent in many cosmetics and it contains Alpha arbutin, which is known to lighten the skin fast.
Arbutin has been proven to effectively lighten freckles, dark spots and skin discolorations. In a one-month study on 80 Chinese women using a 1% alpha arbutin concentration, the “skin lightening effect” was said to be very noticeable.
Bearberry extract is also useful because it contains sun protection filters that may help to reduce the amount of “tanning” experienced after sun exposure, and consequently promote anti-aging of the skin.
5. Phyllanthus Emblica (Indian gooseberry) – the extract from this plant is a unique antioxidant with antimicrobial properties and large amounts of Vitamin C. Emblica extract protects the skin from photo-damage and helps to reduce hyperpigmentation.
In comparable studies, using people from different ethnic groups, Emblica was found to contain powerful skin-lightening properties that were equivalent to, or better than, those achieved by conventional skin lighteners like hydroquinine.
Emblica has been shown to protect the skin against oxidative stress, effectively reducing wrinkles, suppressing the formation of dark pigmentation and helping the skin to retain its natural moisture.
6. Giga White® is a patented skin brightener that is effective in treating dark spots and melasma. It is derived from 7 organically grown Swiss alpine plants which include the peppermint plant, the common mallow and primula (cowslip).
Over one hundred Alpine plants were originally selected for their ability to inhibit tyrosinase (the enzyme responsible for melanin production). From those tested, 7 plants that exhibited the highest tyrosinase-inhibiting activity in vitro (in cells) were chosen for the formulation which is now widely used in modern skin lightening creams as an alternative to hydroquinine.
Gigawhite was shown to markedly reduce the appearance of dark spots in subjects aged 22-55 in clinical trials in Asia. Over a 12 week period, the subjects tested showed a decrease of 24% in skin discoloration and an increase of 15.3% in skin lightening, with minimal or no skin irritations recorded.
7. White Mulberry Extract – The white mulberry tree (Morus alba) is native to China and has been found to have many health benefits, as seen on the popular Dr Oz TV show. While white mulberry can assist in preventing heart disease,cholesterol and diabetes, it can also help to whiten the skin.
White mulberry extract is a natural inhibitor of the enzyme tyrosinase. This enzyme triggers the production of melanin (brown pigment) in the skin.
Clinical trials have established that white mulberry and paper mulberry are both effective skin whitening agents and suitable for dermatological use.
8. Vitamin B-3 or, Niacinamide has been shown to suppress the transfer of melanosome (pigment) to the skin and acts as an effective skin-lightening agent when added to skin creams. Vitamin B applied topically improves the ability of the skin to retain moisture so your skin will feel softer and smoother, with less dryness and a reduction of fine lines.
About Angie Woods : Author of the Article
I am a teacher and mother of four. My passion is travel and I wish I could do this more often!