Understanding the difference between getting glowing skin, toning the skin, and skin bleaching.

As someone into skincare, you’ve probably come across these terms in skincare. Coupled with the fact that skin color is a big discussion in Nigeria, as well as most country with black people. I want to explain these terms thoroughly so there’s a good understanding, and also tackle the issue of skin bleaching.

Also, we all want a beautiful and radiant skin as this helps us feel more confident. And like every other thing in life, you need to be intentional about it. You have to care for your skin, or treat it so as to get certain results.

In skincare, we have brightening and lightening active ingredients that can be used to achieve this. However, the way they are used makes all the difference.

Skin brightening focuses on restoring dull-looking skin. Products used target giving the skin a radiant glow and making the skin vibrant and healthy-looking.

Skin lightening is mostly focused on reducing pigmentation, or preventing excessive production of melanin. That is, treating discolorations and hyperpigmentation and evening out the skin tone.

Skin whitening is basically changing the natural tone/complexion of the skin. Bleaching the skin involves using aggressive methods to entirely stop the process of melanin production in other to achieve a lighter skin tone.

Now that we have an understanding of each, let’s discuss how each work.

Skin brightening is the revival of dull skin by restoring its glow and radiance, using brightening actives that will help get rid of the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Skin brighteners remove the old skin cells that makes the skin look dull, in order to reveal a radiant and glowing skin, keeping the skin vibrant and bright.

Brightening the skin is safe and should be incorporated into your daily skincare routine, to ensure effectiveness. It is important to note that it has to be continuously done in order to maintain results, so that the skin doesn’t loose its radiance and luster.

To brighten the skin, seek out products that contain:

  • Alpha-hydroxyl acids such as lactic acid, glycolic acid, mandelic acid etc.
  • Beta hydroxyl acids such as salicylic acid.
  • Niacinamide
  • Azelaic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Retinol

Skin lightening involves using actives that inhibit or reduce the production of melanin by the skin cells. Melanin is the dark pigment produced by the skin, and if secreted in excessive amounts, it causes darkening – hyperpigmentation.

Skin lightening is used to treat dark spots and to remove blemish, to even out areas of the skin with uneven skin tone due to discoloration. It does not involve bleaching and is not harmful.

Skin lightening is very beneficial if you’re treating acne and want to get rid of the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that follows. Or sunburn/sun damage. Or freckles. Or melasma from pregnancy.

Like skin brightening, it has to be maintained, as the skin will keep producing pigments, especially after a trigger.

To lighten dark areas of the skin, or even out skin tone, look for these actives:

  • Alpha-Arbutin
  • Kojic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Tranexemic acid
  • Retinoids
  • Glutathione
  • Licorice
  • Rucinol

Skin whitening is bleaching the skin with harsh and harmful chemicals and ingredients as well as painful procedures, to achieve a skin tone shades lighter than the natural skin color from birth. Dangerous chemicals and very high concentrations of lightening actives ingredients are used to completely stop the natural process of melanin production in the skin. The result is a lighter skin complexion but damaged skin cells, hardened skin tissues and absorption of harmful substances into the body.

The body tries to get rid of these substances but ends up damaging the kidney, causing nephrotic syndrome and kidney injury. Due to the high amount of mercury used in these products, mercury poisoning is also common and can affect the fetus. Some of the ingredients used also promote severe darkening and thickening of the skin after long-term use. Skin cancer can also be a result of skin bleaching.

Just like every treatment, it is not a cure for a dark complexion, so it has to be used continuously to maintain results, which further worsens how harmful it is.

Bleaching is very harmful and unsafe. It also promotes colorism and should be avoided at all costs.

Harmful ingredients used to bleach the skin that us to be avoided:

  • Mercury
  • Steroids
  • Hydroquinone in high concentrations (more than 2%
  • Hydrogen peroxide

What else to keep in mind?

Remember, each treatment serves a different purpose and works differently, too. Skincare is a lifestyle. It can’t be a one time thing, as nothing is ever permanent. A treatment has to be maintained over time, so be consistent. Safety is of utmost importance, your skin is the largest organ of the body and should be well cared for.

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