Skin whitening, also known as bleaching or skin lightening, involves lightening the skin complexion by reducing the amount of melanin (pigment) in the skin. You may want to whiten your skin to get rid of hyperpigmentation (spots and patches) and even out its tone. Some just want to get back their natural complexion that has darkened due to environmental exposure. Still others whiten their skin to get a lighter complexion which is their personal preference.
The market is flooded with skin whitening products that use harsh chemicals to achieve results. However, they’re proven to be ineffective and even harmful in the long term. Some whitening creams contain toxic ingredients like mercury, hydroquinone and steroids! This is why natural is the way to go. Use products made from organic, natural ingredients or just opt for simple and effective home remedies!
Natural tips to whiten the skin
Natural bleaching agents include citrus extracts (eg. lemon juice and orange peel), kojic acid, mulberry extract, licorice extract and Vitamin B3. Mix a bleaching agent with honey and gently rub the mix on the skin and leave it on for 15 minutes. As with all bleaching agents, remember to wash off thoroughly and avoid immediate sun exposure.
The accumulation of dead skin cells leads to pore-clogging and blackheads that give the skin a darker and uneven tone. They also make the skin look dull and dehydrated.
Exfoliate your skin regularly to slough off dead cells and stimulate the production of new cells. Use natural scrubs like fine sugar, salt or coffee mixed in yoghurt or avocado paste. Charcoal soaps are also effective in naturally exfoliating and whitening the skin.
You could simply whip up a mix of household staples to make your own whitening mask. Here are some effective ideas:
Take the pulp of a tomato and add a teaspoon of lemon juice. Apply this mix on the skin, massage for 3-4 minutes and leave it on as a mask for 20 minutes before rinsing off with cool water.
Rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, this paste will not only lighten your complexion but also help prevent damage-causing skin cell oxidation.
Mix 4tsp of yoghurt in 2tbsp of gram flour and make a paste. You could also add 1/4tsp of turmeric powder to the mix. Apply the paste on the skin and leave it on for 15 minutes before washing off.
While gram flour exfoliates the skin, lactic acid whitens and nourishes it to give you a radiant glow. Turmeric is a natural antioxidant and antibacterial which protects the skin and reverses cell damage.
Take a small cup of ripe papaya and mash it up. Add 3tsp of honey to it and make a paste. Apply this on the skin and massage gently for a few minutes. Leave it on for 20 minutes and rinse with warm water.
Papaya contains alpha-hydroxy acids which whiten the skin while honey has strong antioxidant and anti-microbial properties that nourish and protect the skin.
Whitening isn’t enough, you also need to protect your skin from darkening. As we are all aware, sun exposure is one of the major causes for skin darkening. The UV radiation of the sun increases and dysregulates the melanin production in skin cells. This leads to hyperpigmentation in the form of tans, general darkening of skin and spots and patches like age spots, freckles and melasma.
A whitening sunscreen can go a long way as it not only protects the skin from UV radiation but also contains whitening agents that reduce melanin in the skin to lighten it.
If you’re looking for a natural whitening sunscreen, look for ingredients like arbutin, vitamin B3, vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice and mulberry extract. These have shown promising results comparable to those of chemical whitening agents but without the toxicity and negative side effects that come with them.
Prevention is sometimes the best cure. Since UV radiation exposure causes darkening, limit your skin’s exposure to it. Cover your skin with clothing specifically designed with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor). Wear clothes with tightly knit fabric and prefer darker colors for better UV protection. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face and neck as they are the most exposed and prone to darkening.
Remain indoors between 11am and 4pm as much as possible as this is the time when the UV index is highest. Even when it’s cloudy outdoors, either avoid the sun or protect your skin well when stepping outdoors.
Look for a sunblock that contains natural minerals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These are FDA-approved, safe ingredients that block the sun’s rays by reflecting them. Reduced UV exposure leads to reduced melanin production in the skin which not only prevents darkening but also makes the skin lighter over time.
Dehydrated skin cells are more prone to damage due to oxidation and sun exposure. Lack of proper nourishment leads to irregular melanin production leading to dark spots and patches. Dehydrated skin also generally appears dull and darker.
Natural moisturizers include plant-based oils such as coconut oil, jojoba oil and avocado oil. They are rich in fatty acids that not only moisturize and nourish the skin but also protect it from damage. Healthy skin cells ensure that melanin production is kept in check to prevent darkening and keep your skin naturally radiant.
Toning is an important aspect of your skincare regimen and it can also help lighten the skin. Natural toners are astringents that help cleanse the skin and tighten the pores to reduce the appearance of blemishes and give the skin an even tone. They also return the skin a neutral pH that prevents skin infections and other damage.
What you feed your body reflects on your skin and this is the case even when it comes to skin whitening. Include foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants and omega acids. While the fatty acids will nourish and hydrate the skin, vitamins and antioxidants will fight UV damage to prevent oxidation and bring back your lost glow. Examples of superfoods for skin whitening are strawberries, pineapples, eggs, tomatoes, lemons, avocados, berries and spinach.