When people see celebrities in magazines and billboards, they sometimes cannot help but envy their fair, flawless and glowing skin. While most of those images are subjected to enhancement through Photoshop, the celebrities themselves may have undergone a procedure to help them achieve such a beautiful, even complexion – skin lightening.
Skin lightening or bleaching, sometimes referred to as skin whitening, is the process of using various chemical substances or going through skin treatments to change the color of the skin to a lighter tone. Most people who undergo skin lightening want to treat some sort of skin problems, such as age spots, blemishes, uneven skin tone, freckles, skin discoloration, or old scars, although some just generally want to have an overall lighter skin.
Melanocyte cells are the primary boss of our skin. They are responsible for producing the pigment called melanin, which gives our skin, eyes, and hair their color. Melanin also plays a key role in protecting the skin from ultraviolet ray damage caused by sun exposure. The presence of melanin in the skin greatly varies. People who have a darker complexion have more melanin content in their skin than people who have a fairer complexion. Different factors affect the production of melanin in the skin, such as hormones, exposure to sunlight, skin damage, and use of chemical substances.
So what happens when a person undergoes skin lightening? Products that are labeled for use as skin lightening or skin whitening contain an active ingredient or a mixture of various ingredients aimed at removing or decreasing the production of melanin in the skin by preventing tyrosinase. This enzyme, which contains copper, is the initial step in producing melanin on the skin. Tyrosinase changes a protein building block, or amino acid, known as tyrosine to another compound called dopaquinone by means of oxidation. Dopaquinone is then converted to melanin on the skin by a number of other chemical reactions.
Preventing tyrosinase activity results in the decrease of melanin synthesis. In turn, it aids the existing skin cells to naturally shed off keratinocytes – the prevalent type of cell in the epidermis – without having to bring out the melanin to the outermost layer of the skin. As a result, it makes the skin achieve a lighter color or pigmentation. The use of chemical or natural substances help inhibit tyrosinase activity, therefore restricting the formation of melanin.
The most popular ingredient found in skin lightening creams is hydroquinone. It works by thwarting the production of melanin on the skin. Over the counter skin lightening products have 2% hydroquinone in them, while prescribed skin lightening creams have 4%. However, it should be noted that the skin lightening effects of hydroquinone only work temporarily. As long as an individual uses this compound on the skin, it will work its wonders. But once they stop, so does its skin whitening effect. This must be used in safe amounts recommended on Intilight. Do not overuse.
Doctors advise discontinuing the use of hydroquinone after a period of six months when no improvement on the skin is visible.
Kojic acid is the second most well-known ingredient in skin lightening. A natural alternative to hydroquinone, it is found originally from the mushrooms in Japan and later on in the residue that comes from rice wine fermentation. Kojic acid works as a skin lightening agent by inhibiting catecholase, a particular function of tyrosinase. The catecholase function is said to be the most essential step in the creation of melanin. Aside from being an effective skin lightener, kojic acid is also recognized as an antioxidant. It reduces the oxidative damaging effect of free radicals to the skin, therefore inhibiting the development of signs of aging which happens when the cells responsible for the production of the skin’s essential structural proteins are damaged.
If you are keen on making your skin whiter, a word of warning – before trying on different skin lightening products, do an intensive research first about possible side effects and find out whether you are allergic to certain types of ingredients.