Have you ever wondered how celebrities don’t have the same complexion they had in early photographs? Or how those who are in their middle ages don’t have age spots or liver spots? It isn’t that they are diligent with their makeup but rather that they have joined the world of people who use skin whitening products to lighten their complexion.
These new agents perform two different functions. They actually absorb the UV rays from the sun and thus prevent the darkening of the skin when the melanocytes, cells that contain melanin (color) are exposed to the sun. And they reduce the production of melanin which is the pigment found in the skin responsible for darkening the skin when it’s exposed to the light.
Most of the products on the market today contain ingredients that inhibit tyrosinase, the enzyme in the pigment cells that make melanin. One of these ingredients is hydroquinone, an oxydizing agent and hormonal preparation which are usually classified as a drug. The Kenya Bureau of Standards has invoked a legal notice that this drug is being illegally used for skin whitening procedures. In Kenya these products can only be used when recommended or prescribed by a medical doctor.
The Kenya ruling also pertains to products which contain Mercury which contributes to heavy metal toxicity, allergic dermatitis and ovarian damage. At this time the skin whitening agents that are banned for over the counter use in Kenya may still be available in the U.S.
A new type of skin de-pigmentation agent is extracted from a Bearberry plant and used in solid or liquid form. Arbutin reportedly protects the skin against damage caused by free radicals and is a whitening agent that is very popular in Japan and other Asian countries. It was first used in the 18th century as an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent and is still used today for urinary tract symptoms by natural medicine physicians and practitioners.
Current research suggests that Arbutin is safe for external use and doesn’t have the stimulation or unpleasant odor that Hydroquinone has. The topical formulation performs three main functions – whitening, anti-aging and a UVB/UVC filter.
Vitamin C is also now being investigated for the role it plays in the health and beauty of the skin. As ascorbyl it has been tested and reported in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology to inhibit the product of melanin. Vitamin C is also required for the synthesis of collagen. However, as we grow older the diminished micro-capillary system in the skin deprives the dermis and epidermis of some vital nutrients – Vitamin C is one.
A topical application of Vitamin C can penetrate the skin dramatically, enhancing skin de-pigmentation and collagen production. Vitamin C is also able to regenerate Vitamin E, a strong anti-oxidant, to protect the skin’s elastin fibers.
Retinol is another product that has skin de-pigmentation properties and is also used to help treat acne conditions. Retinol is a form of Vitamin A used topically to treat damage to the skin. Vitamin A is known to stimulate mitotic activity and the production of collagen. Today, Retinol and Vitamin A is the new hope of reducing the signs of photo aging to exfoliate the skin, giving it a lighter, more beautiful appearance.
Skin whitening products may be prescribed or sought for hyper-pigmentation issues, photo aging or to help smooth the overall appearance of the skin. In any case individuals who are interested should seek the advice of their dermatologist to find the product that works best for their skin type, age and aging process.