Fair, beautiful and radiant skin is seen a sign of beauty in many cultures around the world. However, sometimes issues such as skin problems, aging, poor nutrition and sun exposure cause even the healthiest skin to become dark and discolored.
Along with a desire for fairer skin, many individuals want to lighten areas to get rid of problems such as age spots and dark marks caused by acne, mosquito bites, scars and bruising. Sun damage also causes discoloration that skin lightening treatments can eliminate over time.
The general desire for lighter skin has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of skin creams and cosmetics available promising to give users a skin tone that is one or several shades lighter than their usual complexion with regular use.
Many of these skin lightening solutions are expensive and filled with dangerous chemicals that can cause serious health problems with long-term use.
However, there are also many natural skin whitening remedies available to gradually erase discoloration and lighten skin for a beautiful and even-toned complexion.
Home Remedies for Skin Whitening
Instead of using chemical based skin lighteners, try the following easy to make home remedies to get even-toned skin.
- Almond and Honey
A combination of almond and honey is very effective for getting rid of tan lines and adding extra moisture to the skin.
- Combine a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of lemon juice, a tablespoon of almond oil and a splash of milk to make a mask mixture.
- Apply the mask to the entire face and let it sit for at least fifteen minutes before rinsing it away.
Used with caution, lemon is a very effective home remedy for lightening skin because of its citric acid content, which bleaches skin naturally.
After using lemon juice on the skin it is important to stay out of the sun to avoid developing a reaction known as phytophotodermatitis (hyper-sensitivity to sunlight), which can be extremely painful.
Use the following tips to use lemon without doing damage to the skin:
- Use water to dilute the juice of half a lemon to half of its usual strength.
- Apply lemon juice to the affected skin using a cotton ball.
- Allow the lemon juice to remain on the skin for approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, avoiding the sun during this time.
- Rinse the skin with water to remove all traces of lemon juice before applying moisturizer to the area.
Warning: Lemon juice can dry out the skin so always use a moisturizer after treatment.
For best results, repeat treatment two to three times weekly.
Although there is no solid scientific proof of its effectiveness, the spice known as turmeric has been a staple skin lightening treatment in India since ancient times.
Users believe that turmeric is effective because of its ability to decrease the amount of melanin produced by the skin, which prevents it from getting darker.
Along with lightening the skin, turmeric is known for enhancing the complexion by making it more even-toned. The spice is also beneficial for general skin health because of its antioxidant and antiseptic properties.
- Combine olive oil, chickpea flour and turmeric to make a smooth paste.
- Gently exfoliate the skin with the mixture by applying it to the affected areas using small circular motions.
- Let the paste stay on the skin for approximately fifteen to twenty minutes before washing it away with water.
Note: Turmeric has a tendency to stain the skin yellow, however the effect wears of very quickly.
For best results, repeat the treatment once or twice weekly.
The high vitamin C content in raw potatoes makes it a mild but effective skin bleaching agent.
- Slice a raw potato in half and rub its newly exposed center into the affected skin.
- Allow the moisture from the potatoes to stay on the skin for between fifteen and twenty minutes before rinsing it away.
For best results, repeat treatment several times weekly.
- Aloe Vera
Along with soothing, rejuvenating and moisturizing the skin, aloe vera helps to lighten discoloration and reduce redness.
- Slice a freshly cut aloe vera leaf in half and rub the gel (sap) over the affected skin.
Note: While aloe vera is safe to leave on the skin, if it feels too sticky it can also be washed away after treatment.
- Coconut Water
Along with making the skin smoother and more supple, many individuals claim that natural coconut water also lightens their skin.
- Rub fresh coconut water over the affected skin using a cotton ball.
Note: It is unnecessary to rinse coconut water away after treatment because of its gentle effect on the skin.
Skin care experts believe that the high vitamin A, E, C and alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) content of papayas makes it an effective skin care treatment. Eating papaya on a regular basis also has positive effects on the skin.
The enzyme in papaya (papain) is often used in formulations for aging skin care because of its ability to exfoliate, brighten, firm and rejuvenate. Green (unripened) papayas contain the highest papain levels.
- Slice a green papaya in half before removing the seeds.
- Combine the flesh of the papaya with enough water to make a smooth puree.
- For best results, apply the puree to the skin three times weekly.
Refrigerate any remaining puree for future use.
- Rice Powder
Eating rice on a regular basis provides the body with vital nutrients for skin health, which include vitamin E, ferulic acid and antioxidants. However, using rice externally also offers significant skin care benefits.
The vitamin C content of rice, along with a compound known as para aminobenzoic acid (PABA) helps to brighten, hydrate and firm the skin, while offering it natural protection from the sun and dangerous toxins.
- Grind a half or one full cup of rice into a fine powder.
- Add enough milk (or water) to the rice powder to make a smooth paste.
- Cover the affected skin with the paste and leave it in place for between twenty and thirty minutes before rinsing it away with water.
For best results, repeat treatment two to three times weekly.
- Almond Oil
Compounds such as phytosterols, minerals and vitamins E, B6, B2, PP (also known as vitamin B3 or niacin) make Almond oil effective for creating a lighter and more even skin tone.
Niacinamide is a biologically active compound (that comes from niacin), which prevents skin from getting darker by stopping melanocytes from transforming into keratinocytes. In addition, almond oil helps skin to look glowing and radiant by preventing wrinkles and removing blemishes.
- Use warmed almond oil and hands to gently massage areas of the body with darkened skin such as the face, neck, legs and back.
- After massaging for ten to fifteen minutes remove the excess almond oil from the skin using tissue paper.
For best results, repeat the treatment once every day before bedtime, for at least two weeks. Then drop treatment days down to two or three times weekly.
- Baking Soda
While baking soda is known as a tooth whitening and cleaning agent, it also works to lighten skin with regular use. It does this by exfoliating and removing sun damaged and darkened skin.
Scrubbing the underarms with baking soda paste helps to lighten dark patches of skin, unclog pores and remove the bacteria that can cause body odor.
- Combine baking soda, water and honey to make a smooth paste.
- Apply the paste to the affected areas of the skin and leave it in place for at least ten minutes.
- Rinse skin thoroughly with warm water before patting dry with a clean towel.
Warning: Although it is gentle, baking soda can cause the skin to get very dry if it is applied too often, so use with caution.
- Tomato Juice
The high vitamin C content and pH balancing properties of tomatoes makes it a natural remedy that also controls oil production and brightens skin.
Along with acting as an astringent for oily and acne prone skin, tomatoes naturally whiten and bleach the skin without causing any damage. This makes it very effective for treating black and dark skin tones.
The acidic nature of tomatoes, along with their antioxidant levels lighten and protect skin from damaging free radicals, which makes the skin look younger for a longer time.
- Grate an entire small ripe tomato to create a lot of pulp.
- Apply the pulp to the affected areas of skin using the fingers.
- Let the pulp dry completely before applying another layer of pulp to the affected skin.
- Continue to reapply the pulp to the skin for up to twenty five minutes.
- Massage the treated skin for one or two minutes before rinsing the pulp away.
For best results, repeat this treatment daily.
- Yogurt or Whole Milk
The high alpha hydroxy acid content of whole milk and yogurt make them very effective for exfoliating and lightening the skin.
- Combine oatmeal and enough milk (or yogurt) to make a smooth paste.
- Massage the paste into the affected skin and leave it in place for at least twenty minutes before rinsing it away.
- Apply yogurt (or milk) to the affected skin with a cotton ball and leave it on for approximately twenty minutes before rinsing it away.
Warning: The active enzymes for this treatment are only found in full fat yogurt and milk.
The high vitamin C content of oranges make it one of the most effective remedies for lightening discolored skin.
Along with bleaching the skin with external use, drinking orange juice helps to make skin supple and even-textured.
- Mix a pinch of turmeric power with two tablespoon of freshly squeezed orange juice.
- Apply the mixture to dark areas of the skin and leave it in place overnight.
- Wash the treatment from the skin the following morning.
For best results, repeat daily.
- Make a powder from dried orange peels by grinding them.
- Combine a tablespoon of yogurt and a tablespoon of powdered orange peel to make a smooth paste.
- Cover the affected skin with the paste and let it sit for between fifteen and twenty minutes before rinsing it off.
For best results, repeat twice weekly.
- Wear Sunscreen
Spending too much time in direct sunlight can leave skin damaged and covered in sun burn, dark spots, and freckles and in extreme cases, cancerous cells.
To get lighter skin it is important to stay indoors as much as possible while also protecting the skin with a high SPF (sun protection factor) sunblock when going out.
Any exposure to UVB and UVA ultraviolet light causes the body to produce the higher levels of melanin that make skin darker.
To avoid this problem, here are several tips to use before going outdoors and into direct sunlight.
- Even if it is not a sunny day, wear sunblock at all times while outside.
- Cover skin as much as possible with clothing such as long sleeved shirts, long pants, hats and dark glasses.
- Always use a sunblock with at least a 30 SFP level, which protects skin from the majority of dangerous UVB and UVA rays.
- Cleanse and Exfoliate
Following a healthy skin care and skin lightening routine includes cleansing and exfoliating on a regular basis.
- To remove excess oil and dirt from the skin, cleanse thoroughly twice a day (morning and evening).
- Remove dead and over-pigmented skin cells by exfoliating with a gentle abrasive scrub or a clean damp cloth several times each week. In time, this reveals the healthier and lighter colored skin underneath.
- Keep Skin Moisturized
When dead skin cells build up, they cause the complexion to look dull and dry. Using a creamy moisturizer on a regular basis helps skin to look young, bright and supple.
- Use moisturizers such as jojoba oil, olive oil, almond oil or coconut oil on the skin immediately after having a shower to lock in moisture.
- Quit Smoking
While it is common knowledge that smoking is harmful to health, many people do not realize that it effects the appearance of skin as well. Along with damaging the skin and making it age prematurely with wrinkles and lines, smoking restricts blood flow which makes the complexion look dull and grey.
- Quit smoking to help improve the complexion by making skin look healthy and bright.
Diet to Get Lighter Skin Tone
Along with using home remedies, there are many different foods and nutritional changes that can help to lighten skin discoloration over time.
- Drink Water
While drinking water on its own does not lighten skin, it is important for maintaining the healthy cell turnover that reveals skin that is bright, hydrated and rejuvenated.
- Drink at least six to eight glass of water every day.
- Balanced Diet
Eating a healthy and balanced diet filled with vitamin and mineral rich foods is one of the most important parts of lightening skin and giving it a healthy appearance. A balanced diet also prevents the redness, blemishes and acne that contribute to skin discoloration.
Include lots of fresh, organic and natural foods such as fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods while also avoiding alcohol and processed, high-calorie, sugary and greasy foods.
Along with eating a balanced diet, consider supplementing with Omega-3 oils, grapeseed extract and other vitamins to keep the skin healthy.
Studies show that drinking tea on a regular basis introduces polyphenols and antioxidants into the body to block compounds known as peroxides that cause skin to burn during sun exposure.
- Dark Chocolate
The flavonoids and polyphenols (antioxidants) in cocoa and chocolate help to boost skin’s resistance to ultra violet light, improve its texture and lighten darkness and discoloration.
- Fruits and Vegetables Rich in vitamin C
Eat a diet rich in vitamin C for a brighter and healthier complexion. Skin care experts recommend including foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, kiwi, cherries and strawberries in the daily diet.
- Red and Yellow Fruits
The carotene and phytochemical content of red and yellow fruits such as carrots, mangos and pumpkins protect skin from oxidation and makes it more resistant to sun damage and darkening.
The antioxidants and isoflavone content of soybeans makes it one of the best foods for lightening skin. Phytoestrogens in soybeans help skin to look bright and luminous while slowing down the effects of aging on skin’s appearance.
- Eat tofu and drink soy milk on a regular basis.
The high vitamin C content in oranges helps to speed up skin rejuvenation and increases collagen production which helps to reveal new skin cells and lighten discoloration.
Nuts such as almonds and pumpkin seeds contain zinc and selenium, which help to prevent the acne that leads to dark spots and skin discoloration. Eating nuts on a regular basis adds vital nutrients to the diet while also purifying the blood.
- Fennel Seeds
Along with keeping the skin moisturized and properly hydrated, fennel seeds also detoxify the body, are a rich source of antioxidants and improve blood circulation and skin tone.
Along with detoxifying the blood and the liver, beetroot provides the body with the essential nutrients it needs to build healthy skin. These include vitamins A, B and C, potassium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and fiber, which all help to lighten skin and fight the effects of free radicals.
There are several effective topical solutions for lightening dark skin, including the following:
- Kojic Acid
Kojic acid is a very effective natural skin lightener that comes from Japan. Made by processing fungi (mushrooms), rice sake and rice wine, kojic acid is very safe and beneficial for skin health. It brightens skin dramatically without any of the harsh and dangerous side effects of other skin lightening treatments.
Kojic acid works by blocking the activity of tyrosinase, which keeps melanin from forming and reaching the topmost layers of skin. This speeds up the rate of skin lightening without causing any damage or unwanted side effects.
Before treating the skin with kojic acid, always start by washing the face, neck and other treatment areas with a mild cleanser and clean water.
- Combine half a teaspoon or one full teaspoon of kojic acid with a gel, cream or lotion, mixing them together thoroughly.
- Apply the mixture to the affected skin and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it away.
For best results, repeat treatment twice daily for one to two months.
Warning: Kojic acid can cause a burning sensation in individuals with thin or sensitive skin, so it is important to perform a patch test to prevent potential rashes and irritation.
While retinoid creams do not directly bleach the skin, their vitamin A content helps to brighten and lighten skin by exfoliating the topmost layer.
Along with lightening dark skin and discoloration, retinoid-based creams have an anti-aging effect on skin. It speeds up skin cell turnover (rejuvenation) and helps to plump it up while removing wrinkles and fine lines. Stronger formulations help to eliminate acne and other blemishes from the skin.
Common side effects of retinoid creams include flaky, dry and red skin. However, once the skin gets used to the treatment, these symptoms go away.
While using retinoid based creams it is important to stay out of the sun as much as possible and to use a high SFP sunscreen when going outside. This is because retinoid creams increases skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Experts recommend applying the treatment before bed time to maximize its effectiveness.
A weaker retinoid solution called retinol is available as an over-the-counter treatment that is often added to many anti-aging products. However full strength retinoid creams are only available with a prescription from a medical doctor.
Warning: Always discuss skin care needs with a dermatologist or other skin care specialist before using a retinoid based treatment.
Skin Whitening Creams and Products
Skin whitening products work by blocking the melanin production of the skin that leads to tans, dark marks, discoloration, freckles and age spots.
There are currently many options available for skin lightening with over-the-counter preparations.
While many of the products are safe, it is important to read and follow the instructions for use and to check the ingredient listing for potentially harmful substances.
- Kojic acid, glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin C and arbutin are all effective ingredients to look for in skin lightening products that are safe to use.
- Avoid skin bleaching products that include mercury as an ingredient. While skin lightening products containing mercury are banned in the US, they are widely available in other countries.
Warning: If there is a bad reaction, stop using the skin lightening cream immediately and consult a doctor or skin care specialist.
One of the most effective skin lightening products for treating moles, sun spots and large areas of skin is hydroquinone. Despite the fact that it is FDA approved, hydroquinone is not legal for use in some parts of Asia and Europe, because studies revealed that it is a potentially dangerous carcinogen.
Because hydroquinone can have negative side effects such as leaving skin discolored and darker than normal, it is essential to speak to a skin care specialist before using it.
Note: While hydroquinone products in weaker formulations (2% and under) are available over-the-counter, only a doctor can prescribe stronger treatments (up to 4%).
Risks and Dangers
It is important to be aware of the risks involved with using many of the skin lightening products available today, particularly when they are not prescribed by a doctor or skin care specialist.
Depending on where they are manufactured, some bleaching creams are formulated with ingredients that are dangerous to skin and general health, some of which are actually banned in certain countries.
Some of these ingredients include:
- High-dose Steroids
While hydroquinone is an ingredient found in many FDA approved skin lightening formulations, for best results it is important to use them while under a physician’s care. Many people are disappointed and upset by the results they get after using skin lightening creams and products without careful guidance from a skin specialist.
Some of the most serious risks and dangers of using skin lightening products include the following:
- Permanently lightened or depigmented areas of skin
- Irritation and redness
- Blotchy and uneven skin color
- Thinner skin
- Increased risk of skin cancer
- Skin aging prematurely
- More acne and skin blemishes
- Skin infections
- Permanently darkened and discolored areas of skin
- Permanent skin damage
- Allergic reactions to specific ingredients in natural and chemically-based treatments
To get the best result possible, consult with a doctor, dermatologist or other skin care specialist before using a chemically-based skin lightening product.
Precautions & Safety
Use the following tips to ensure safety and positive results when selecting and using skin lightening products:
- Read labels carefully and avoid skin lightening products that include the ingredients mercury and lead. Look for alternative names for mercury such as mercurio, mercuric, mercurous and calomel.
- Do not use hydroquinone-based products with a higher percentage than 2% as they can damage skin permanently.
- Choose skin lightening products that include antioxidant rich and natural ingredients like kojic acid, vitamin E and glutathione.
- Read reviews to see what other users are saying about new skin bleaching products before trying them.
- Read labels carefully to find out about the potential side effects involved with using specific skin lightening products.
- Use skin lightening products formulated for every type of skin, including the most sensitive.
- Avoid using household bleach, ammonia and other chemicals to lighten skin. This is dangerous to health and can lead to darker, permanently damaged skin.
Along with topical solutions and skin lightening creams and products, there are several other options for lightening dark and discolored skin, which include:
If an individual has sensitive skin that cannot tolerate retinoid creams and acid peels, microdermabrasion is an effective method of brightening and lightening skin by revealing fresh new cells.
Microdermabrasion removes dark and dull top layers of skin using a small and closed vacuum that has a rotating diamond tip. It loosens and removes dead surface skin cells, which get sucked up by the vacuum, exfoliating or polishing the skin thoroughly during the process.
To notice a difference in skin tone a minimum of six to twelve microdermabrasion treatments may be necessary. Each treatment lasts approximately fifteen to twenty minutes and may leave skin looking slightly dry, red and irritated. However, despite these effects, microdermabrasion is considered to be one of the gentlest treatments for lightening skin.
- Chemical Peels
One of the most effective methods of lightening skin is with chemical peels. The acid content of chemical peels (also known as alpha hydroxy acid) removes the topmost layer of skin that contains discolored and highly-pigmented cells to reveal fresher and lighter-colored skin.
For the most dramatic skin lightening effects, several peels are necessary and should be done once every two to four weeks.
During a peel individuals may feel burning, stinging and tingling, which usually goes away shortly after neutralization. Right after receiving a peel, skin is usually swollen and red for several days.
While the skin recovers from the peel it is extremely sensitive to sun exposure. This makes it important to stay out of the sun as much as possible and to use a high SFP sunblock to protect delicate new skin cells before going out.
- Apply the skin peeling solution and leave it in place for between five and ten minutes before neutralizing completely.
Warning: This treatment should only be given by a dermatologist or other skin care specialist because of the risk of skin damage and hyperpigmentation.