All skincare should be safe BUT truth be told, skin lightening ingredients don’t have the best safety record. For this bad name we have hydroquinone to blame – a lightening skincare ingredient associated with mercury contamination and ochronosis – a blueish-black discolouration of skin – absolutely not what you want when looking for safe skin lightening ingredients.
Do not worry. There are many safe skin lightening ingredients available to you, a fact this list of top 10 safe skin lightening ingredients proves.
1. Kojic Acid
Usually made as a by-product of malted rice – what’s used to make sake/rice wine, kojic acid is an all-natural lightening and brightening skincare active. Kojic acid works to lighten and brighten your skin by making an enzyme necessary for melanin production i.e. the pigment which colours your skin, unavailable.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a much loved, multi-tasking skincare ingredient. Just look at this list of activities;
- Collagen builder
- Anti-ageing active
- Lightens skin
- Skin brightening
- Builds skin’s strength
- Helps shield skin against pollution
Bottom line – vitamin C is a necessary skincare antioxidant. Your skin naturally makes vitamin C and therefore it’s one of the safest skincare actives you could use.
Find kojic acid and vitamin C paired up in our Kojic Acid & Vitamin C Skin Lightening Soap.
Another natural skin lightening active. Alpha-arbutin’s made by Mother Nature and found in the leaves of the bearberry plant. Used in skincare at a 1 to 2% concentration alpha-arbutin can rival even the most effective skin brighteners. Similarly to Kojic acid, alpha-arbutin works by inhibiting skin’s tyrosinase enzymes.
Enter the world of skincare and you won’t travel far before hearing about the wondrous activity of niacinamide. Also known as pro-vitamin B3, niacinamide is an antioxidant, sebum balancer, acne fighter, anti-inflammatory, ceramide booster and… a very effective skin lightening active. Niacinamide works even more effectively when paired with N-acetyl glucosamine.
A potent antioxidant that can even be taken as a food supplement. Glutathione makes a fantastic partner to well-studied skin lightening ingredients like kojic acid. While studies show glutathione is safe for use on skin, not so much is known about how well or how quickly glutathione can lighten skin. For this reason, be sure your choice of lightening skincare uses glutathione accompanied by one of the other skin lightening ingredients on this list.
6. Azelaic acid
Don’t let acid scare you, azelaic acid is the same pH level as your skin, which is also slightly acidic. Azelaic acid is most commonly known for its abilities to help calm rosacea – a chronic redness accompanied by irritation and scaling. However azelaic acid is also a nicely effective skin lightening ingredient. Used in skincare azelaic acid will not only help even your skin tone, it will also help keep your skin clear.
7. Glycolic acid
Most people know glycolic acid works as a leave on exfoliant, most people don’t known glycolic acid can also help lighten skin. While many of the ingredients on this list work to inhibit melanin synthesis, glycolic acid works to lighten skin by removing melanin pigment faster. Glycolic acid skincare speeds up the natural turn-over of your skin cells aka the rate at which they exfoliate at. Uneven exfoliation can cause an uneven skin tone. Therefore glycolic acid can powerfully boost the results of direct acting skin lighteners like kojic acid.
8. Linoleic acid
While you might not have heard about linoleic acid, you’ll have surely heard about natural plant oils which contain linoleic acid – rosehip oil, grapeseed oil and evening primrose oil. Linoleic acid can help speed up your skin cell turnover in the same way as glycolic acid with recent studies suggesting linoleic acid can also directly supress melanin production. Another natural skincare active with noteworthy lightening and brightening abilities.
9. Paper Mulberry
Mulberry extract is an up and coming skin lightening active. Sources boast mulberry extract may even have better efficacy than the very controversial Hydroquinone. Named a superoxide scavenger, paper mulberry extract can also help protect skin against damaging free radicals i.e. pollution induced age spots.
10. Liquorice extract
As a mixture of actives, liquorice extract contains many ingredients with skin lightening benefits. Some of these work traditionally by inhibiting tyrosinase activity whereas others also lighten skin but by other mechanisms. This make liquorice extract an attractive and very effective skincare ingredient for lightening and brightening.