Are Skin Lightening Creams Safe? The DEFINITIVE Truth

Skin lightening has been a controversial topic in the beauty industry for more than a decade. Some will tell you it’s awful and dangerous. Others tout it’s effectiveness and absolute safety. So, which is right? Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into the safety or hazards involved with skin lightening creams to answer the question for you – once and for all.

Are Skin Lightening Creams Safe?

So, the answer to this question is both yes AND no. Why? Well, let’s dig into it so we can explain the reasoning behind it.

Woman Applying Skin Lightening Cream to Her Face

“Yes, they’re safe!” wouldn’t be a 100% truthful statement. The real answer is this – it depends on what cream or product you’re using.

This should really be common sense, but, due to the media and some very ill-educated individuals with blogs on the Internet.. there’s a lot of just plain wrong information surrounding skin lightening creams out there.

The safety of using these creams is entirely dependent on the ingredients utilized in the product. Some creams are made with substances that, yes, are harmful and should be avoided. Others, however, are made from mostly naturally-occurring, plant-based components that are not only safe, but wonderfully effective for lightening up dark skin.

Ingredients to Avoid

So, we mentioned there being some nasty, health-risk associated ingredients that can be found in some skin lighteners. What are they?

  • Hydroquinone (easily one of the harshest chemicals – it’s actually banned in many countries from being used in skin lightening creams and other cosmetics)
  • Mercury (not 100% sure any creams still exist with this ingredient, but there have been documented cases of some cream-based skin lighteners containing it in the past – obviously a big one to avoid)

These are literally the only two dangerous substances known to exist in these creams. And there are PLENTY of creams that DO NOT have them in their formulas.

Different Skin Lightening Creams

Many skin lightening creams and products contain harmless and effective ingredients such as alpha arbutin, retinol, vitamin C, and a number of plant-derivatives, natural oils, and so on. We’ve talked about the ingredients found in skin lighteners before in detail.

So, Are These Products Safe to Use?

YES – IF you do your research and choose products that don’t feature the harmful ingredients mentioned above.

NO – IF you blindly pick out a cream and it has mercury or hydroquinone in it. It is extremely difficult to come across a cream with mercury in it these days. So the biggest thing is to check the label and make sure the lightener you want to use doesn’t have hydroquinone.

As with anything you put on your skin… please check with your dermatologist first and find out which ingredients to avoid for your own personal skin.

Safest Creams to Use for Brighter Skin

We’ve researched and reviewed dozens of these products. We always take health safety to heart whenever we make recommendations, too. That said, we’ve found a few creams that are very safe and still very effective.

These include:

Currently, these are three top picks based on safety, effectiveness, price, and ease of use.

More on Skin Lightening Creams

Skin lightening creams lighten dark skin. A variety of methods can achieve this goal, and creams are only one of many. The topic of skin lightening, or bleaching is controversial. Some people want to lighten their skin because of dark spots or an uneven skin tone. Others want to lighten their skin because they hold negative beliefs about dark skin. This article focuses on the desire to lighten skin for cosmetic reasons.

Why do some people desire lighter skin? Well, there are many cosmetic reasons involved. First, an even skin tone looks good. People with an uneven skin tone might want to achieve an even skin tone without needing makeup. Second, blemishes such as age spots and sunspots are often unsightly. Some people want to lighten those spots so they’re no longer visible. Moles and birthmarks are also something many people want to get rid of. Fade creams can help deal with dark spots and blemishes.

Skin Lightening Cream in a Jar
moisturizer cosmetic cream swirl at glass pot, on white wood table directly above

The creams work well on small areas. If you try to lighten your entire complexion with one of these creams, you’ll be disappointed. The creams are not for use on your entire body. In fact, the instructions that come with these creams say as much. If you want to lighten your entire body, then you’ll need much more than just a cream.

Are these skin whitening creams safe? For the most part – yes. As mentioned above, there are certain products you should avoid, but the vast majority of the creams available for sale today are safe to use. Just keep an eye on the ingredients list and the lightening agents used in the creams you’re considering buying.

Uneven skin color affects everyone. Very few people, if any, have a perfectly even skin tone. Light skinned people and dark skinned people can both have dark spots on their skin. Melanin is what gives your skin its color. You might not have a lot of melanin, but it’s there. The darker a person’s skin, the more melanin they have in their body. A big benefit of having a lot of melanin is sun protection. It naturally protects your skin from the sun, and makes it harder for you to receive sun damage. In spite of the benefits, melanin sometimes causes unwanted dark spots to develop on your body.

Skin lightening creams block your body’s production of melanin. If it doesn’t block it completely, it at least reduces it somewhat. The creams contain melanin-blocking ingredients that lighten the skin after repeated use. Hydroquinone is a common ingredient in these creams. The amount in each cream varies, but most over the counter creams contain at least two percent of the ingredient. A prescription is required to obtain a stronger strength. Health risks are potentially involved with hydroquinone. That is why over the counter creams which include hydroquinone have only small doses of it.

There are dozens of skin lightening creams on the market. When you’re ready to buy a cream, spend some time learning about what is available. Research the ingredients and make sure that they are safe. Know what you are buying before you spend your hard earned money.

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