Natural brightening ingredients have become very popular in the skin care world for estheticians and clients alike, and there are two reasons for this rising demand. More and more clients are looking for sustainable, natural and organic product options across all consumer goods. Secondly, hyperpigmented skin is a concern in every treatment room across the country. Clients request treatments to lighten any sort of hyperpigmentation.
Most often, clients turn to more aggressive and chemically laden products that promise instant results. While they’re powerful enough to give you those results, they aren’t without downsides and long-term effects. Some of them are very harmful to different skin types and skin conditions, and they can often exacerbate the very skin problems you are trying to tackle in the first place.
For those clients with sensitive skin, these ingredients are not an option and cause sensitivities, redness and inflammation. For those with darker complexions, failing to be cautious of these more aggressive treatments can also cause the skin more hyperpigmentation. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural alternatives to choose from for lightening the skin.
1. Azelaic Acid
Azelaic acid is a natural skin lightening agent derived from wheat, rye and barley. This acid has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it helps to lighten the skin by inhibiting melanin production and suppressing the growth of melanin producing cells. It can help with skin blemishes and fade dark spots left behind by acne, sun damage or melasma. Azelaic acid also helps to treat rosacea, redness, skin irritations, acne and reduce inflammation.
Related: Jar Deconstructed: Kojic Acid
2. Bearberry Extract
Bearberry extract is derived from the bearberry plant containing high concentrations of antioxidants and arbutin, a skin-lightening compound. The arbutin found in bearberry is what gives this extract its skin lightening properties. Arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone, providing similar effects without the risks or skin reactions. Bearberry extract reduces melanin synthesis by inhibiting tyrosinase. Bearberry is great at correcting dark spots, hyperpigmentation, scars and it contains sun protection filters, which can reduce the impact of sun exposure and help slow down the signs of aging.
3. Citrus Extract
Citrus extracts are derived from citrus fruits such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, pomelo and orange, and it is a source of vitamin P (bioflavonoids) and vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Vitamin C, the hero element, helps to neutralize free radicals, which can cause premature aging of the skin. It is a potent agent that helps to minimize skin damage, build collagen and elastin, reduce melanin production, as well as promote skin peeling and skin growth. Citric acid helps with the skin lightening mechanism by reducing the cohesion of the cells on the epidermal surface, helping to stimulate cell turnover and renewal.
Related: Navigating the Sea of Vitamin C
4. Daisy Flower
Daisy flower extract contains tartaric and malic acids, making it a valuable ingredient with its lightening and exfoliating properties. Daisy flower extract contains a naturally occurring substance called L-arbutin that naturally lightens skin by modulating various pathways of melanin synthesis, including melanocyte and tyrosinase activity. Daisy flower extract also assists in firming the skin, has antiseptic properties and is effective in fighting wrinkles.
5. Kojic Acid
Kojic acid is derived from mushrooms and other fungi, and also arises as a by-product of the fermentation practice in various Asian food products, such as soy sauce and rice wine. Just like other skin lightening ingredients, kojic acid is a great exfoliator. Kojic acid lightening effects work by blocking tyrosine from forming and preventing melanin production. With its powerful antioxidants, it also helps counteract free radical damage and reduce future pigmentation. Kojic acid has anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, protects from sun damage and reduces scarring.
Shawna Rocha is the owner of Awaken Day Spa in California and Washington. She loves helping clients with compromised and sensitive skin. Since becoming an esthetician, Rocha completed multiple advanced courses in Oncology Esthetics and Immuno-Esthetics, and she specialized in training in sensitive skin and holistic therapies. She holds several certifications, including one in NCEA and has become the director of education for Hale and Hush Skincare.