It's normal to want clear, glowing and even-toned skin, but achieving your skin goals can often be more difficult than expected. This is especially true for Asian men and women because their skin is naturally different from their Caucasian counterparts.
The good news is that there are many skin care ingredients that can help to even Asian skin tones in a safe, healthy manner. The term "skin lightening" often carries negative connotations, but there is a big difference between lightening and bleaching your skin.
Skin Lightening Versus Skin Bleaching
Most people conflate the terms "lightening" and "bleaching" when talking about skin care. The truth is that the two terms could not be more different.
Skin lightening should really be called "skin brightening" or "complexion evening" because that is a more accurate description of the process. This method of improving your skin's appearance simply inhibits the pigment-producing cells of your skin from creating more pigment. It won't change the natural tone of your skin; it only prevents pigment from building up unevenly.
Skin bleaching uses unsafe methods such as hydroquinone and other chemical agents to lighten your skin's natural coloring. Instead of temporarily preventing skin cells from creating excess pigment, these treatments actually reduce the amount of melanin in your skin. While some prefer this method, it is best to follow a safer regimen that restores your skin's natural, even tone.
Below are several active ingredients to look for if you're suffering from unwanted pigmentation in your skin.
1. Azelaic Acid
While this treatment is most often prescribed for those who suffer from rosacea, it has begun to gain popularity for its ability to brighten skin, fade uneven pigmentation and treat acne.
Azelaic acid may also be referred to as nonanedioic acid, especially in medical circles. Whether you see azelaic acid or nonanedioic acid, however, you can rest assured that they are the same thing and equally effective.
This treatment is able to selectively target skin cells that are producing too much pigment without affecting the normal pigment-producing cells in your skin. This is what makes it so effective for lightening hyperpigmentation and dark spots, even for those with darker or more pigmented skin.
2. Kojic Acid Dipalmitate
Kojic acid dipalmitate, more commonly just called kojic acid, is another safe and effective method of lightening your skin. It functions by limiting the production of a specific enzyme your skin requires to make melanin. By preventing the production of more melanin, it helps to bring your skin back to its natural, lighter tone.
While kojic acid is highly effective, you should also keep in mind that it can be quite irritating if used too often. If you decide to use a kojic acid product, make sure to incorporate good moisturizers as well.
3. Glycyrrhiza Glabra Licorice Extract
Glycyrrhiza glabra licorice extract is one of the best ingredients to add into a long-term skin care regimen. Not only is it very effective at gently lightening all skin types, but it offers many other benefits as well.
Licorice root extract is packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds that can also calm any redness or irritation that may contribute to an uneven skin tone. It also contains a molecule called licochalcone that can soothe acne breakouts, which is helpful for minimizing future hyperpigmentation.
4. Vitamin C
There are many types of vitamin C products, and all but the most potent among them are safe for darker skin tones. When applied topically, vitamin C is an extremely powerful antioxidant, which means it can help prevent skin damage caused by the environment or sun exposure.
Vitamin C can exfoliate your skin to eliminate dead, darkened skin cells more quickly. It is also able to inhibit the production of the enzyme responsible for producing melanin, so when the topmost layer of skin is removed, the skin underneath is fresh and light.
You may also see this ingredient listed as vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid, but all three names point to the same compound. Niacinamide is another ingredient that offers many long-term benefits beyond brightening and evening your skin tone.
Much like the other treatments listed, niacinamide prevents your skin cells from producing too much melanin, which is often the reason for darkened or splotchy skin. In addition, it can help to calm redness, add moisture and refine the appearance of large pores.
Don't Forget Sunscreen
None of these treatments will give you lasting effects if you are not serious about sunscreen application. The sun is a primary source of skin damage and unwanted pigmentation, so meticulous application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher is necessary to see and maintain the benefits of these skin brightening ingredients.
It's important to remember that Asian complexions are genetically different from other skin types, so you should cater your skin care to reflect that. Brightening and evening out your complexion safely may take time, but the results will be worth it in the end.