Skin Lightening

Skin Lightening: Mythological Hydroquinone Alternatives

There are many reasons that someone might wish to lighten their skin. But, regardless of what the motive is, it’s essential to make sure you’re using a safe and efficient product. The best way to ensure that is to select the best solution containing the proper ingredients.

The hydroquinone ingredient is considered one of the “gold standard” of skin bleaching agents used to treat dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and Melasma. It is found naturally in coffee, fruit, and beer. It works by blocking the tyrosinase activity and increasing melanocytes cytotoxicity.

The Food and Drug Administration has prohibited the sale of over-the-counter hydroquinone in response to growing concerns about the potential for adverse reactions caused by its use. There are, however, many natural options that can help lighten hyperpigmentation and dark spots, providing results comparable to the effects of harsher treatments but without the negative consequences.

1. Retinoids

Retinoids are analogs of vitamin A, which are utilized to treat various conditions like sun damage and acne and enhance the penetration of other skin care products. Retinoids are believed to work in multiple ways to reduce pigmentation, such as increasing the skin turnover, preventing the transfer of melanin to the skin, decreasing levels of the enzyme tyrosinase created on the skin, in addition to dispersing melanin. Retinoids are typically employed in conjunction with other treatments to treat hyper pigmentation, but they can take several months to see results.

Different retinoid types have further potential for irritation, in general. The more efficient the retinoid is, the more irritating it will be and the more adverse negative effects it can cause. Retinoid irritation is common and can cause dryness, redness, and peeling. Hyperpigmentation post-inflammatory reaction is also possible, particularly on darker skin.

2. Arbutin

Arbutin is often referred to as “natural hydroquinone” since its structure is similar to hydroquinone. It’s present in extracts from bearberry leaves, blueberry and cranberry leaves, too. Two synthetic arbutin forms, deoxyarbutin and alpha-arbutin, have more power than arbutin. Arbutin is slowly transformed into hydroquinone, acting like a tyrosine to stop melanin production. It also hinders melanosomes maturation, the organelles that control melanin production.

There are only a few studies of alpha arbutin serum effectiveness as a lightener. The ones which have been published have revealed mixed findings. One study found that deoxyarbutin induced lightning was sustained even when hydroquinone-induced lightning wasn’t.  A 5% concentration is the most common in  alpha arbutin serum; however, there are higher concentration formulations. Higher concentrations are more prone to the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a crucial ingredient in various skin care products because of its potent antioxidant power. It is, however, unstable and often combined along with the other components. Dopaquinone is transformed by ascorbic acid to L-DOPA and reverses the tyrosinase reaction. Ascorbic acid can be present in concentrations of 5-10%. A study of 5% ascorbic acid was discovered to be less efficient than 4% percent hydroquinone; however, it was considerably less irritating. Ascorbic acid is a superior safety profile and has less potential to irritate other lightning agents.

4. Kojic Acid

Bacteria make Kojic acid in the fermentation that occurs in rice to produce Sake. kojic acids are being studied for their effect on whitening and increased skin penetration. It binds to copper, the tyrosinase enzyme, and prevents it from executing its function in melanin production. It is usually used in conjunction with hydroquinone, retinoids, glycolic acid, Emblica extract, and a corticosteroid. It can be not very reassuring and could be an allergen. The preparations typically contain steroids to decrease the likelihood of developing an allergic reaction.

5. Licorice Extract

Licorice extract is extracted from the Glycyrrhiza glabra plant’s root and is used extensively in skin lightening cosmetics. It is a rich source of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. The main reason for its effects is two whitening ingredients, Liquirtin, and glabridin. Glabridin shields skin from UV-B-caused pigmentation while also working on tyrosinase to slow melanin production. Liquirtin disperses melanin.  Licorice extracts are gentle and do not cause any adverse effects, most likely because of their anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant components.

7. Cysteamine

Cysteamine is a brand new ingredient in the world of pigments. It is an organic compound that animals can synthesize by degrading coenzyme A. It was traditionally utilized as a treatment option to treat cystinosis.

Recently, ScientisPharma had compounded it into a cream of 5% to treat hyperpigmentation and lighten the skin overall. Cysteamine is one of the metabolites from L-cysteine, which blocks melanin production. Randomized controlled studies have proven the effectiveness of cysteamine cream in treating epidermal melasma, which is a hyperpigmentation disorder. The side effects are usually mild and may include temporary heat or burning sensations and redness that tends to last for a short time.

8. Mulberry Extract

Extracts of the mulberry are a natural but effective brightening agent from the Mulberry plant. Mulberry plants contain several substances extracted from roots and stems, and they can block tyrosinase, an enzyme that plays a role in the creation of melanin.

Certain studies have proven the mulberry extract is more potent than kojic acid, another famous natural brightener. If your skin doesn’t feel suitable with kojic acid or is sensitive to it, Mulberry extract can generally be tolerated and is unlikely to irritate.

9. Lactic Acid

If you suffer from sensitive skin or want gentle products, those that contain lactic acid might be what you’re looking for. Lactic acid is extracted from sour milk, and it’s an alpha hydroxy acid making it one of the most gentle ingredients to lighten your skin. It’s safe enough for sensitive skin. Lactic acid penetrates the skin and causes slight exfoliation. It also acts as a suppressor of melanin.

Since it lowers the production of melanin in your body, It is recommended to wear sunscreen and protective clothing to protect the areas you’ve treated from sun-induced damage.

10. Azelaic Acid

Azelaic acid is a different alternative to hydroquinone that is the only prescription acne treatment available in various countries. It’s created by a fungus known as Pityrosporum ovale. It can affect humans and create mild skin patches. It’s a little gentler than hydroquinone, but it is more effective than 44% hydroquinone when used with retinoids and has lesser side effects.

Azelaic acid blocks the activity of tyrosinase as an imitation of tyrosine and reduces abnormal melanocytes. Azelaic acid is well-known for its absence of side consequences associated with its usage; the most frequent adverse side effects are minor redness and stinging.

What are the Risks and Benefits?

Like any skincare product, there’s the risk of an allergic reaction to the ingredients in products that brighten your skin. Certain brighteners also can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight and irritate. In most cases, applying the products safely can reduce the risk and allow you to reap many advantages. The benefits include a decrease in the appearance of the following issues with pigmentation: Age spots, Post-inflammatory pigmentation, Scarring and Melasma.

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