The Difference Between Skin Brightening & Skin Bleaching

woman looking in mirror faceFrom celebs like Lil Kim, Ciara and Beyonce to Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, there’s been massive speculation that many of Hollywood’s biggest names have been pressured to bleach their beautiful melanin — in order to secure lucrative television, magazine and movie spots. While some have been dragged on social media for using skin bleach on their entire body to change their complexion, others have been awarded top prize for their glowing dermis.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Do Sunspots Go Away?

Only, skin brightening and bleaching are not one in the same. According to the National Heath Service website, skin bleaching also known as “skin lightening,” is a cosmetic procedure that aims to lighten darks areas of skin or achieve a generally paler skin tone. Mainly used to treat “skin problems” such as freckles, age spots, acne scars, or discoloration related to hormones, skin bleaching products contain hydroquinone as an active ingredient, which reduces the production of concentration of melanin in the skin.

Some skin “whiteners” also contain mercury. In large doses, exposure can cause serious health problems, leaving mainly pregnant women, nursing babies and young children vulnerable. “Your family might breathe mercury vapors released from these products. Your children might touch washcloths or towels that are contaminated with mercury. It could be as simple as touching someone’s cheek or face,” Dr. Arthur Simone, a senior medical adviser at the FDA, said.

“Damage may occur to a baby’s developing brain and nervous system, and nursing mothers can pass mercury to their newborns,” Simone continued.

While the use of mercury as an ingredient in skin lightening products is banned in the U.S., you can purchase bleaching creams [containing hydroquinone and related formulas fluocinolone acetonide and tretinoin] over the counter or obtain them by prescription. Popular dark patch eliminators include: Ambi Skincare Fade Cream, $5, Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum, $40, and Porcelana Skin Lightening Night Cream, $7.

Meanwhile, skin brightening or “illuminating,” is used to add radiance to dry, dull skin and deliver a natural glow. They come in the form of serums or exfoliators like Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Serum, $55, and StriVectin Intensive Illuminating Serum, 89. These are toxin free and safe to use.