Health & Beauty

Get Your Glow On

March 19, 2017

Whitening skin care has a troubled reputation. The perception, at least in North America and Europe, is that it’s a practice born of cultural pressure, where women of colour attempt to make themselves look more Caucasian. More than that, it’s described as skin-bleaching, considered to be dangerous and damaging to skin. But increasingly, women all over the world of all ethnicities are turning to what’s described as "brightening" skin care. But is it just whitening by another name?

brightening skin care

Dermatologist Dr. Frances Jang of Skinworks says the goal of modern brightening products is generally to make skin look more even-toned, not paler. “There’ve been a number of studies looking at pigmentation problems like dark spots, freckles and hyperpigmentation. Blinded observers looking at images of people with pigmented skin described those people as appearing less healthy and older,” she says. “If you think about it, that’s really the purpose of foundation—to make the skin look more even.”

There are a couple of different ways of dealing with unevenness, depending on your budget, how fast you want results, how much time you can devote to treatments and whether you can cope with having red and peeling skin. Dr. Jang says you should start by consulting with an expert, and that the best approach is often to combine dermatological treatments such as intense pulsed light or laser with topical skin care including exfoliant, serums and creams. One ingredient to look out for is hydroquinone. “It’s the gold standard in lightening, but it’s not for the faint of heart—it will cause drying and peeling—so I like patients to take regular breaks from it.” Other ingredients that can be found in drugstore and clinical-grade products include retinol, licorice and kojic acid. There’s also the ubiquitous vitamin C. “It has many benefits—it’s an antioxidant that has anti-redness abilities, some collagen-stimulating properties, is anti brown spot and offers infra-red sun protection that’s not covered by sunscreen,” she explains.

Since dark spots are mainly caused by sun damage, sunscreen is essential for prevention. Dr. Jang suggests using about half a teaspoon to cover the whole face. “Most studies to assess sun-protection level are done with an amount of product that consumers never use,” she explains. “I usually suggest that people take half the amount, rub it in, wait a while and then apply another layer. It’s also important to remember that sunscreen doesn’t start working immediately, so put it on half an hour before you go into the sun. And finally, find a broad-spectrum product, minimum SPF 30, that you actually like using—you’re going to be applying it every day, whether it’s sunny or not.”

Below, our "bright stars" brightening skin-care picks. —Aileen Lalor

brightening skin care

L’Oreal Paris Bright Reveal Brightening Scrub Cleanser ($13 at drugstores). Exfoliation removes pigmentation-containing dead cells from the surface of skin, reduces blackheads and overall dullness and boosts absorption of other skin care. This has perlite, a natural mineral, to scrub, plus glycolic acid to chemically remove dead cells. Skin looks brighter and more refined with twice-daily use.

brightening skin care

Laneige Brightening Sparkling Water Capsule Mist ($36 at Sephora). The latest Korean trend is for facial mists, which are designed to refresh and hydrate skin. This one has a blend of fruit acids that supposedly boost turnover for brighter skin and carbonated bubbles to increase circulation. Use it as toner or over makeup for any-time hydration.

brightening skin care

Omorovicza Instant Perfection Serum ($160 at This Hungarian brand specializes in high-tech skin care using concentrated natural extracts—in this case, narcissus stem cells, which are said to brighten, even out the skin and reverse sun damage.

brightening skin care

Dr Dennis Gross C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum ($100 at Sephora). A serum that promises to brighten and tighten with vitamin C, antioxidants and amino acids, as well as tackling fine lines, rough texture dark spots and lack of radiance.

brightening skin care

White Seed Pure Vitamin Concentrate ($28 at As well as pure vitamin C, this concentrate has white lupin seeds and white daisy flower extract. Apply only to dark spots, after serum.

brightening skin care

Shiseido White Lucent All Day Brightener ($75 at Shiseido counters and Sephora). This moisturizer is designed to remove existing pigmentation and make skin resistant to dark spots, thanks to time-delivered vitamin C, antioxidant vitamin E and Shiseido’s patented 4MSK, which supposedly stops melanin formation.

brightening skin care

ZO Medical Melamin Skin Bleaching & Correcting Crème ($80), Melamix Skin Lightener & Blending Crème ($80) and Retamax Active Vitamin A Micro Emulsion ($190). This combination is the big daddy of pigmentation correction products and Dr Jang’s skin-care pick for moderate to severe issues. Available only from physicians, Melamin and Melamix contain four per cent hydroquinone. Dr. Jang recommends applying the former in the morning and the latter, combined with Retamax, a potent retinol lotion, at night.


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