By Vivian Oputa
Bleaching which is often referred to as toning, lightening, whitening and brightening is a very important aspect of professional skin care and is performed for corrective and aesthetic purposes. Its practice cuts across all races including those of European descent.
It is required that clinical treatments are followed with a home maintenance regimen for maximum results. A full spectrum sunblock must be worn to prevent re-darkening and of course to protect against sun damage.
With advances in skincare technology, a wide range of SAFE bleaching products are available. These products gradually lighten the skin and dark pigment such as freckles, age spots, sun spots and spots due to acne scarring. They are also effective in the treatment of excessive pigmentation which may occur in pregnancy or as a result of oral contraceptive use (Melasma). The end result is a clearer, brighter and more even toned complexion.
Skin lightening products have become increasingly popular of recent and they act to lighten skin, even out skin tone and treat pigmentation disorders such as age spots, melasma, freckles, and acne scars.
In the past, dangerous chemicals such as mercury, steroids and hydroquinone were the lighteners of choice with devastating side effects. Theses dangerous ingredients destroy the pigment producing cells and are also deposited in the bodyâ€™s internal organs including the kidneys, and bone marrow in dangerously high and toxic levels.
More recently safe, natural skin lightening agents have replaced the dangerous chemicals with good results. These natural agents include: Vitamin C, Kojic Acid, Licorice Extract, Arbutin (Bearberry), Burner Root Extract, Mulberry, Scutelleria Extract and Melanostat (an amino acid based ingredient). All of these agents inhibit Tyrosinase the enzyme responsible for the production of the pigment Melanin without destroying the pigment producing cells known as Melanocytes.Melanostat is a new bleaching agent that inhibits the Tyrosinase enzyme and acts on the melanin receptors.
Lightening agents when combined with exfoliating agents such as Vitamin A, Sutilains (such as papain), Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAâ€™s) and Beta hydroxy acids (BHAâ€™s) provide excellent results since the removal of the dead surface layer of skin aids the penetration of the skin lightening agents.
In areas where there is excessive build up of dead cells or callus formation, the skin tends to be darker than normal. This is commonly seen on knees, elbows and knuckles. It is advisable to regularly exfoliate this skin and if necessary perform professional peels to achieve optimal results.
There are special gentle formulations for
treating hyperpigmentation in the eye area commonly referred to as â€œDark Circlesâ€ or â€œRacoon Eyesâ€. This pigmentation may be genetic (common in people of East African and Indian descent), as a result of repeated friction, use of dangerous chemicals or due to broken capillaries (tiny blood vessels) in the eye area.
If the pigmentation is as a result of broken capillaries, Topical Vitamin K as well as supplemental Vitamin K is used to strengthen the capillary walls.
A wide range of dangerous chemicals including Steroids, Hair Relaxers and Peroxide have been added to concoctions used to bleach the skin. These â€œMixedâ€ Creams often cause devastating damage to the skin leaving the individuals burned, wrinkled and discoloured. Such individuals are often faced with the problem of poor wound healing.
Damaged skin may be nurtured back to â€œlifeâ€. All bleaching agents would have to be stopped, collagen and elastin building supplements taken and professional skin treatments to promote healing performed on a regular basis.
A good bleaching routine should be aimed at eliminating excess pigment and preventing melanin from being formed. In the past, single ingredient products were used but of present, multiple ingredients act synergistically to provide impressive results.
In the United States , Hydroquinone is the most commonly used bleaching agent where it has a high safety rating. It comes in prescription and non-prescription strengths (4% and 2% respectively). It has however been banned in Europe and South Africa . The health concerns include skin irritation and ochronosis (bluish black discoloration of certain tissues such as cartilage and skin). Hydroquinone must not be used in pregnancy or by nursing mothers.
Mitracarpus scaber Extractâ€™s active ingredient is a derivative of hydroquinone derived from the leaves of a tropical plant. The active ingredient is harounoside. It is more effective than hydroquinone, is less irritating and there is no risk of ochronosis.
Vitamin C in different forms such as L- ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate can reduce melanin formation.
Azaleic acid which was originally used for treating acne was found to have skin lightening properties. It is the by product of a yeast known as Pityrosporum ovale. It works on overactive melanocytes and does not affect normally pigmented skin making it a good choice for pigmented spots such as acne discolouration and melasma.
Kojic Acid is derived from a mushroom commonly seen in the Far East and it inhibits tyrosinase.
Patience is required when treating hyperpigmentation. Donâ€™t expect results overnight. Adhere to a regular program and when the desired results have been achieved, stop the bleaching creams but continue to use sun protection.