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How Do I Choose the Best Lightening Gel?

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  • Written By: R. Dhillon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 13 December 2014
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Many men and women suffer from problem skin because of acne, aging or health problems. This sometimes results in uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation — dark skin patches — or age spots. Skin lightening gels are formulated to reduce the appearance of darker patches of skin, but the number of products from which to choose is large, making it difficult to select the right gel. To purchase the right lightening gel for your skin, determine the cause of the problem, seek a dermatologist's advice, figure out your skin type, and look at each product's list of active ingredients. You also should research each product's reputation.

Every skin lightening gel is formulated to treat a certain problem. Over-the-counter lightening gels typically are formulated to treat hyperpigmentation that is associated with acne scars and age spots. These products might not be effective for treating hyperpigmentation that was caused by disease, because the underlying cause must also be treated. To effectively lighten your skin, you need to choose one or more products that treat the cause and its effects.

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Dermatologists are trained to deal with a wide range of skin problems, such as acne, skin cancer and rosacea. If possible, make an appointment with a dermatologist to discuss your skin. A dermatologist can recommend the right products for your skin type and health, and he or she can provide you with stronger prescription gels if necessary. You also can make an appointment with a trained aesthetician or medical aesthetics nurse. Some medical aesthetics clinics do not charge for consultations.

Your skin type determines the types of products that are right for you. A lightening gel that contains a drying agent, such as alcohol, might not be suitable if you suffer from dry skin, because it might cause excessive dryness. When the skin dries out, it might respond by overproducing its own oils, potentially leading to acne. If you have oily skin, you generally should avoid products that contain oils and other heavy, pore-clogging ingredients.

Most skin lightening gels provide a list of active and inactive ingredients on their labels. You should read each ingredient carefully before making a purchase, especially if you have sensitive skin or allergies. The first set of ingredients you should look at is the active ingredients, which are responsible for lightening your skin and delivering any other promises that a product makes. Common active ingredients include hydroquinone and kojic acid. These ingredients prevent the skin from producing melanin, which is responsible for producing the skin's color.

Over-the-counter lightening gels often contain up to 2 percent hydroquinone, but doctors might prescribe stronger concentrations. Results might be seen within weeks and usually within three months. Hydroquinone and kojic acid can irritate the skin. Long-term use of products that contain these ingredients might lead to unwanted skin darkening, so they should not be used for extended periods of time.

Some ingredients might improve the efficacy of hyroquinone, kojic acid and other lightening ingredients. Alpha-hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, and other chemical exfoliants might increase the penetration of lightening ingredients. A lightening gel that contains a chemical exfoliant might produce results faster than those that do not contain one. If you have acne scars and are still experiencing acne, a chemical exfoliant might also reduce your acne, preventing the formation of new scars. Chemical exfoliants might be listed under the active ingredients or the inactive ingredients.

After you have compiled a list of products that you might want to purchase, you should research their reputations. Customer and professional reviews are good sources of information. If a product lacks reviews and you've never heard of it, you generally should avoid it. Selecting a tried and tested skin lightening gel prevents you from putting your health in danger and increases your chances of selecting a product that works.

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