Skin whitening lotion is most often used to lighten a person's skin tone; it also can be used to minimize the appearance of freckles and other skin discolorations. Other terms for this process include skin lightening, skin brightening, and skin bleaching. Most types of whitening lotion or cream include ingredients to reduce the production of melanin in the skin.
The amount of melanin determines a person’s skin color — people with lighter skin tones have less melanin, while those with darker skin have more. In addition to reducing melanin production, many whitening products contain sunscreen to protect against further sun-related darkening or freckling. Skin whitening lotion and cream use a variety of ingredients to accomplish these goals.
Many of the active ingredients in skin whitening products work by stopping the production of tyrosinase, the enzyme in the skin that produces melanin. These substances include arbutin, licorice extract, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), hydroquinone, and kojic acid.
Arbutin is a relatively new product in the skin whitening market, and claims to be a safer, odorless alternative to products that contain hydroquinone. Arbutin is an extract of the bearberry tree. In addition to providing whitening benefits, arbutin claims to prevent free radical damage, thus helping the skin to appear younger. It also is sometimes used to minimize the effects of sun damage.
Vitamin C is another naturally occurring substance that may be used in some types of whitening lotion. The body cannot produce this vitamin on its own, so supplements are needed to receive its benefits. Skin whitening creams containing vitamin C are often used to reduce the production of melanin as well as stimulate the skin's production of collagen. Increased collagen can help to give the skin a more youthful appearance and reduce lines and wrinkles.
Other kinds of skin whitening lotion can contain vitamin A, or retinol. This vitamin has been used to provide a number of skin benefits, including acne treatment, treatment of sun damage, and skin brightening. It works by removing the top layer of skin to reveal a brighter, more even complexion for some people who use it.
Wide varieties of other ingredients in skin whitening lotion are currently available or are being researched. A visit to a dermatologist can help people interested in skin lightening to determine the types of products that may be most effective for them. A dermatologist may also help to identify any ingredients that should be avoided for people with certain types of skin problems or concerns.