Natural skin bleaching is a bit of an oxymoron since traditionally, skin bleaching referred to the process of lightening skin using chemical ingredients like hydroquinone and even mercury.
As you already know, mercury is a definite no no and even hydroquinone, while still regarded as safe by the FDA, definitely isn’t for everyone - especially for those with darker skin tones.
So what do we mean when we talk about natural skin bleaching? For starters, there’s no bleach involved. Instead, natural skin bleaching is just a term to refer to natural ingredients that are capable of brightening dull, uneven skin and even lightening skin tone by a shade or two.
Instead of “bleaching” your skin, these natural ingredients work by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin, gradually turning your skin a lighter color. The best part? Many of these natural bleach options come with a bevy of other skin benefits, rather than side effects.
Read on to find the best natural bleaching agents to use to bleach your skin naturally!
Natural Bleach #1. Vitamin C
One of the most commonly used natural bleaching agents is the beauty vitamin that everyone has heard of: Vitamin C. This water soluble vitamin is crucial for healthy skin cells and it works as a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes harmful free radicals that lead to skin damage.
But the true beauty of this skin brightening vitamin lies in the fact that it's so readily available - you can consume it by chowing down on citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, and limes and dark green leafy vegetables or easily find it in supplement form such as in pills and capsules. It's also very widely used in skin care products and you can easily get your hands on a range of high potency Vitamin C serums at very reasonable prices.
Okay, that all sounds good and dandy but does vitamin C also work in lightening the skin? The answer is yes, it does. First of all, the acidic nature of vitamin C helps in cleansing the skin and eliminating infections thus keeping the skin not only brighter and lighter, but also healthier and smoother. Vitamin C is also a natural exfoliant that helps get rid of dead skin cells that cause your skin to look dull, dark and uneven. By sloughing off the "dead weight," it allows brighter, lighter skin cells below to shine through.
Even better? Vitamin C increases the levels of the antioxidants Glutathione and vitamin E that help the skin produce more pheomelanin, which are pink to red melanin pigments, instead of eumalin, which are brown to black melanin pigments.
On top of all that, Vitamin C even acts as a melanin blocker, inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme and interfering with the melanin production process. The result? A natural, gradual skin lightening.
And that's not all - aside from skin lightening, vitamin C also has a bevy of skin benefits, including:
- Boost collagen synthesis to improve skin elasticity, making it younger and firmer looking.
- Fights redness and inflammation, combatting red blotches and post acne marks.
- Essential in healing wounds, since Vitamin C stimulates collagen production keeps the walls of blood vessels and capillaries intact.
So how do you use Vitamin C as a natural skin bleach? Using vitamin C as an ingredient in skin lightening can be done orally or topically, with the latter being more effective. But you can always do a balance of both.
Orally, you can enhance your diet to include more vitamin C rich food items. These include oranges, strawberries, blackcurrants, and citrus fruits as well as broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables, and even potatoes.
You can even opt for skin lightening pills that contain Vitamin C as well as Glutathione to speed up the process of whitening and evening out skin tone. The best picks in this department are Relumins Ultimate Whitening Set and Ivory Cap's pills, both of which contain Glutathione to lower overall melanin production in the body and change the metabolic pathway of melanin from synthesizing dark pigmented melanin (eumelanin) to creating light-pigmented melanin (phaeomelanin).
Topically, the easiest and most effective way to use Vitamin C for skin lightening is to go straight for a Vitamin C serum. Go for one that is potent enough to make a difference but not so high that it will irritate your skin. For sensitive skin type, we recommend starting with a 15% to 20% Vitamin C serum that also contains plenty of soothing, hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and Vitamin E to counter the potential redness and irritation of Vitamin C.
On the other hand, if your skin is used to Vitamin C and can handle it, go for a serum with a higher concentration of < 20% Vitamin C combined with an exfoliant like retinol or an AHA for faster, better results.
Natural Bleach #2: Kojic Acid
Kojic acid is a common ingredient used in skin lightening products and most of us who wish to achieve whiter skin have probably used one at some point. But does it really help in lightening the skin? Before we answer that question it is best to first know what kojic acid is. Kojic acid is an all natural compound that can be found in a whole variety of natural sources, like mushrooms, soy and even the residue that comes from fermenting rice wine!
And despite being an all natural skin bleaching agent, it's proven effective enough to hold its own as the second most popular skin lightening ingredient.
Now to answer your question. Yes, kojic acid has been repeatedly proven to work in lightening the skin. According to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, kojic acid lightens the skin by preventing the catecholase function of tyrosinase. Catecholase function is an important step in making the compound melanin which is the primary skin pigment responsible for making the skin darker.
Dr. Alaine James of University of Pennsylvania Medical Center says that kojic acid is an effective ingredient for skin lightening and has similar effects to that of hydroquinone. Applying kojic acid topically on your skin will give the skin an overall lighter appearance – a fact proven by dermatologists and scientists alike.
Research also shows that kojic acid as an ingredient is safe as long as the product density does not exceed 2% concentration. But despite being safe, it can also have side effects. In fact, we'd classify kojic acid as one of the stronger, more potentially irritating of the natural skin bleaching agents. Side effects can include increased skin sensitivity, itchy skin and even inflammation and redness.
So don't just rush into slathering on the most potent kojic acid product you can find! Instead, start small and work your way up. The best way to do it is by using a kojic acid soap. At first, start slow by lathering up and leaving the soap on your skin for around a minute. As your skin gets accustomed to it, you can gradually increase the length of time the soap stays on your skin to three to five minutes.
Once your skin is comfortable with kojic acid, you can take things a step further by adding on a natural skin lightening lotion or cream that contains kojic acid. Our favorite picks are the BioRadiance Botanical Brightening Treatment, which contains kojic acid as well as a bunch of other natural skin lighteners and exfoliating agents, as well as the LumiEssence Organic Advanced Brightening Repair Treatment, which is also stocked with natural bleaching agents.
Natural Bleach #3: Licorice Root Extract
Got sensitive skin? This is hands down the best natural bleaching agent for you. You see, licorice extract is more than a natural bleaching agent - it's also a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Which is most likely why licorice extract has long been used in China tracing back to ancient times as a skin treatment.
They may have not known why licorice extract was so great for the skin back then, but we know now. In the 1990s the compound glabradin was identified in it as the one responsible for protecting the skin against harmful UVA and UVB rays. Together with another compound - liquirtin - they also inhibit the activity of tyrosinase, disrupting melanin synthesis to lighten skin with little to no irritation.
That's because licorice extract also has anti inflammatory properties that help reduce skin irritation and redness. The primary anti oxidant and anti inflammatory compounds found in licorice extract are saponins, flavonoids, glycosides glycyrrhizing acid, and glycyrrizinic, all of which contribute to make licorice extract one of the safest and gentlest bleaching agents on earth.
So how do you use it? Eminence Organics Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster Serum is a super effective, simple way to get a huge dose of licorice root as well as other lighteners like Gigawhite and exfoliants like lactic acid.
If you like DIY, though, another option is to simply get pure licorice root extract and mix it into your regular lotion and cream for instant lightening benefits.
Natural Bleach #4: Gigawhite
If you're thinking that Gigawhite sounds pretty...unnatural, it's 'cause this whitening ingredient is not just one ingredient - it's a trademarked combination of a medley of effective ingredients.
Here's what you need to know, in a nutshell: Gigawhite is a patented skin brightener manufactured by Centerchem and is a common ingredient found in skin whitening products. It is composed of seven organically grown Swiss alpine plants including Malva Sylvestris Extract, Mentha Piperita Leaf Extract, Primula Veris Extract, Alchemilla Vulgaris Extract, Veronica Officinalis Extract, Melissa Officinalis Leaf Extract, and Achillea Millefolium Extract.
Together, these botanical ingredients work synergistically to inhibit tyrosinase, which is the enzyme responsible for melanin production. Gigawhite has been shown to effectively brighten and even the skin tone at a 5% concentration. Clinical studies have also been conducted where Gigawhite was shown to reduce the appearance of dark spots in Asian subjects aged 22-55. In 12 weeks the subjects tested showed a 24% decrease in skin discoloration and a 15.3% increase in skin lightening.
So how you take advantage of this super ingredient? One of our most favorite skin lightening creams of all time, Meladerm, contains Gigawhite as well as a cornucopia of natural skin bleaching agents. Another option is the Eminence Organics Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster Serum.
But our favorite option? Get yourself Peter Thomas Roth's Brightening Bubbling Mask to use several times a week, whenever your skin needs a pick-me-up. Not only is this one of the most fun skin care products, but it's stocked with Gigawhite as well as a range of skin lighteners including licorice root, bearberry extract, mulberry extract, Vitamin C and others.
Natural Bleach #5: Alpha Arbutin
Alpha Arbutin is a molecule extracted from the bearberry plant that inhibits the function of tyrosinase, similar to the effects of kojic acid and licorice root. Arbutin is gentler than other skin brightening skin ingredients and like licorice root, is best for those with more sensitive skin.
It also has sun protection properties and reduces the degree of skin tanning after sun exposure. Some people tend to be nervous about arbutin because of its similar brightening benefits to hydroquinone but studies have shown that it is in fact both safe and effective for skin lightening - and comes without the potential side effects of hydroquinone.
So how can you benefit from this gentle, effective natural skin bleach? Our hands down favorite arbutin-containing product is Peter Thomas Roth CC Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Complexion Corrector. It's the perfect multi-tasking skin lightener: it provides broad spectrum, physical sun protection, it provides lovely coverage to instantly smooth out discoloration and it actually lightens and brightens with a high concentration of arbutin as well as Vitamin C.
Natural Bleach #6: Mulberry Extract
The mulberry tree's origins can be traced back to China but is now also popularly cultivated in countries such as Australia, Japan, and Europe. It's been used as a medicinal ingredient in the East for centuries but it's only recently that its grown in popularity in Western countries.
Which is why it's pretty new to the skin lightening market - it only recently made its debut along with several studies showing that various species of the mulberry plant effectively inhibit melanin production. Clinical trials show that 0.4% concentration of paper mulberry extract suppressed tyrosinase activity by 50% compared with 5.5% hydroquione and 10% kojic acid.
Yup, that's a whole lot of skin lightening bang for your concentration buck. Even better is the fact that mulberry extract lightens and whitens skin minus irritation, due to the roots and barks of mulberry containing excellent healing properties. Aside from skin lightening and anti-inflammatory properties, it is also known to slow down aging in the skin.
There are only a few skin whitening products containing mulberry extract at the moment but this should soon change. In the meantime, the best mulberry extract-containing products you can get your hands on are these seriously pampering 24karat gold face masks that combine active gold with mulberry extract as well as other skin goodies like hyaluronic acid, vitamins and pearl powder.
Another awesome option is Too Faced's Primed and Poreless face primer - this gives that perfect, pore-less airbrushed look immediately while providing long-term lightening and brightening benefits with mulberry extract and bearberry extract (aka arbutin). Win Win.
The above list of natural bleaching agents is by no means complete - but they are the best ones out there. Use them separately or in combination for lighter, brighter skin...without the side effects!