Skin Brightening Without Bleaching: Avoid These Harmful Ingredients

Why is Skin Bleaching Dangerous? Ingredients to Avoid.

Skin brightening has become a very popular beauty regimen utilized by millions of women for a variety of reasons. In Kenya, for example, there are illegal dangerous cosmetics sold in Nairobi black markets that can be very harmful.
Kutoa Tint Manenos

One particular study, published on BBC News, found that as much as 33% of black women in South Africa frequently turns toward skin brightening products in order to make their skin lighter.

There are quite a large variety of options a person can utilize when it comes to skin brightening, each with its own pros and cons that should always be taken into consideration before making a final decision as to which particular technique that should be utilized.

The problem with these skin brightening products, however, is that many of them contain dangerous ingredients that could cause more harm to the user than good.

In this post, we will dig deeper into the skin brightening industry. We will also take a look at the particular harmful ingredients that should be avoided, and also consider the particular ingredients that are safe options when opting for skin brightening products.



Most people are chasing a fair, healthy and beautiful skin the wrong way.

They are using dangerous products that contain chemicals that can damage the skin for good as shown in the second image.

This condition caused by Hydroquinone, Arbutane, Mercury & Steroids is called Exogenous Ochronosis

Skin Brightening Ingredients You Should Be Avoiding

Thousands of different skin brightening creams, serums and procedures are available for individuals who wish to lighten the tone of their skin.

While many of these options are very effective in producing the expected results, it is important to consider the fact that many of these products tend to include ingredients that can be harmful to the user.

For this reason, it is essential to become educated about the good and the bad ingredients that can be found in such a product.

This will allow a person to make a better decision when they wish to opt for a skin brightening solution – and can help them avoid potential complications that may occur when harmful ingredients are included in the products they opt for.

Some of the most harmful substances found in skin brightening products that people should look out for include:

1. Mercury and Hydroquinone

These two ingredients are very popular amongst many skin brightening creams and, even though they can deliver positive results, they have also been associated with numerous unpleasant adverse effects.

According to a review paper by the College of Medicine in Nigeria, the majority of women who apply skin brightening cream are often exposed to high temperatures.

This, in turn, increases the absorption rate of the ingredients found in the creams they apply to lighten certain areas of their body.

Unfortunately, chronic use of these creams can eventually lead to the accumulation of hydroquinone and mercury in the user’s body.

This accumulation can cause several adverse events to take place, such as an impairment in the body’s ability to heal wounds, a risk for nephropathy and exogenous ochronosis, as well as other potential complications.

They also mention that, in some cases, the side-effects can be fatal when these creams are used for an extended period of time.

2. Steroids

Another popular ingredient utilized in creams that promises to get rid of dark spots on the skin is steroids.

In the majority of countries, the use of steroids in over-the-counter skin care products have been banned; thus a prescription from a doctor would be required to obtain a cream with this particular ingredient.

Still, it is important to know about the dangers that steroids hold to the skin, especially with the chronic use.

This ingredient can lead to fungal infections of the skin, skin that becomes thinner and, when used over a longer period of time, can lead to internal diseases.

Folliculitis and rosacea are also potential side-effects of topical steroids.

3. Mineral Oil 

A very common ingredient that is not only found in skin brightening products but also in many other skin care products.

Mineral oil tends to leave the skin feeling moisturized and nourished, but the long-term side-effects of mineral oil can be harmful and unpleasant.

The most common side-effects of mineral oil found in these creams include pimples and acne breakouts, which is caused by the oil clogging pores on the skin.

4. Other Minor Ones

Other potentially harmful ingredients to look out for include Dioxane, Padimate-O (or Octyl Dimethyl), Parabens, Phthalates, Alcohol, and Fragrances.

These can all cause unpleasant side-effects, such as a higher risk of developing skin disorders and, in some cases, may even increase a user’s risk of developing cancer.

What Ingredients Are Safe Options For Skin Brightening

By looking at the potential side-effects that may be experienced when using many of the skin brightening creams on the market today, a person may start to fear all of these products at once.

Skin brightening is not the same as skin bleaching. Think about bleaching the same way you think about bleaching clothes with Jik - Yuk!

The good news, however, is that not all products that are promoted for their skin brightening effects are harmful.

There are a lot of options in the skin brightening industry that does not contain the harmful ingredients we have stated above, but rather utilized ingredients that have been proven safe and effective through scientific research.

Here, we would like to introduce our readers to some of the options that they should look for when choosing to buy skin brightening creams – not only have these ingredients been proven safe and effective, they are also used as anti-wrinkles and anti-aging. 

1. Glutathione:

Glutathione is commonly called the mother of all anti-oxidants in the healthcare arena.

It is interesting to note that the skin lightening effect of glutathione was accidentally discovered when severely sick cancer patient and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients were put on high doses of Glutathione in an attempt to save their lives.

Patients who were put on Glutathione showed brighter, lighter and healthier skin. This attracted cosmetic dermatologists to look further if it can be used for cosmetic skin lightening.


Yes, they discovered that Glutathione actually inhibits (without destroying) an enzyme called Tyrosinase responsible for making of melanin, the black skin color. :-)

They also discovered that Glutathione acts as a sunscreen, protecting the skin from sun damage, a condition called photoaging.

The best type of Glutathione is called liposomal glutathione. Glutathione is best absorbed in the stomach if taken with Liposomal vitamin-C.

In the body, its effects are amplified/increased if taken with N-Acetylcysteine, a very important supplement that has many functions in the body.

Glutathione is synthesized by the liver. Alpha Lipoic Acid & Milk Thistle supplements have been proven to increase glutathione levels in the body, making skin lightening to happen faster. 

Milk thistle is the primary supplement used for liver detox.

There is one Glutathione Supplement that has all the three ingredients (Alpha Lipoic Acid, Milk Thistle & Reduced Glutathione)

Best Skin Lightening Cosmetic Ingredients

2. Vitamin C Serum:

Vitamin C is one of the most popular ingredients in modern skincare science.

This vitamin is known to boost the abilities of the immune system considerably, and also have numerous other health benefits for the human body.

Today, thousands of skincare companies also include vitamin C in their solutions due to its many benefits for the skin.

The role of vitamin C in skin brightening solutions is a little complicated – according to Illuminatural, vitamin C is able to inhibit the function of tyrosinase, an enzyme found naturally in the human body.

This, in turn, causes a lower amount of melanin pigments to be produced on the skin.

Additionally, the antioxidant properties of vitamin-C cause an increase in vitamin E and glutathione – in turn, the glutathione causes an increase in the production of Pheomelanin, while reducing the production of Eumelanin (Eumelanin is a darker skin pigmentation than Pheomelanin).

It also increases the production of collagen fibers, the building "cement of your skin

Vitamin-C Role in Collagen Formation
Related: Skin Brightening with Glutathione

3. Vitamin E

Vitamin E has also become a very popular vitamin in both anti-aging supplement form and as an ingredient in several skincare products.

Many skincare products on the market today rely so much on this particular vitamin, they have even added the “E” to represent “Vitamin E” in the name of the product.

Vitamin E primarily acts as a powerful antioxidant – it is known to help prevent damage from sun rays, and premature aging (Photo-aging).

According to LiveStrong, vitamin E works indirectly to assist with the reduction of skin discolorations and skin brightening.

While vitamin E itself may not cause the lightening effects, it is essential to assist with the body’s ability to absorb and process vitamin A.

Vitamin A, on the other hand, has the ability to lighten discolorations, dark spots, and acne.

Vitamin E oil is used to even out discolored skin, scar reduction, stretch mark reduction and cellulite reduction.

This is why Vitamin E oil is so popular with expectant mothers in preventing stretch marks and correcting them after birth.


Retinol is also called vitamin A1. It is a naturally-occurring vitamin that has numerous benefits to contribute to the human body.

Retinol is also one of the most popular ingredients found in anti-aging creams, serums and other solutions that promise to reverse the signs of aging a person may be experiencing.

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, a 0.5% strength Retinol solution provides the perfect option for treating hyperpigmentation and other skin discolorations without causing any significant adverse effects.

The benefits observed amongst a group of individuals who applied such a solution were comparable to a peeling treatment conducted by a professional dermatologist.

5. Hyaluronic Acid 

Hyaluronic acid has also become a very popular option for individuals looking to buy an effective anti-aging product – and is also often included in skin brightening products.

This substance has numerous benefits to offer a user. According to Paula’s Choice Skincare, hyaluronic acid is very effective in replenishing the moisture levels of the skin, as well as to revitalize the outer layer of a user’s skin.

Hyaluronic acid has also been scientifically proven to achieving younger-looking skin in a relatively short period of time.

In addition to these particular benefits, it is also reported that hyaluronic acid has the potential to lighten dark areas on the skin, such as where a person may be suffering from hyperpigmentation or other discolorations.

Thus, hyaluronic also seems to be an effective and safe skin-brightening ingredient

6. Kojic Acid

In recent years, many skincare companies have also taken a liking to the inclusion of Kojic Acid in their brightening serums and creams.

This ingredient is extracted from a variety of fungi, and can also be extracted as a by-product of rice wine, sake, soy sauce and other fermented food products.

According to Healthline, the primary reason why Kojic Acid has become such a popular ingredient in skin brightening products is due to its ability to inhibit the production of an amino acid, known as tyrosine, which is required for the skin to produce melanin – the pigment that affects the color of the skin (as well as the eyes and hair).

7. Ferulic Acid

The last ingredient on our list is Ferulic Acid, is often found in some of the more expensive skincare products.

Ferulic acid is often used in combination with vitamin C and vitamin E, since these three substances work very well together, as reported by Beautiful With Brains.

Ferulic acid is an antioxidant that is extracted from plants. It is found in many different fruits and vegetables, including apples, coffee, parsley, spinach and more.

Ferulic acid is also considered to be one of the most potent antioxidants in the skincare industry.

When combined with vitamin C and E, the protection offered against sun damage become significantly higher. It is a perfect combination of skin lightening and anti-aging.

Studies have also concluded that ferulic acid is able to assist with the treatment of dark spots and hyperpigmentation; thus making it an excellent choice in skin brightening products.


While skin brightening offers numerous advantages to a woman, there are also some disadvantages and possible dangers that need to be taken into account before opting for a random procedure or cream that promises to provide skin lightening benefits.

While a large variety of ingredients have been found to effectively lighten the skin safely, there are also some ingredients often utilized in skin brightening products that can be harmful to the skin and lead to potential adverse effects.

We have analyzed both the harmful and the good ingredients that can be found in skin brightening creams in this article – be sure to take these ingredients into consideration and to opt for products that do not contain the harmful substances we have pointed out in this post.

Final Thoughts

Which of these products have you ever tried? Have you ever seen anyone with this condition "Exogenous Ochronosis" (MKOROGO)?

Ask any questions or comments you may have by leaving a comment below

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