Best natural skin lightener

Marianne James

Problem pigmentation can be a concern to women.  It can appear at any age but most often appears from age 55 onwards, the hands and face being areas of particular concern.  Areas of hyper pigmentation which occur in maturity are often also called age spots or liver spots.  Excessive freckling can be bothersome at any age as well. There are a few chemicals which have been used in the cosmetic industry to try and address these problems.  While hydroquinone has been widely used it is now considered to be toxic. There is a safer alternative available known as Alpha-arbutin which can be produced in nature-identical form or extracted naturally from the Bearberry plant.  

How do skin lighteners work?

Our skin has many cells called melanocytes which produce melanin, a compound that gives colour to our skin.  This is the skin's mechanism to shield itself from excessive sun exposure.  Compounds that lighten skin do so by blocking the production of melanin, so that over time your skin will appear lighter and more even in tone.  



Skin bleaching - caution !

Some people opt for skin bleaching treatment to reduce discolourations and even out the tone of their skin.  Bleaching creams can be obtained over the counter and on prescription.  The active ingredient in some skin lighteners is mercury so trying to bleach skin over your entire body can lead to mercury poisoning.  Mercury is toxic and can cause serious mental, neurological and kidney problems.  It will also pass through to an unborn child.  Mercury is sometimes listed under other names, such as calomel, mercuric, mercurous, or mercurio.  One study found that nearly 1 out of every 4 skin lighteners made in Asia and sold outside the U.S. contained mercury.

Hydroquinone - banned!

The most widely used effective additive is hydroquinone which is very readily absorbed into the body.  Hydroquinone has been banned in all European countries due to its suspected carcinogenic properties.  It can also cause unwanted and untreatable skin discoloration (ochronosis). 

Kojic acid - unstable, not for long-term use

Some potential problems have been identified with this acid extracted from fungi.  It is relatively unstable so that it will react with oxygen and sunlight, causing it to actually change as a compound.  Long term use for skin lightening is not recommended due to concerns that it can decrease thyroid function and possibly cause other internal changes in the body. It is often added into products that are designed to reduce acne and has been very successful.  However, since acne can be an on-going problem often for a few years, it seems to be an unadvisable additive to use.  

Alpha-arbutin, Arbutin (Beta-arbutin)   Stable, SAFE 

Arbutin comes in two isomers, alpha and beta and has melanin-inhibiting properties.  While the alpha isomer is more stable than the beta form and is the preferred form for skin lightening, most cosmetic manufacturers use Arbutin (Beta-arbutin), because it is far less expensive and easier to source than Alpha-Arbutin.  


Alpha-Arbutin can be sourced in two ways.  Natural Alpha-Arbutin can be derived from the leaves of bearberry, cranberry, mulberry or blueberry shrubs and is also present in most types of pears.  It can also be made in a safe nature-identical form. Here at Flora Organics we only use natural Alpha-Arbutin extracted from the Bearberry plant, a plant which grows widely in the Northern hemisphere.  This extract is just as nature provides and is the more expensive kind.  Alpha-Arbutin is featured at the recommended 1% concentration in our Eventone Manuka Honey & Rosehip Day + Night Cream.  

Alpha-arbutin inhibits melanin biosynthesis in the skin by blocking the enzymatic oxidation of Tyrosine and L-Dopa. A one-month study on 80 Chinese women using a 1% Alpha-arbutin concentration, resulted in a faster and more pronounced skin lightening effect after 1 month when compared with other commonly used skin lighteners.  

Want to treat problem pigmentation?  Let ingredients directly sourced from plants help you!

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