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Products for Lightening the Skin

Products for Lightening the Skin Products for Lightening the Skin

Those dark spots and patches that pop up on your skin as you get older usually aren't serious, but they can be unattractive. They occur in places where your skin has over-produced pigment to protect itself from sun damage, and they generally show up years after the sun damage took place. It's wise to have any skin discolorations checked annually by a dermatologist to rule out skin cancer.


Hydroquinone is the most effective way to lighten dark patches of skin, according to Amy Wechsler, assistant clinical professor in dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City, in Allure magazine. It literally bleaches dark spots away, which means precise application is key to getting the results you want--if you apply it with a too-generous hand, you could end up with rings of lighter skin around your age spots. Hydroquinone can be dangerous if it's used in too-high concentrations for long periods of time, so follow your dermatologist's recommendations if you're using it.


For serious dark patches, your dermatologist may prescribe tretinoin, a prescription-strength retinoid that fades dark spots by exfoliating the top layer of your skin, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Many people are sensitive to retinoids and experience redness, burning, itching or peeling when using them so work with your dermatologist to find a dosage that works for you. You can expect to see lighter skin between three and six months after starting to use tretinoin.

Chemical Peels

Chemical peels with glycolic acid or alpha hydroxy acid can help lighten skin by rubbing away overly pigmented skin cells so that new, undamaged cells can take their place, according to the Mayo Clinic. Though milder versions of chemical peels are available at drug and department stores, if your age spots are very large or dark, you will need a dermatologist to apply a medium- to deep-chemical peel. Peels can make your skin extra sensitive to the sun, so follow a chemical peel with a regular sunscreen regimen.

Other Products

Other products can lighten skin, but the results will be less dramatic than the results you get from hydroquinone, tretinoin or chemical peels. In Good Housekeeping magazine, Debra Wattenberg, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, recommends using products that contain kojic acid, vitamin C, licorice extract, soy or mulberry to lighten skin.

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