What Is Facial Brightener?

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Facial brighteners have been popular in Japan since the 1990s, but they only became popular in the United States in 2012. Facial brighteners are skin care products that promise to fade discolorations of the skin, leaving behind an overall youthful glow. Understanding what types of products are available and how they work can help you decide if adding a brightener to your skin care regime will benefit you.

What Brighteners Are Intended to Do

Many women consider an even complexion to be more aesthetically appealing than one that is less even. Foundations, concealers and skin care products like anti-acne gels and creams and dark-spot correctors are all intended to give users the most even complexion possible. Skin brighteners work toward this goal. They are intended to fade scarring caused by acne and lighten pigmentation caused by sun damage. Reversing these common discolorations creates an overall even look.

How They Work

According to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Ellen Marmur, skin brighteners all work in different ways toward a common goal: the elimination of a type of pigment called melanin. There are many different mixes of active ingredients that can reduce the amount of melanin in skin. The extract from certain types of mushrooms can minimize dark spots, as can a patented molecule called TXC. Mixes of ingredients that contain birch sap and hibiscus are available, as are formulations that contain ginseng.

Vitamin C and Sunscreen

While many companies offer proprietary brightening mixes, perhaps the most common brightening ingredient is simple vitamin C. According to Dr. Marmur, the product acts as an exfoliant. Exfoliants remove the top layer of skin, which is often where minor unevenness resides. Combining the use of a brightener to reverse past damage with a sunscreen to prevent future damage is a good method to reduce discoloration. It's this combination of actions that is relied upon by most BB creams.

Avoid Bleaching the Skin

Some facial brighteners whiten the skin through the use of potentially dangerous chemicals like topical steroids and hydroquinone. Steroids should be avoided unless used under a doctor's care, as they can cause troubling side effects. Hydroquinone has been banned in several countries because it can lead to ocrinosis, a condition that alters the protein in the skin. Seek out brighteners that are free of any ingredients that promise to bleach the skin, as that is often a clue that they contain harsh chemicals.