Skin Care: SKIN BLEACHING - Skin Bleaching Guide





Skin Bleaching Guide

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Skin Bleaching

Skin Bleaching Guide

Everyone wants a smooth even skin tone. Spotted, discolored (aka hyperpigmented) skin is a definite cosmetic dermatology no-no. And bleaching and whitening options have become so complex it can be difficult to determine what is right for you. One simple lesson to start with is that regardless of the cause of skin discoloration be it from old acne, bug bites, skin trauma, underarm irritation, sun damage (such as freckles, “liver spots”) or hormonal causes (melasma); your bleaching basics remain the same.

Why Do I Have Skin Discoloration?

The sun is your enemy. Your freckling or brown patches above the mouth, across the cheeks (melasma) or the noticeable skin discoloration due to your bout with tinea versicolor is present because the sun has reached the skin, causing the “bad tan lines” so to speak. Whether PIH, melasma or sun damage induced, when we bleach, we are dealing with the pigmentation manufactured by the color producing cells in the skin, melanocytes.

PIH (Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation), happens to everyone. It’s the result of irritation within the skin resulting in remnant discoloration. PIH is NOT a scar. Your baseline skin tone will ultimately dictate how much skin discoloration is left behind. For instance, I have a Mediterranean olive type complexion. PIH for me is often purplish or a faint light brown. The darker your skin tone, the darker the PIH will likely be. And the darker the PIH, the longer it will probably take to bleach things back to normal. Even purplish discoloration may take up to 6 months to resolve. Really dark brown skin discoloration can take more than a year. Learning to accept your skin is crucial to helping deal with the situation. Don’t get caught up in the degree of the skin discoloration, you are going to treat things in the same manner as everyone else, it will just take longer. Also, it is difficult to reach “perfect” match, but you can often do really well at making your skin discoloration very unnoticeable. We bleach brown to black areas and treat red or purple spots in a different manner, often with Mederma.

Skin Bleaching Basics:

  • Bleaches should be applied ONLY to the dark spot. Select areas that are well defined to bleach. This can help improve the ultimate outcome. If you do not have well defined areas to bleach, then you will want to use a skin brightener that is safer to use in more widespread areas. Skin brighteners are typically not Hydroquinone based, but based upon botanical ingredients such as Kojic Acid. Peter Thomas Roth Potent Botanical Skin Brightening Gel Complex is an example of this.


  • Avoid applying the active bleaching agent to normal surrounding skin. Continued use of your bleach on normal skin will slowly lighten the regular skin tone, too.

  • Bleaching should be stopped when the desired effects are achieved. Otherwise, you may end up with areas of the skin that are lighter than your normal skin tone!

  • Sun protection is crucial. The sun will try to darken up the areas you are working so hard to bleach. Sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 that protects against both UVA and UVB as well as sun protective clothing/hat are ideal.

  • Hydroquinone is the best-known active ingredient used in many types of bleach. It may come in nonprescription strengths of 2% or prescription strengths of typically 4%. Combining glycolic acid or other agents can help the bleach penetrate the skin more easily and thus be more effective. Bleaches are often applied twice daily to the offending dark areas.

  • Everyone cannot tolerate hydroquinone, whether it is irritating, causes an allergic reaction, or in very rare instances causes an actual darkening of the skin tone. The latter is so unusual, that I have not seen it in person.

  • For individuals not inclined to use hydroquinone, active agents like Kojic acid are desirable as bleaching agents. Kojic acid has been widely promoted as the “ bleaching ingredient good for anyone of ethnic background" (i.e. African American, Asia, Hispanic, Indian, etc.) To be honest, I do not know how this idea got started. Kojic acid is very good, but those with darker skin tones do not have to “automatically” avoid Hydroquinone.

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