There’s so much confusion about products and ingredients that claim to lighten and/or brighten skin. So we consulted with Dr. Dennis Gross, founder of 900 Fifth Dermatology and Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare for a quick refresher. Take notes!
What’s the basic difference between skin lightening and brightening? Lightening is reducing pigmentation and brightness is increasing radiance and glow of skin. Lightening has to do with discoloration and evening of skin tone. Brightening is more about restoring vibrancy to the skin.
What ingredients should you look for in a lightener? Hydroquinone, Kojic Acid, Arbutine, Vitamin C and retinol.
What ingredients should you look for in a brightener? Vitamin C, retinol, alpha and beta hydroxy acids.
What type of treatments do you typically recommend for both? There is overlap between ingredients for both. Using all those ingredients can address both issues. I love to use peels—both AHA and retinol peels. In addition to stimulating collagen production, which will soften lines and wrinkles, peels firm skin and even our skin tone. Repetitive peels can also help to reduce pore size, fade discolorations, improve rosacea, as well as treat and prevent acne.
Which one is better for skin of color? Everyone wants brightening because it makes skin glowy. But not all want lightening. Lightening the skin seems to be more of an issue with skin of color because their skin can produce irregular patches of pigmentation, than fair skinned individuals.
What else should you keep in mind when considering lightening or brightening? Sunscreen is important for skin of color. Sun causes loss of brightness and increases dullness. And the sun’s harmful rays can lead to increased discoloration because people with skin of color produce more pigmentation naturally.