skin brightening vs skin lightening

We Dig Into the Sciences & Real Differences Between Skin Brightening and Skin Lightening

Skin brightening and whitening products are highly sought after by many who experience skin pigmentation, scarring, and several other radiative exposures from the sun, which causes uneven darkening of the skin.

However, I bet you yourself are still confused between these as they are somewhat, similar? Let’s keep on reading to find more info about the ingredients, sciences, and differences between these two.

What is Skin Brightening?

asian lady looking at mirror

Skin brightening is to increase the brightness, radiance, and glow of the skin. Often, it involves exfoliating, moisturizing, and face rollers & laser resurfacing, resulting in brighter skin.

What is Skin Lightening?

improvement of skin brightening

While skin lightening is to reduce pigmentation. It has to do with discolouration of the skin and evening our skin tone over time.

What Ingredients Should You Look for in Skin Brightening?

For skin brightening, you should look out for these ingredients: Vitamin C, retinol, alpha and beta hydroxy acids.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C helps to reduce the hyperpigmentation and brighten the skin by blocking melanin production. Vitamin C also blocks tyrosinase, an enzyme that is used by our body to produce melanin, making it a natural skin brightener.

Moreover, vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to protect our skin cells from further damage from the sun and outside pollutants. There are multiple forms of vitamin C such as Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbic acid sulfate and ascorbyl palmitate.

It is safe to use vitamin C daily in our skincare routine, however, people with sensitive skin might see redness or feel stinging from the first use.


Retinol is one of the most powerful ingredients for hyperpigmentation. It is a form of vitamin A and particularly effective at combating hyperpigmentation by encouraging cell turnover. It exfoliates the older, darker skin and bringing healthier, newer skin cells to the surface after frequent use.

For best results, you can use retinol for several months or more. If you are new to this, I would advise for you to use it 1-2 times a week, before you start to use it regularly – as the concentrations might be too strong for you.

One thing to take note is, please avoid to use it when you are pregnant as it might cause some birth defects.

Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids

Have you heard of Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHA) and polyhydroxy acids (PHAs)? All these three categories are under hydroxy acids. They work similarly but each one produce different results.

In a nut shell, hydroxy acids smoothen, tighten, firm and brighten the skin. It exfoliates the skin by dissolving the cellular glue and exfoliating superficial, dead skin cells resulting in a healthy, younger skin. You can see significant improvements in your skin when you use it as directed.

treatments of skin brightening

What Ingredients Should You Look for in Skin Lightening?

Generally, skin lighteners contain an active ingredient or a combination of ingredients that reduces the amount of melanin in the skin where it is applied. Common skin lightening ingredients include hydroquinone, niacinamide, and kojic acid.


Hydroquinone is a reversible chemical brightening agent which works by blocking crucial enzymes (i.e. tyrosinase) in the melanogenesis pathway on the skin. It is usually used as a skin bleaching agent to tackle skin discolouration related skin conditions. The inhibition of the enzyme tyrosinase results in a chemical reduction of melanin.

Hydroquinone has been successfully used for decades to treat conditions like melasma, helping to reduce skin pigmentation and even out the skin tone. However, since the effects are reversible, topical application is required to maintain the skin lightening effect.

Moreover, misuse or overuse of this chemical can actually cause several side effects such as dryness, irritation, and also ochronosis (which is a bluish-black discolouration caused by the accumulation of homogentisic acid, during the breakdown of tyrosine in the melanogenesis pathway).

It has been banned in some European countries due to the risk of causing cancer.


One of my favourite ingredients! Niacinamide is made from niacin, which is also known as vitamin B3. Niacin can be found in most cells and are present in most metabolically active tissues, such as the brain, heart, and liver.

The human body is able to make small amounts of vitamin B3, and so, it must come hugely from food sources such as fish, red meat, and nuts.

It is used as a skin brightener mainly because of its excellent cell renewing properties. Niacinamide is widely considered as a skin brightener as it is also a tyrosinase enzyme inhibitor which works similarly to hydroquinone to reduce melanin production on the skin.

There is evidence of niacinamide being used as an anti-ageing active ingredient. It is helpful for treating excessive dryness, helps produce more collagen, and also could act as a moisturising ingredient.

However, for effective skin brightening, niacinamide needs to be dosed in cosmetics at least 4% to help lighten skin pigmentation. For best results, combine it together with other proven skin brightening ingredients, such as vitamin C and retinol.

Kojic acid

Kojic acid is a by-product of a fermentation process during the manufacturing of sake (Japanese rice wine). Studies have shown the efficacy of kojic acid in skin lightening. It is an anti-oxidant and has melanin reduction properties.

However, kojic acid is very unstable in nature and upon exposure to sunlight or oxygen, it can oxidise and lose its efficacy. Research has shown that kojic acid is not cancer-causing but can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation if used in high amounts.

How to Apply Skin Brightening or Skin Lightening Products?

apply skin lightening products

While it is common and generally safe for your skin to use these skin brightening and skin lightening products or ingredients, knowing the know-how can make it more effective and less likely to cause irritation. Here are a few tips that you should know especially if you are using it for the first time:

  1. Start slow: When you are using acids in your skincare, start conservatively with a lower concentration, one to two times per week and then work up to see what your skin can tolerate.
  2. Patch test IS important! Similar to the other (new) skincare product that you’re going to use, do patch test before you use it. Apply a small amount on the arm and then on the forehead to see how your skin will respond.
  3. Sunscreen and hydration: As the skin brightening and skin lightening’s products expose newer and more sensitive skin cells, make sure to use sunscreen daily and generously. Don’t forget to hydrate your skin with the correct moisturizer AND drinking water as well.
  4. Consult your dermatologist: Some people might experience redness, irritation or peeling when you first use these products. If persistent irritation occurs, please consult a certified doctor.

The correct (and simplest) way to incorporate skin brightening and skin lightening products in your skincare is:

Cleanse > Hydrating/Exfoliating toner (AHA/BHA) > Brightening/Lightening Serum > Moisturizer > Sunscreen

Whatever your skin type, tone or condition, you can find the right one for you and with frequent use, you will find yourself a healthier and happier skin!

age spots vs freckles

Are Age Spots and Freckles Harmful?

If you have been noticing some brown spots suddenly appearing on the skin for the past few weeks, there’s a chance that those might be age spots or freckles. 

“BUT, uh which one is which? They look similar! How do I differentiate them?” 

For those who have been experiencing the same and are still confused between these two, here’s some fact check for you: 

Generally, age spots and freckles are two different skin conditions that become more prominent as we age, but in some cases for the latter, it may have developed at a young age, due to our genetics. 

Here’s what you should understand and how to differentiate between these two: 

Age Spots 

age spots on a face of old lady

Age spots or also known as liver spots are dark patches that often appear on areas that were highly exposed to the suns such as our face, hands, shoulders, and arms. Because of the excessive sun exposure, our skin produces melanin to protect the skin; resulting in the exposed area to turn brownish in colour.

Age spots are more common in the elderly (those over 40 years old), but we can still get them early if we spend a lot of time outside and didn’t use proper protection such as sunscreen.


freckles on the face

Similar to age spots, freckles often appear in the areas that get frequent sun exposure. Freckles are small brown spots that form as a result of the overproduction of melanin.

To ease your concern, freckles are harmless. It is not a sign of a health problem. Instead, freckles are just pigment cells that are usually tan or light brown, flat, and very small. Sometimes they do overlap which makes them look larger. 

Now that you know the definition of both, you might (still) be confused between these two as they somewhat, look similar? Yes, while they might all seem similar, there are some key differences. 

Let’s find out the differences and how to differentiate them! 

Age Spots VS Freckles 

SIZE/APPEARANCETypically larger in size (.2-2.0 centimetres) because it involves multiple pigmented cells lumped together. Small dark spots are usually less than 5 mm in diameter.
COLOURSBrown, grey or black on the skin.  Most are uniform in colour but vary depending on the skin tone. It can be red, tan, light brown, dark brown, black and others that is darker than the skin colour.
AREAS Usually appear on areas exposed to the sun – face, hands, shoulders and arms.Predominantly on the face, and on any skin that is/are exposed to the sun such as the arms and shoulders.
PREVENTIONUse a good quality sun cream with UVA and UVB protection and avoid sunbeds. Put on sun cream regularly and generously to prevent skin damage and accelerated ageing.

Are Age Spots and Freckles Harmful?

  • Age Spots

For age spots, they don’t require medical attention. However, it is recommended for you to seek for doctor’s advice if you notice the spots are black or have changed in appearance. It could be signs of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. 

  • Freckles 

Freckles are neither harmful nor a sign of health problem. Moreover, most people who got freckles due to genetics and they think freckles are just “cute” and are proud of it – which is lovely

If you notice, there have been trends for faux freckles such as make-up tutorials, photo filters, and more!

How to Remove Age Spots and Freckles? 

how to remove age spots and freckles

If you aren’t happy with the spots on your skin, below are some of the ways to treat and zap them both away! 

Age Spots 

The age spots can be treated to lighten or remove them. And these include:

  1. Proper skincare and sunscreen: There are creams, lotions and serums that can help to fade and lighten the age spots such as products that contain hydroquinone, glycolic acid, or kojic acid. However, you need to use these products regularly for up to several months before you can notice the results.
  2. Medication: Some medications such as bleaching creams that contain hydroquinone can be applied along with retinoids to fade the spots over several months of usage. However, these ingredients may cause irritation to your skin.
  3. Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion: These two procedures sand down the surface layer of the skin to a smoother appearance. Dermabrasion is more aggressive than microdermabrasion. Please note that you may need a series of procedures to get a modest, temporary results.
  4. Chemical peel: As the name suggests, this method involves applying a chemical solution to remove the top layers of the skin. If you have sensitive skin, it may cause irritation, scarring, and infection to the skin.


Aside from some of the home remedies that you’ve been applying to treat your uneven skin tone, which over time helps to fade the appearance of freckles as well, you may try one of these treatments:

  1. Laser Treatment: This method is one of the most effective ways of removing freckles. Many freckles especially the new ones are often removed after one session, but you may need more treatment to remove the rest. Do note that long term, new freckles can appear if you do not use sunscreen generously.
  2. Chemical Peels: Similar to the one mentioned for age spots, chemical peels can also help in removing or significantly lightening freckles. Over time, this method also reveals a younger-looking and rejuvenated skin as it peels off old and damaged skin.
  3. Serum and sunscreen in your skincare routine: Choosing a proper serum and sunscreen AND using these two regularly can help to lighten our freckles. And these two do not just help with freckle reduction, but it helps in pigmentation and uneven skin tone as well.

All in all, please make sure to protect your skin from the sun as frequent and repeated sun exposure without generous usage of sunscreen can trigger these two skin conditions.


Pigmentation 101: Here’s How You Can Treat It

Have you noticed any changes in your skin texture?

More often than not, you may be asking “What are these spots?” and “Why is it happening?” every time you looked into the mirror. 

Let me share it with you. The spots that you see on your skin surface are called pigmentation. We are here to share more info about this skin condition and help you to fix it.

Let’s read more to find out.

So, what exactly is pigmentation?                                           

Pigmentation refers to a skin condition in which patches of skin become darker in color caused by the accumulation of melanin on the skin.

Pigmentation can also be caused by genetics or a variety of factors that interfere with melanin production, allowing skin color to appear unusual.

Melanin is produced by melanocytes and acts as a miniature umbrella to protect skin cells from sun and UV damage.

The pigmentation that occurs on our skin differs. There are several common types of pigmentation that can be found on the surface of our skin.

Types of Pigmentation

 #1 Age Spots

age spots

WHAT – They are known as liver spots, and they usually appear on the face after the age of 40, implying that the skin has begun to age. Age spots are normally oval in shape, vary in size, and are tan, brown, or black in color.

WHERE – Typically found on sun-exposed areas, especially the cheekbones.


  1. Overexposure to Sun – Melanin accumulates on skin areas that have been exposed to UV rays. Countries near the equator like Singapore experience yearlong UV exposure. According to dermatologists, frequent tanning salon visits can also contribute to the development of age spots.
  2. Aging – Adults over the age of 50 are more prone to developing age spots. Age spots are most common in people who spend a lot of time in the sun, especially during outdoor activities.

#2 Melasma


WHAT – A type of dark spot that is more common in people with darker skin tones and is distinguished by a butterfly-shaped mark.

Melasma is also known as chloasma. It is typically characterized by patchy brown discoloration that spreads across specific areas of the face, giving the skin a dull appearance.

WHERE– Melasma on the face is most commonly seen across the upper cheeks. Nevertheless, other areas of the face, such as the forehead, upper lip, and chin, may also be affected.


  1. Genetics – If there is a known family history of melasma, one is at a higher risk of developing it.
  2. Pregnancy – UVA and UVB rays can stimulate the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for the majority of pigmentation issues. According to a study, about 50–70% of pregnant women are said to be affected by melasma, a type of pigmentation problem caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light during pregnancy.

#3 Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

WHAT– One of the most common pigmentation problems in people with Asian skin. It is usually tan, brown, or black in color and develops from inflamed injuries. These can be difficult to cure when a deeper skin layer is involved.

WHERE– This is caused by facial injuries. These wounds can result from razor cuts, burns, or even infected zits from squeezing.


  1. Inflammation or injury to the skin.

#4 Post-Acne

post-acne treatment

WHAT – Reddish and dark in color spots on the skin and usually developed from the healing of acne wounds.

WHERE – It often appears on areas of the skin that is prone to pimple breakouts.


  1. Use of unsuitable skin products – Acne may worsen with the use of overly drying facial cleansers and alcohol-based products. Aside from that, skincare products for acne-prone skin may be too harsh for the skin. When used excessively, the skin may be drier, causing it to create even more oil.
  2. Pimples squeezing – When the extraction is not done properly, the skin and tissue beneath it may be damaged, increasing the chances of wound infection.

Types of Treatment to Remove Pigmentation

It is perfectly normal to have pigmented skin. However, there are always ways for us to fix our pigmented skin. These are the two treatments that you can try:

i) Home Remedies

You only need one of these items for home remedies, and you are ready to go!

  • Extract from green tea
  • Aloe Vera gel
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Red Onion

If you already have one of these, all you have to do is apply one of the items to the pigmented area of your skin for 15 minutes every day. You will be able to feel and see the results after two weeks. Trust me, I am sure you will be surprised at how well these items help your skin recover.

ii) Professional Medical Treatment

There are several treatments available in Singapore to remove pigmented skin. Among the treatments are:

  • Facial treatments which normally tailored to the intensity of the pigmentation issue while taking the individual’s skin type into consideration. Depending on the pigmented skin condition, this type of treatment may cost $50 to $300 per session.
  • Laser peel treatments which reduce the pigmentation in our skin by using targeted light beams. The treatment, which normally costs $150 per session, can be completed in as little as 15 minutes, depending on the treatment area.
  • Microdermabrasion treatments which use a minimally abrasive tool to rejuvenate the skin and replenish the overall tone and texture of the skin. The cost of this treatment usually varies from $80 to $250 per session, depending on the state of the pigmented skin.
  • Chemical peels perform by exfoliating the top layer of the skin, as well as the dark spots, with glycolic acid and salicylic acid, accelerating the skin lightening process. This type of treatment can cost between $128 and $238 per session.
chemical peels treatment

It is important to note that all of the treatments listed above are always performed by a professional dermatologist. All of the treatments tend to have the same post-effect treatment such as redness in the treated skin area.

But do not worry! The redness will go away in a few days.

In short, pigmentation can be fixed by a few remedies as listed in the article, and a proper skincare regime.


Uneven Skin Tone: Causes, Treatments & How to Fix It Naturally

Growing up made me realize that one thing most women always crave for is to get a smooth, glowing and even skin tone. However, most people have uneven skin tone to some degree, be it some slight darkening around the mouth or nose area, or highly pigmented spots or patches on the cheeks. 

Not to mention, being born in a typically tropical climate, our skin is easily exposed to the direct UV sunlight and humid temperature all year round. However, is this the only cause of uneven skin tone? 

uneven skin tone

Let’s read more to find out. 

But first, what (exactly) is uneven skin tone? 

Generally, uneven skin tone differs for everyone as every individual’s skin type, texture and colour are unique. It consists of various signs such as hyperpigmentation, inflammation and slowed skin recovery. The reality is that most people will experience it at some point in their life. 

Uneven skin tone can also be further affected by other skin conditions like breakouts, cuts, scars, age and access sebum production. It can also be caused by an underlying health condition such as eczema and rosacea

One of the ways to treat your uneven skin tone is by first understanding it and how you can tackle it. So here are some of the most common causes of uneven skin tone and what you can do about it. 

Causes of Uneven Skin Tone 

causes of uneven skin tone by UV rays
  • UV Rays: It is a well-known fact that frequent exposure to the sun is one of the major causes of uneven skin tone, especially in sunny Singapore. Excessive sun exposure or unprotected sun exposure can lead to sunspots and uneven skin tone. This could occur because the body produces excess melanin to protect itself from the rays.
  • Hyperpigmentation: Hyperpigmentation refers to an irregular darkening of the skin and it usually occurs when there is an overproduction of melanin. The appearance of hyperpigmentation on the skin – typically on the cheeks – becomes more prominent when they are older.
  • Hormonal changes: An increase in hormone stimulation can also cause uneven skin tone and the common signs of skin effects from hormones are melasma and rosacea. 
  • Scarring: Scarring from cuts, or acne scars can also cause uneven skin tone. Scars commonly appear as dark spots in the affected area due to inflammation caused by acne scars or scratching or popping our pimples. 
  • Ageing: As we age, some dark patches caused by sun damage tend to darken over time and are most noticeable when we are older. These dark patches are also known as age spots, which are commonly seen in people with lighter skin colours. It usually appears as increased pigmentation in small spots or patches in areas that have been most exposed to the sun over many years such as on the cheeks, shoulders, hands, arms, and chest. 

The road to even skin tone and texture starts with the right treatment; be it from home remedies, cosmetic treatments or skincare with the right ingredients.

spots on face

Below are a few tips to treat or fix the uneven skin tone that you can try starting today! 

10 Tips to Fix Uneven Skin Tone

Home Remedies – DIY Facemasks! 

tomato facial ice cube

#1 Tomato Facial Ice Cube 

This is the easiest home remedy that you can try and it works for many of us. All you need are 2 ripe tomatoes and honey or aloe vera gel (optional). 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Take 2 ripe tomatoes and blend it to a smooth paste. 
  2. Add in 1 tbsp of honey and mix it well (you can skip this part if you want). 
  3. Pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze it for hours. 

Take an ice cube and rub it on the face and leave it on for 5 minutes. Wash it off with cold water and see how your face glows, reduce bloating and over time, you can see major improvements in your skin tone. 

You can also add some honey or aloe vera gel for added benefits to the skin. 

Make sure to wrap the tomato ice cube with a cloth or kitchen towel before you rub it on your face to avoid direct contact with the ice. 

#2 Yogurt & Turmeric Face Mask 

The old but gold home remedy. I bet you’ve heard of this face mask year ago. And it would be such a waste if you have yet to try this DIY face mask. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Mix ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon of yoghurt and 3 drops of lemon juice. 
  2. Mix it all to form a smooth paste. 
  3. Apply to a clean face and leave it on your for 10-15 minutes. 
  4. Wash it off with warm water. 

#3 Tomato, honey and lemon juice face pack

Another tomato DIY home remedy! 

For this one, you only need one ripe tomato, juice from ½ a lemon and 2 tablespoons of honey. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Blend one ripe tomato and add in the juice of ½ a lemon. 
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of honey into the paste. 
  3. Mix it well and apply it to your face for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  4. Wash it off with cold water and see how this powerful face pack treats your uneven skin tone! 

#4 Potato Flesh 

This powerful one ingredient pack has natural skin lightening properties that can help to correct your uneven skin tone. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Cut a ripe potato in half and rub it over the blotchy areas on your face. 
  2. Allow the potato juice to remain for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  3. Rinse with warm water. 

#5 Milk, Flour and Baking Soda Face Pack 

The flawless white! Here’s how to do this face pack: 

  1. Take 3 tablespoons of flour and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. 
  2. Add in some milk to prepare a paste. Any kind of milk will do, but I would suggest fresh milk. 
  3. Apply the paste to a cleansed skin and let it dry for a few minutes. 
  4. Wash it off with warm water and see how your face brightens over time. 

Cosmetic Treatments: 

#6 Laser Treatment 

There are two types of laser treatments: ablative and nonablative. 

Generally, ablative lasers are types of powerful lasers that cause controlled vaporization of skin cells and make our skin responds to brighter and younger-looking skin. 

Nonablative lasers are gentler than ablative where it works by directing the energy much lower into the deeper tissue. If you’re okay with getting slower results over a longer period of time and undergoing more sessions, this is the laser for you. 

It is advisable for you to consult your dermatologist before you proceed with any laser treatment. 

#7 Chemical Peel 

For this procedure, a chemical solution is used to remove the upper layer of the skin through gentle exfoliation which in turn, it helps to improve our skin texture and the appearance of the skin. 

Change Your Lifestyle 

#8 Sunscreen, sunscreen and sunscreen! 

use sunscreen

If you have not realised it, it is vital to include sunscreen as part of your morning skincare routine. Sunscreen should be at the last part of your skincare routine, and before you put on your make-up. 

Even though you may have chosen a moisturizer with some SPF or your foundation is infused with SPF, you still have to put on sunscreen. Frequent usage of sunscreen also helps in keeping the age spots at bay.

My tips: Use it after moisturizer every morning and reapply every 2 to 3 hours or as needed. 

#9 Stay hydrated! 

stay hydrated

Drinking at least eight glasses of water helps to keep your skin glowy, replenishing the skin and reducing the early signs of ageing. 

You should also avoid or consume less carbonated and sugary drinks as both can cause pimples and build-up oils. 

Healthy Diet 

#10 Food to Include VS Foods to Avoid 

  • Yes, please! 

To get a healthy and glowing skin, it is advisable to drink green tea once a day or as much as needed as green tea is rich in antioxidants. You can also consume large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables that heal your skin from within. Citrus fruits such as oranges and tomatoes reduce pigmentation and repair your skin cells. 

  • Little to NO.  

Please avoid or consume less greasy or overly processed foods, spicy foods and foods that are high in refined sugars. You can also avoid dairy products if you have acne-prone skin. 

It is also best to avoid alcohol as it dries out the skin and can lead to a flushed face.