skin whitening actives

The science behind skin lightening and brightening

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. Common skin lightening ingredients include hydroquinone, niacinamide and kojic acid.

Hydroquinone

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 discoloration 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.

Niacinamide

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.

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. 

Others

Other whitening agents are vitamin C, gluthathione, and even mercury. They have their own pros and cons. However, Po3™ in The Lightening Serum has a much greater efficacy than even niacinamide at very low dosage, much lower than 4%.

Often, various skin whitening ingredients have also been found to increase the expression of tyrosinase, resulting in greater melanin synthesis, causing more pigmentation on the skin. The Po3™ actives effectively target different pathways in the skin melanogenesis process and work together with the skin’s 28-day rejuvenation cycle to reveal a brighter, even and younger looking skin. At a very low dosage, Po3™ in The Lightening Serum is able to reduce excess melanin production by 33% more than that compared to niacinamide used at 5% in a serum formulation after 28 days. This not only reduces the chances of skin irritation, and other skin conditions, it effectively lightens pigmented spots and even out the skin tone.

The Lightening Serum targets the production of excess melanin within the skin using a patented, potent combination of three food based actives. These actives work differently from the above mentioned actives as it works from the inside out and targets your dark spots via two different mechanisms of action – unlike most products that only use one. This means that there is a higher likelihood of The Lightening Serum working for your skin – not to mention, not only is it hypoallergenic and safe to use around your eyes, it is also paraben, preservative, and cruelty free. For more information on the secret behind skin brightening and whitening, read this post.

secret to brighter skinn header

The secret behind achieving a brighter, whiter skin tone

Clear, radiant skin has always been a topic of conversation for most women and even men in Asia. With that, there is no surprise that dark skin or pigmented skin has been a topic of controversy in Asia and fairness is always promoted as a ‘plus point’ for women. Additionally, in a study done by Chanel on forty Chinese women in 2014, it showed that the fairness and “purity of the complexion” had a significant influence on the assumed age of a person1. Therefore, anti-pigmentation or whitening products became more popularly viewed as anti-ageing products as well.

How brightening and whitening products work

Most whitening products work by inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme, which plays a major role in melanin synthesis in the skin. Brightening, on the other hand, is achieved by exfoliation or removal of dead skin cells, which makes the skin look more radiant and glowing. The skin undergoes constant renewal, and every 28 days (could be longer for older adults), dead cells on the top most layer of the skin is replaced by newer cells. When these dead cells are shed, a brighter, fresher-looking layer of skin is revealed.

Common whitening/ brightening ingredients

Whitening ingredients commonly used for decades in the cosmetic industry are kojic acid, niacinamide, hydroquinone, vitamin C, arbutin, and retinol. For brightening, these include ingredients such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and also vitamin C. These ingredients, if not used at high dosages, do not give high efficacy. However, there are specific restrictions for each of these ingredients and for a good efficacy, they have to be used at a dosage that is much greater than the specified limit. This could then result in undesirable effects on the skin.

How Po3™ promotes brightening

The three actives that make up Po3™ (Sodium Saccharin, Ginseng Root Extract, and Cocoa Seed Extract) have different metabolic and signalling pathways which target different enzymes and proteins in the melanogenesis process. In several market whitening/brightening products, the actives used frequently act on one pathway and sometimes this may not be effective for all skin type, ethnicity, etc. By targeting different pathways in the skin melanogenesis cycle, it allows most people to effectively experience skin lightening/ brightening without that disappointment once again.

The Lightening Serum by 28cubed works with the skin’s 28-day rejuvenation cycle to reveal a brighter, younger looking skin by targeting different sections of the cycle which causes skin pigmentation and darkening. By working from the inside out, The Lightening Serum is effective in targeting excess pigmentation in the long run, giving you brighter, more even and younger looking skin. The Lightening Serum is available here, and more information on its mechanism of action can be found here.