Skin Lightening Guide To 3 Safe and Effective Products

January 31, 2024

Table of content

Melanin is a pigment that creates deeper tones in the skin lightening, sometimes resulting in unwanted skin tone unevenness and hyperpigmentation.

Melanin is made by cells called melanocytes, which reside in the base layer of the epidermis.

At this layer of the skin, superficial exfoliants and active compounds in skin care that have poor penetration will not resolve the pigmentation.

Choosing Skin Lightening Products Wisely

Skin lightening products can be unsafe and unethical. For this article, skin lightening to resolve uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation will be the focus.

Skin Lightening Ingredients

1) Retinol

A derivative of vitamin A, retinol works in the deep layers of the skin to encourage cell turnover.

Increased cellular turnover creates skin cells with more even pigmentation. Retinol is typically applied as a cream or gel at night before bed since light degrades retinol.

Retinol also has additional benefits for decreasing wrinkles and fine lines. Retinol requires consistent and long-term use to see the benefits.

Consistent use of retinol also requires being diligent about sunscreen application. Because retinol causes more skin turnover, the skin is more vulnerable to photoaging.

Retinol users should commit to daily SPF applications.

2) Vitamin C

Also referred to as ascorbic acid, vitamin C serum is thought to prevent hyperpigmentation by infusing the skin with antioxidants. Vitamin C halts an enzyme called tyrosinase, which creates melanin. 

Vitamin C is well-tolerated. According to a 2020 systematic review, Vitamin C has promising research for treating hyperpigmentation.   

3) Niacinamide

Niacinamide is a form of the B vitamin, B3. In cells, niacinamide supports energy production. Increased energy production helps skin cells turn out faster.

Niacinamide also has antioxidant qualities, which help protect skin from further hyperpigmentation.   

According to a 2011 study, 4% topical niacinamide improves the appearance of melasma by 44%. Melasma is a hyperpigmentation disorder common in pregnancy, resulting in patchy brown discoloration of the face.  

What has your experience been with skin hyperpigmentation concerns? Please comment below and share your thoughts.  


Question 1: Can retinol, vitamin C, and niacinamide be used together?

Answer: Yes. Water-based products should be layered on before oil-based products. Read the ingredients on your products carefully and layer accordingly.

Question 2: How can I tell a safe skin lightening product from an unsafe one?

Answer: Skin lightening products can contain highly toxic ingredients such as mercury derivates, corticosteroids, and hydroquinone.

Question 3: How can I avoid further skin tone unevenness and discoloration?

Answer: Use SPF daily and avoid tanning or tanning beds. Do not smoke and use alcohol in moderation. Inflammation and oxidative stress enhance hyperpigmentation, however, these factors are easily controllable with a healthy lifestyle.


Skin lightening products help create an even and healthy-looking skin tone.

There are many products on the market, some of which have safe ingredients and others do not. The information in this article is aimed to help you navigate these nuances.

For more information on skin lightening options, contact Transformation Aesthetics to get yourself started on your journey to beautiful, even skin.


Dr. Laurel

Laurel Ash, ND, MS is an Oregon and Washington board-certified Naturopathic Physician and medical director of a medical spa in Vancouver, WA. Dr. Ash graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in 2019 and proceeded to work in a primary care for 2 years with a focus on women’s health. Aesthetic medicine became a focus of her clinical practice as she realized beauty is a reflection of inner vitality and health. Dr. Ash’s clinical focuses include optimal aging, hormone replacement therapy, and aesthetic medicine for women.

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