Whitening, lightening or “brightening” cosmetics lines are just starting to take off here in the U.S.
ISSUE: Fall 2011
DEPT: Beauty Kit
STORY: Anna M. Park
You had a glorious, carefree summer of soaking in the sun and now you’re paying the price. The remnants of your golden tan are slowly turning into splotches, courtesy of UVA rays. “Dark spots, discoloration and uneven skin pigmentation are common problems, especially among my Asian patients,” says celeb dermatologist Jessica Wu, author of Feed Your Face. In fact, for Asian skin, it’s typically hyperpigmentation that tends to be the first sign of aging, rather than wrinkles, she says, since Asian skin tends to be thicker.
In fighting brown spots, one of the most commonly used ingredients is hydroquinone, which works “by blocking one step in the skin’s production of pigment,” says Dr. Wu. There’s been some controversy over the safety of hydroquinone (though studies have yet to link the ingredient to cancer in humans), but there are plenty of alternatives like kojic acid, arbutin and soy, which, according to Dr. Wu, has been shown to reduce discoloration in patients with darker skin tones, including Asians.
A multi-faceted approach is key in fighting hyperpigmentation, according to dermatologist Ronald Moy. He recommends retinols or salicylic acid to exfoliate skin, which leads to more rapid skin growth, and then hydroquinone or other pigment inhibitors to block the production of melanin. When over-the-counter creams fail, Dr. Moy turns to laser peels, microdermabrasion, chemical peels or intense pulsed light treatments. “The best laser for treating pigmentation on Asian skin is the long pulsed (not Q-switched) Nd:Yag laser combined with a pulsed dye laser,” he says. “It causes less trauma to Asian skin and there is not as much post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.”
While a booming industry in Asia, whitening, lightening or “brightening” lines are just starting to take off here in the U.S. “U.S. cosmetics companies have finally realized that uneven skin pigmentation, not just wrinkles, can make your complexion look older than its years,” says Dr. Wu. Here, some of our favorites.