The Difference Between Skin Brightening Lightening And Whitening

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Have you been curious to know the difference between skin brightening, lightening and whitening? Then you’re definitely on the right page, because this article is going to quench your thirst of curiosity.


Every skin brightening, lightening and whitening products out there has its potentials. They all contain ingredients that our skin may benefits from.
Now have you wondered why some skincare products says “brightening”, “lightening” or whitening?. No idea? I’ll tell you why.

It all centers on the ingredients used in manufacturing the product. Skincare ingredients performs their duties in different ways. Some brightens the skin, gives it a little radiance with a glow. Some lightens the skin, giving the skin a more improved brightness (without dramatically changing its natural tone). While others whitens — by whitening I mean, completely changing the skin tone from its natural colour to something opposite. Let’s go more into details, shall we?

The Difference Between Skin Brightening Lightening And Whitening

What Does Skin Brightening Mean?

Skin brightening is a cosmetic proceedure used in increasing the radiance and glow of the skin.

Skincare brightening products works by toning the skin, making it look brighter, giving the skin more radiance.

Skincare brightening products doesn’t really whitens or lightens the skin, rather it tones and brightens the skin, with no dramatic lightening involved.

Skin care brightening products doesn’t change the natural skin tone, rather it enhances it and gives it more glow and shine.

What Ingredients Can Be Found In Skin Brightening Products?

Vitamin C.

A powerful vitamin, which offers skin brightening and anti-aging benefits by supplying the skin with antioxidants which fights free radicals, repairs damaged skin, fights skin aging signs (wrinkles & fine lines), stimulates collagen production and improve over all skin texture.  See the best vitamin C serumsFacial Creams and Facial Cleansers that worths your money


A derivative of vitamin A and an anti-aging molecule that accelerates skin-renewal, and stimulates collagen production, which reduces wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots, for firmer, smoother and more evenly-toned skin. See the best retinol serums and facial creams in the market.

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids.

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a group of plant and animal-derived acids used in a variety of skincare and anti-ageing products, such as serums, toners, facial cleansers and creams, as well as concentrated chemical peels treatments.

There are seven types of AHAs commonly used in products available throughout the skincare industry. These include:

  • Citric acid (from citrus fruits).
  • Glycolic acid (from sugar cane). See the best glycolic acid facial cleansers.
  • Hydroxycaproic acid (from royal jelly).
  • Hydroxycaprylic acid (from animals).
  • Lactic acid (from lactose or other carbohydrates).
  • Malic acid (from fruits).
  • Tartaric acid (from grapes).

AHA’s are primarily used to exfoliate skin. Infact look closely at the ingredient list of your anti-ageing and exfoliating skincare products you’ll see either one or two alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) listed there. They exfoliate the skin by shedding off accumulated dead skin cells.

Accumulated dead skin cells combines with the body’s natural oils (sebum) and clog the pore, resulting in comedones which can trigger blackheads, whiteheads, wrinkles, age spots and acne.

AHA’s sheds off accumulated dead skin cells sitting on the top layer of the skin, thereby reveling a brighter skin underneath. They penetrate into the skin pores breaks down oil-build up, and stimulates collagen production which enhances skin brightness, restores it’s youthful glow, improves skin texture and reduce the occurrence of breakouts. Products with AHA’s are mostly beneficial to individuals with oily skin.

Beta-Hydroxy Acids.

Beta-Hydroxy acids has similar potentials to that of alpha-hydroxy acids.
However, there are multiple AHAs, whereas salicylic acid is the only BHA, which is derived from willow bark.

Salicylic acid can penetrate deep into the skin to do it’s job. Once it penetrates the skin, salicylic acid dissolves skin debris and nasties that clogs pores. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and also helps get rid of inflamed acne (pimples) blackheads and whiteheads.

This unclogging of pores also promotes exfoliation which reduces, wrinkles, fine lines and age spots. You can consider using Paula’s choice pore normalizing facial cleanser which contains 0.5% salicylic acid, to deeply cleanse the skin pores, and alleviate pore clogging impurites.

What Does Skin Lightening Mean?

Skin lightening is the skincare and cosmetic proceedures used in reduction of skin pigmentation.

This is by enhancing your skin tone, making it looks more lighter or paler but not opposite to your natural skin tone.

The major difference between skin brightening and lightening is, when you talk about skin brightening — it means toning your skin, giving it a slight radiance and glow.

But talking about skin lightening — it involves achieving a lighter complexion by inhibiting melanin production and enhancing your skin tone for more radiance.

What Ingredients Can Be Found In Skin Lightening Products?.

Bearberry extract.

Bearberry extract is derived from the leaves of a small arctic shrub that produces bright red berries: Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (the Common Bearberry). It called “bearberry” because they are favour food of bears.

Bearberry contains a high concentration of antioxidants and skin-lightening compounds. In particular, bearberry extract contains up to 17% arbutin, which is regarded as a safer and gentler alternative to hydroquinone (when it comes to fading hyperpigmentation).

Alpha Arbutin.

Alpha arbutin which is extracted from bear berries is a glucoside, stable and water soluble ingredient which is used in skin Lightening products because of its potentials in lightening the skin and getting rid of skin pigmentations by inhibiting the enzyme, tyrosinase, which is responsible for the production of melanin in the skin. Alpha arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone, but does not possess the same risks or side effects.

Beta Arbutin.

This form of arbutin is often referred to as just “arbutin” so if you don’t see the ingredient list specifying the “Alpha” component then you can assume it’s probably in the “beta” formulation. This formulation is cheaper to produce and manufacture and is not as effective as alpha arbutin, but still provides a skin lightening effect on the skin by inhibiting tyrosinase activity.

Kojic acid.

The name kojic acid is taken from the Japanese term “koji,” meaning “steamed rice.” It is widely used in cosmetic and skin care products as a whitening and brightening agent.

Kojic acid, often used as an ingredient in Asian diets, is a more recent discovery for the treatment of pigmentation problems and age spots. Discovered in 1989, kojic acid is now used extensively as a natural alternative to hydroquinone.

Kojic acid is derived from a fungus, and studies have shown that it is effective as a lightening agent, inhibiting production of melanin (brown pigment).

Kojic acid is a by-product in the fermentation process of malting rice for use in the manufacturing of sake, the Japanese rice wine.
There is convincing research, both in vitro (in a test tube) and in vivo (on a live subject), showing kojic acid to be effective for inhibiting melanin
production. You can see the best Kojic acid soaps in the market.


Hydroquinone is also a skin Lightening agent, (but synthetic) which inhibits the enzyme, tyrosinase, which is responsible for the production of melanin in the skin which is helpful in treating different hyperpigmentations. However, by synthetic we mean hydroquinone isn’t natural, as it’s been made in the laboratory by mixing the carcinogen benzene with either propene or carbolic acid (none of which are very nourishing for the skin).

What Does Skin Whitening Mean?

Skin whitening, (sometimes called skin bleaching) is a cosmetic proceedure, that aims to whiten or bleach dark areas of the skin.

Now for more clarification, when someone whitens his/her skin, this is a process by which the skin tone is being changed from its natural colour to a different colour entirely.

Example: A dark skin tone changed to white skin tone, further more it’s a means of lightening your skin opposite to what your skin colour or tone was naturally.

The difference between skin lightening and whitening is largely based on the degree/severity with which melanin production is reduced.

Skin whitening products works by totally reducing the concentration and production of melanin in the skin, which is responsible for production of skin pigments.

What Ingredients Can Whiten The Skin?.

Glutathione whitening injection.

Glutathione injection is a powerful antioxidant, which is injected into the vein by IV, asides its skincare benefits glutathione injection eliminates toxins from the blood, prevents “weak blood” (anemia)in kidney Patients undergoing hemodialysis Treatment.

It also prevents kidney problems, heart problems, treats Parkinson’s diseases, and improves blood flow, thereby decreasing blood clotting, promotes fertility and inhance strong immune system.

Glutathione injection is safe, it inhibits the production of Melanin in the body, reducing it’s production, thereby whitening the skin.


Gigawhite is a patented skin brightener that is very effective in treating dark spots and melasma.

It is extracted from seven organically grown Swiss alpine plants, which include the peppermint plant, the common mallow and primula (cowslip).

White Mulberry.

The white mulberry tree (Morus alba) is native to China and has been found to have many health benefits.

Health research studies says it prevents heart diseases, cholesterol and diabetes.

White mulberry extract is a natural inhibitor of the enzyme tyrosinase.

Tyrosinase enzyme triggers the production of melanin (brown pigment) in the skin, mulberry extract products works by inhibiting the production of Melanin and thereby promoting a whiter skin.

Possible Questions and Answers.

Q: What’s the difference between alpha arbutin and hydroquinone?.

A: To give a simple answer. Alpha arbutin and beta arbutin are all naturally extracted from bear berries. While hydroquinone is synthetically made in the lab.

Q: Is hydroquinone really safe for the skin?.

A: Although there hasn’t been any solid clinical evidence to hydroquinone being harmful to humans, however, possible side effects may occur, especially if you have sensitive skin. Which is important to know your skin type.

Side effects like:

  • Skin redness
  • Skin dryness
  • Burning and stinging.
  • Temporary skin itching.
  • Inflammatory reactions.
  • Black discolorations (especially if you’re an African-American).

Q: is alpha arbutin really safe for skin lightening?.

A: According to this study, alpha arbutin has proven to be a safe skin lightening ingredient, as it showed no inhibitory effect on HMV-II cell growth at a concentration below 1.0 mM.

Also according to this study, a research test was carried out on a mouse using both hydroquinone and alpha arbutin.

Results showed that arbutin had no effect on the differentiation of melanocytes, and only suppressed melanogenesis (melanin forming cells).

UP NEXT: Natural Skin Lightening Ingredients Explained.
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