Skin Lightening: 4 Ingredients To Spot

Individuals with skin of color or darker skin types are prone to hyperpigmentation or dark spots.  These dark spots may be brought about by sun exposure, trauma or wounds, hormones as what happens during pregnancy, intake of certain medications such as oral contraceptive pills, certain antibiotics such as tetracyclines, and improper or insufficient use of sunscreen.

Treating dark spots requires a combination of lifestyle changes such as avoiding the sun, wearing proper and sufficient sunscreen, and skin lightening agents.

The goal of skin lightening is not to make the complexion lighter but to even out the skin tone by making dark spots lighter. Hyperpigmentation occurs when your skin produces too much melanin — the pigment that gives our skin its color. An enzyme called tyrosinase is responsible for triggering the process of melanin production. Thus, most skin lightening ingredients are aimed at inhibiting this enzyme in order to reduce the overproduction of melanin.

Here are some skin lightening ingredients:
Obagi Nu-Derm ClearFx at hoodermatology.com


A molecule extracted from bearberry plants that prevents the formation of melanin.  Learn how to distinguish between alpha and beta forms as the L-arbutin is the most stable and effective form of the ingredient.  It’s gentle to use twice a day since its active component is released slowly.  And because it is less irritating than other skin-lightening agents, it’s also great for red acne scars.  Another advantage is that it can also be used for a longer period of time keeping your dark spots at bay.

Obagi Medical Products that contain arbutin: Obagi Nu-Derm ClearFx, Obagi Nu-Derm BlendFx, Obagi-C Fx C-Clarifying Serum, and Obagi-C Fx C-Therapy Night Cream

Vitamin C

Studies have shown that vitamin C can effectively block the tyrosinase enzyme that produces melanin pigment, and thus is an effective treatment for hyperpigmentation.  A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is one of the most beneficial skincare ingredients if used and formulated properly.  You should find a formulation that is stable like L-ascorbic acid, and does not oxidize easily because oxidized Vitamin C may stain the skin temporarily.  It’s hydrating at the same time offers sun protection (that’s why it is best applied in the morning). Vitamin C works best when combined with other ingredients such as retinoids.

Obagi Collections that include L-Ascorbic Acid: Professional-C and Obagi-C


Retinoids like retinol and tretinoin stimulate collagen production within the skin and accelerate its natural desquamation process. Desquamation is the process in which old skin cells on the surface are removed and replaced with new cells from deeper layers of the epidermis. These new cells do not contain excessive melanin, so when they migrate to the surface of your skin, you should notice that dark spots begin to fade away. Depending on your skin type and sensitivity, your dermatologist will suggest a milder retinol if you can’t tolerate the irritation and redness brought about by more aggressive types such as tretinoin.

SUZANOBAGIMD Retivance Skin Rejuvenating Complex contains Retinaldehyde.


Considered as the gold standard in skin lightening, hydroquinone works by reducing melanin production (melanin is the substance that gives the skin its color).  At 4% strength, it is considered a prescription product and you need to consult with a board-certified dermatologist so she can monitor your reactions with the product.  It lightens dark spots fast but may be associated with peeling, irritation, redness, and a mix of dark and white spots. We recommend that you only use this product when other lightening agents do not work and to limit it’s use for 3-6 months then alternate it with other skin lightening or brightening products.

Even out your skin tone under the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist. HOO Dermatology is home to the largest roster of board-certified dermatologists outside of a hospital in the Philippines. Our branches are open daily from 11:00AM to 8:00PM, by appointment. We look forward to seeing you at HOO Dermatology!