by Team Puristry January 31, 2019

What’s the difference between these two skin care treatments?

If you’re up to date on your skin care controversies, you’ll know that ‘skin whitening’ products have come under scrutiny in the past few years. The term (and practice) has been associated with a number of unsafe facial practices, suspicious chemicals, and controversial beauty politics. And it’s true that there are a number of red flags to look out for when a label promises to ‘‘whiten” - but what about skin ‘brightening’ formulas?


There’s a significant difference between the two treatment options, and ultimately, it’s important to distinguish between them in order to make safe and informed purchases. While both ‘brightening’ and ‘whitening’ products are aimed towards people who want more radiant and even toned skin with less noticeable hyperpigmentation, they have vastly different chemical compositions.

Oil-with-other-Bottles Skin Brightening - What Does It Entail?

‘Brightening’ products target areas of discoloration; this can include post-acne marks, sun-spots, hyperpigmentation related to age, and melanin concentrations in specific areas of the skin. The goal of a brightening product is to increase radiance, restore vibrancy, and even out pigmentation — that is, to bring your skin back to its original complexion, before it was scarred, marked, or otherwise discolored by sun, acne, or whatever else you’re battling.

This process can be achieved through a number of natural ingredients which boost brightness, lighten discoloration, and increase the efficiency with which your skin produces new skin cells (revealing fresh even-toned skin beneath). Products designed to brighten will target specific areas of your dermis, and rely on ingredients like kojic acid, vitamin C, plant-based retinol, and alpha hydroxy acids.

So how does skin brightening work? Our skin is constantly renewing itself through production of new skin cells, connective tissue, and collagen — replacing older skin with healthy and living cells. However, our bodies aren't always so efficient when it comes to sloughing away old skin cells, meaning that sometimes they can sit at the surface of our dermis, causing dullness, patchiness or discoloration. Brightening ingredients effectively exfoliate and slough away these old skin cells, revitalizing the skin’s surface so it appears brighter, smoother, and more mono-tone.

So, What About Skin Whitening?

‘Whitening’ products, on the other hand, aren’t about targeting specific areas of discoloration - but rather your entire face. They’re designed to lift the shade of your entire complexion, by pumping the brakes on melanin production, and bleaching existing melanin to a lighter tone. If ‘brightening’ products are about bringing your skin back to its original healthy state (complexion tone and texture), ‘whitening’ products are more about making your face several shades lighter.

The practice of skin whitening has a number of health problems associated with it, and points to problematic beauty standards that valorize lighter skin tones. Whitening products typically contain ingredients like mercury and hydroquinone — chemicals whose prolonged use are linked to poisoning, skin and kidney damage, and liver malfunction. Over time, skin whitening creams can also result in thinning of skin (so increased rate of chemical absorption), increased risk of skin cancer, and (ironically) can actually cause permanent skin discoloration in areas that have been damaged.

Several beauty campaigns have worked against the sale of skin whitening products, which pose health risks to women internationally, and are often sold with misleading packaging or mislabeled ingredient lists. The major takeaway here? Skin whitening is dangerous, and perpetuates harmful messaging around lighter skin being perceived as more beautiful.

Black-Currants Healthier Options for Boosting Skin’s Radiance

Steering clear of skin whitening products doesn’t mean that you can’t seek out ethical, plant-based brightening products in order to deal with pesky hyperpigmentation (which affects women of all skin colors and types). Lightening and brightening can be done safely with natural ingredients and conscious application. We’ve already mentioned kojic acid, vitamin C, plant-based retinol, and alpha hydroxy acids — all ingredients which will speed up the rate of skin cell exfoliation, and promote healthy and dense skin tissue.

For at-home brightening ingredients, citrus juices and peels are vitamin C packed go-tos for skin brightening with their high vitamin C content (which also plays an essential role in supporting collagen fiber). Licorice root is another plant-based skin brightener, which you can get at any market that sells fresh herbs. Effective at treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, licorice root has been shown to inhibit the melanin-producing enzyme tyrosinase by as much as 50%, without damaging skin cells along the way.

One of our fave skin brightening and lightening go-tos is blackcurrant oil, an ultra absorbable remedy for dry skin that’s packed with omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Applied topically, it can seriously curb hyperpigmentation through encouraging healthy skin cell turnover and a stable lipid barrier, and its antiinflammatory properties means that it can take down the severity of existing discoloration. Plus it’s an important oil when it comes to maintaining the elasticity of skin (thanks to its richness in gamma-linolenic acid). You can find this brightening oil featured in the formula of Puristry’s Restorative Facial Oil: an ultra nourishing treatment that features a synergistic blend of cold pressed oils to encourage elasticity, dense skin, and healthy H2O and lipid levels. It’s a great multi-functional facial oil that you can use daily, to reduce dark marks associated with both acne and aging (so it’s suitable for both younger and more mature skin types).

PRO TIP: Apply your skin brightening ingredients at night for more effective results, as they will typically leave you vulnerable to UV exposure. Follow with a plant-based moisturizer to lock in nutrients and reduce evaporation.

Keep up with us here for more ingredient guides!

Team Puristry
Team Puristry

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