We live in an era where light and bright skin reigns – if there ever was a time when it wasn’t popular. Still, a decade ago, the principal promise from the cosmetic industry to gen X consumers was wrinkle-free skin. “Keep your skin forever young” doesn’t cut it anymore with millenials. Many of us would even gladly wear the signs of aging on our face as they come – if you only gave us a healthy-looking, clear, glowing complexion.
Achieving and maintaining radiant, spotless skin is a mandatory end goal of skincare today. Even with all the advanced science and tech, though, skin lightening isn’t the easiest process. You use soaps, creams, maybe even lasers, and take care to avoid the sun since you know it pulls a significant amount of money out of your pockets. It's a lot of effort.
The last thing you want to do is to pass all the steps to getting a lighter skin tone and then mess it all up with one simple mistake, right? You want permanent skin lightening.
So how do you achieve that? While a bunch of skin lightening products can promise immediate or even long term effects, not that many can assure you that these will be permanent. If you want to permanently maintain your skin lightening results, you're going to have to do it yourself.
And it's not too hard at all. The trick to prolong the effect of all those skin whitening treatments hides in a simple skincare staple: sunscreen.
Why Sunscreen is the Secret to Permanent Skin Lightening
An ounce of prevention is truly worth more than a pound of cure. The biggest culprit for pesky hyperpigmentation and dark spots is prolonged sun exposure. While the effects of sun exposure are much harder to reverse, it’s easy enough to slather on sunscreen and protect yourself from the damage in the first place!
Sun protection is extra important now, more than ever before. Global warming has caused the sun rays that penetrate the ozone to be much harsher. At the same time, your advanced skincare routine might also put you at additional risk.
These days it’s not enough to have a dependable roster of generic skincare products. Each product must have active ingredients and all sorts of special effects to make sure it deserves a place in your vanity. While the discovery of new active ingredients is great in terms of widening product choices, consumers have to be wary about the side effects as well.
One of the most common side effects is increased sun sensitivity. It is sometimes counterintuitive how a bevy of skincare products that promise skin whitening actually makes you extra sensitive to the sun, which can cause darkening.
Some skincare ingredients to look out for that cause sun sensitivity are Alpha and Beta Hydroxy acids which are present in a bevy of cleansers and serums as a chemical exfoliant, Accutane and Benzoyle peroxide, both popular acne treatments, and almost all forms of topical Vitamin A such as Retinol, Tretinoin, and Retinyl Palmitate.
If you’re into natural and organic skincare, don’t think that you’re safe either. Using citrus fruit extracts or oils for skin lightening such as orange, lemon and bergamot can also increase your skin’s sun sensitivity. Other seemingly innocuous ingredients such as almond extract, witch hazel, peppermint, and even papaya can also cause the same effects.
I’m not telling you to toss out hundreds of dollars worth of products because they make you more sun-sensitive, but only that you have to be extra cautious when it comes to sun exposure.
The fact that you use products that contain the active ingredients mentioned above already makes your skin more susceptible to sun damage. It’s extra important therefore that you include a strong sunscreen in your daily routine.
And not only! For perfect results, combine an effective whitening sunscreen with extra steps to make sure Check out here how to stay protected from the sun beyond a good sunscreen.
How Sunscreen Keeps Your Skin Flawless
What exactly does sunscreen protect you from? Simply put, our skin is constantly under attack from the sun’s rays, namely UVB and UVA. Both enemies have different effects, so let's break them down below.
UVB radiation is responsible for the immediate effects on the skin caused by sun exposure. Red swollen sunburns, painful peeling, you can blame UVB for all that. This is the sun your parents would warn you about when they told you not to stay in the sun from 10am to 4pm, or that the B in UVB might as well stand for burning.
It’s the type of sun that feels extra irritable on summer days or in more tropical places with higher elevation. It’s high in energy, and it gets only partially blocked by clouds. The thinning state of the ozone layer means that more and more UVB rays will penetrate our atmosphere, so make sure you are well protected even on overcast days.
In comparison, UVA radiation seems like the tamer kind, but don’t be fooled. While UVA does not cause the same kind of painful effects immediately, it actually seeps deeper into your skin. In fact, 95% of UV radiation that humans are exposed to are UVA rays, and we are hardly aware of it.
This type of radiation penetrates glass windows and reflective surfaces, and is present all day, as long as the sun is up. It causes irreversible, long term damage such as premature aging and skin cancer.
Another undesired effect is hyperpigmentation, of course. The skin cells react to sun exposure by producing more melanin because of daily exposure. We must be extra vigilant of UVA rays since we might not have reasons to stay alarmed enough and guard ourselves from exposure.
Sunscreen is the best way to protect yourself from both types of radiation.
What are Some Common Sunscreen Myths
For how important sun protection is not only to the look of your skin, but to its overall health, it’s unlucky there’re so many myths about it. Luckily, more and more people understand that sunscreen isn’t just for the beach, sadly, in part thanks to the high prevalence of skin cancer in recent years.
Myth: You don’t need sunscreen if you’re using a day cream with SPF.
This is why I always say that daily moisturizers or foundations with SPF do more harm than they do good. It’s great to have that extra protection in your regular cosmetic products, especially during the summer months. It’s definitely not enough though.
First of all, because most often they don’t even have such a high SPF, usually not higher than 30. Even if it’s higher, have you made sure that it’s broad-spectrum? The Sun Protection Factor - SPF measures the filtering against UVB radiation. To filter the damaging UVA rays you need the “broad-spectrum protection” label.
The worst part though is that sun protection in regular cosmetic products lasts short. You feel like you’re protected the whole day, but in reality it was gone several hours after application.
Always apply sunscreen at the end of your daily morning skincare routine.
Myth: Sunscreens are more likely to cause cancer than sun damage.
Absolutely not the case. This came up as part of the natural skincare movement and when we realized that most sunscreens sport a long list of ingredients we can’t read.
Of course, as with everything else, you should check the product ingredient list for any unnecessary and harmful chemicals. A good alternative to chemical sunscreens are mechanic sun protective agents such as zinc oxide. Instead of absorbing the radiation, these reflect it away from the skin.
Regulators in every country ensure the safety of chemicals used in sunscreens. What’s not regulated is homemade sunscreens. Hundreds of recipes advice you to whisk together oils or ingredients not proven to have an SPF. This is far more dangerous and cancerogene than regular sunscreen.
Myth: I don’t need sunscreen if I’m going out for an hour only
In most places of the plant today, the sun is strong enough to cause damage to your skin in about 15 minutes even on a nice, winter day. Wearing sunscreen shouldn’t be reserved for during beachtime only.
Hiking, sightseeing, driving, shopping in town… All these are examples of activities during which we get full exposure to the dangerous sun rays equally as when we’re at the beach.
The UV index is a useful measure of the risk of sun exposure in a given moment. If you check the UV index for your city you’ll see that it doesn’t matter much if it’s winter or summer. The sun is still harmful and we should keep our skin protected.
What to Look for in the Best Sunscreens
As a general guideline, look for a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. However, it is always a safe bet to go for the higher SPF.
While SPF 15 protects you from as much as 96% of the sun’s harmful rays, the tricky part comes with application. Most people just apply too little sunscreen and do not reapply often enough to get complete protection. With a higher SPF, you can be properly protected even if you slathered on a thinner coat.
To make sure your sunscreen is protecting you from both UVA and UVB rays. Here are some ingredients you should watch out for. Some of the usual friends protecting against UVA are Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Titanium Oxide or Zinc Oxide. When it comes to UVB protection, look for Octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, and octocrylene.
With more people waking up to the harmful effects of the sun, the skincare industry is responding by coming out with continuously improved formulas and innovations to make sunscreens more user-friendly and with additional benefits.
At some point, some brainiac in a cosmetics lab figured: if we can put SPF ingredients in day creams, why can’t we bring day creams into the sunscreen? And bam - an interesting innovation was born. The development of whitening sunscreens started, which provide both protection and correction.
Aside from the typical sunscreen ingredients, whitening sunscreens contain other compounds that work to slow down the body’s production of skin-darkening melanin, the main pigment of skin. As production of melanin slows down, you will notice that the skin will look lighter.
The main thing that whitening sunscreen offers is convenience. If you’re the type to regularly cover a layer of whitening cream with a rich sunscreen coat, a whitening sunscreen offers to merge both these steps for convenience.
Here’s another useful innovation. Antioxidants provide an additional barrier of protection against the sun and other outdoor pollutants. They keep free radicals from sticking to your skin and causing irritation and inflammation that might lead to skin darkening.
Studies show that certain sunscreen ingredients such as Avobenzone and Octinoxate are predisposed to produce a certain amount of free radicals during the process of blocking UV rays, so the antioxidants present in these sunscreens mitigate that effect.
A recent study from the American Association of Dermatology concluded that “adding antioxidants to sunscreen is an innovative approach that could represent the next generation of sunscreens, which would not only filter UV radiation but also offer other tangible skin health benefits.” The addition of antioxidants such as Vitamin C or E also has the added benefit of reducing skin inflammations arising from sun exposure.
In terms of sunscreen formulation, antioxidants provide additional benefits by making sunscreen more stable so it lasts longer on the skin and extends the protection that it gives to the skin, since most of us always forget to reapply sunscreen during the day, this is great news.
With all the new innovations in the field of sun care, now is definitely the best time to pick a daily sunscreen for you, and to commit to using it daily.
Here are our top picks!
Best Products to Keep Skin Light and Flawless Permanently
AMAIRA NATURAL LIGHTENING SERUM WITH MULBERRY AND ORCHID EXTRACT
This advanced, scientifically-proven formula combines the super powers of several plant extracts to produce a real game-changer on the lightening cream market. We’ve been impressed with both the visible skin lightening it produced and how they turned out long-lasting!
After several weeks of consistent use according to the usage instructions, the serum visibly faded dark spots on the face. We also tested it in the armpit area and it worked like no other product before. What’s most impressive though, is that even now, months after the last application, the tone hasn’t gotten back to the darker shade.
The best part though, this serum works wonders on skin texture in general. You go to it for its lightening properties and hope it won’t cause too much damage to your skin before it’s shown the effect. You are in for a surprise! This may as well be one of our favorite face creams. It makes the skin soft and supple and brings out a natural glow!
Needless to say, the Amaira Lightening Serum is made without any type of harsh chemicals. It’s Hydroquinone-free and paraben-free. It’s super gentle on the skin and leaves you with a nice feel. It agreed well with my problematic, sensitive skin.
The serum addresses hyperpigmentation by working into the deeper layers of the skin to inhibit the secretion of tyrosinase - the enzyme responsible for the production of the skin pigment. Its great success though comes from the winning plant-based formula.
First off, it contains kojic acid for all its aforementioned benefits. But that’s not even the beginning of it. In addition, it has mulberry leaf and root bark extracts, famed for their anti-aging properties. Full of antioxidants, they effectively fight free radicals and restore the fibrillin in the skin, visibly reducing fine lines and preventing wrinkles.
That’s not all! The product also packs a very special Asian orchid extract, which prevents skin damage. The rich content of different minerals and natural moisturizing agents, results in a visible radiance and glow of your skin. It even has extract from a famous Chinese medicine skin moisturizing staple, the Dendrobium Phalaenopsis Flower!
Finally, it also contains glycolic acid, which helps to minimize ingrown hairs when the serum is used in sensitive skin areas that often get waxed, such as the genital areas.
To sum it all up, this well-picked, mind-blowing plant combination doesn’t just sound good in theory. It worked in practice and we highly recommend you to try it.
SHISEIDO ANESSA WHITENING SUNSCREEN
This isn't your average sunscreen - not only does it offer a whopping SPF of 50 and Pa+++ (which means that it protects you against UVA rays up to 8 times more than if you go out without protection), but it also whitens at the same time.
That means you get all the prerequisite ingredients to protect against UVA and UVB rays plus M-Tranexamic acid, a proven ingredient for skin lightening. Oh, and did we mention it's also packing skin boosting ingredients like hyaluronic acid and collagen?
It's also very lightweight, easily absorbed and wonderfully comfortable on your skin. It also has the added benefit of being sweat resistant so this means you don't have to reapply too often.
It also has a noticeable effect on lightening hyperpigmentation caused by acne scars, so if you're a former acne sufferer looking for a multi-tasking sunscreen - this one is a winner. Want more whitening sunscreens?
OBAGI SUN SHIELD SUNSCREEN FOR ACNE
Rejoice, acne sufferers! Here's a good, strong sunscreen that won't break you out.
Obagi's sunscreen goes on matte (read: absolutely no shine) and provides SPF 50, PA+++ protection without the pore-clogging, oily feeling that most sunscreens have.
It's formulated for acne prone skin so you can rest assured that not only will you not break out - but it'll leave your skin looking and feeling fresher and cleaner.
ELTA MD SPORT SUNSCREEN
Want to keep your skin lightening progress while engaging in water sports? You need a strong sunscreen that won't wash off no matter how sweaty and wet you get!
Enter Elta MD's Sport Sunscreen. This stuff is like a second skin. It's SPF 50, offers broad-spectrum protection and it holds up very well on the beach or in the water.
It is a mineral sunscreen so it'll go on with a bit of a whitish cast but you can't beat it for all around, sweat-resistant protection. Plus, it's all-natural so if you're trying to avoid chemicals in your skincare - this one's a winner! Read user reviews!