Skin lightening is used to brighten the look of dark spots on the skin. People with age spots, melasma, freckles, acne marks, or other darkened areas may want to lighten those areas so that their skin tone is more even.
There are many different methods of lightening the skin. Most involve using lotions to bleach or exfoliate the skin, but lasers or cryosurgery (freezing skin cells, causing the skin to regenerate itself) are also an option.
Skin Lightening Procedure
Before any skin lightening procedure, an individual will meet with a specialist to discuss the methods involved. Hydroquinone, the only bleaching agent recognized by the FDA, is the most popular topical treatment. It prevents the production of melanin, which is the substance that makes the skin darken.
Exfoliants and chemical peels like alpha hydroxy acids or vitamin C can also inhibit melanin production and encourage skin cell regeneration. These treatments are applied to the skin as recommended by a doctor.
Laser treatments may also be used to lighten the skin. Certain types of lasers are aimed at the skin to destroy melanin or resurface the skin. Laser skin treatments usually need to be repeated at intervals of a few months to achieve the desired results.
Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen applied to the skin, which destroys the cells and causes the skin to renew itself. This pushes the extra melanin to the surface of the skin, where it then peels off within a few days.
All of these procedures are outpatient procedures that can be done in a doctor’s office or, for some procedures, in a spa setting. There is little to no recovery time for these procedures.
Redness or irritation may occur with any skin lightening procedure. These side effects are not usually serious, however, and will improve within a few days.
Cost of Skin Lightening Treatments
The cost of topical skin lightening products can range anywhere from under $10 to a few hundred dollars. Laser treatments and cryosurgery can range from closer to $300 to $5000 per treatment.