The 411: Brightening vs. Whitening vs. Lightening

We currently have 3 products that “brighten” the skin and we get questions about what this means and how it is different from whitening, lightening, and bleaching. So, here’s a quick rundown:

The terms lightening, whitening and bleaching are often used interchangeably. Skin bleaching is a term that was more popular in the 80's than it is today, and is essentially the same as skin whitening. The difference between skin lightening and whitening is largely based on the degree/severity with which melanin production is reduced. Skin lightening is used when the method is more gradual and the effect less obvious while whitening is used to describe a more aggressive technique. Both techniques use tyrosinase inhibitors to block the skin’s production of melanin. Skin whitening uses stronger inhibitors such as hydroquinone and mercury to prevent melanin production.

Skin Brightening is an entirely different concept. Our skin is continuously creating new skin cells to replace older skin cells, and often, these dead skin cells remain on the skin’s surface and can cause it to appear dull. Exfoliation removes these dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, thereby revitalizing it and making it look more radiant and “brighter”. Brightening here is achieved with ingredients such as alpha and beta hydroxy acids, vitamins A, E and C that help the skin to naturally shed dead skin cells. Some brightening products may also contain natural extracts and antioxidants that have lightening properties e.g. licorice root extract to help gradually fade dark spots.

A brightened face is typically described as looking fresher and more vibrant while a lightened face is more likely described as looking shades lighter.

Regardless of whether a product is labeled lightening or brightening, it is very important to pay attention to its list of ingredients. This is a better indicator of what the product is likely to do for your skin. Ingredients like hydroquinone and ammoniated mercury commonly found in lightening products have been shown to harm the skin with prolonged use.

Here at Bolden, our approach to beauty is very holistic, and our goal is to preserve the beautiful skin we are born with. Check out our brightening products: Bolden Brightening Toner; Bolden Brightening SPF 30 Moisturizer; and Bolden Nighttime Glycolic Acid Serum.