Special Report: Skin Whiteners
Marissa Mongiello of Sephora says "we see women who were once sun worshippers who've come in and they're areas of concern now."
And now those women who once wanted a bronzed look are "whitening" or "lightening" their skin. "Everybody notices irregularities of pigment and when things aren't even they want to even them out," says Doctor Alan Rockoff of skinhealth Centers in Brookline. He treats those patients. "There are different chemicals that are used to help lighten the skin, probably the most commonly used one and the most effective one is hydroquinone," he says.
Hydroquinone can lighten dark patches like these that can develop from sun exposure, pregnancy or taking birth control pills. Most dermatologist products contain three or four percent hydroquinone. But now, dozens of over over-the-counter products are available, promising to lighten those dark areas. They also have that chemical in them, but in much smaller doses. "They inhibit melanin production. These products contain two percent hydroquinone," says Mongiello.
Sephora has seen a huge increase in sales of skin lighteners recently. "We have so many different brands that carry skin lighteners, we have brightening cleansers, brightening treatments," says Mongiello.
Nadine Alexandria was treated at skinhealth Centers for her problem. She used a cream that contained 4 percent hydroquinone to even out her skin tone. She says, "the biggest issue I came in with was pigmentation, which is sun damage, primarily across my forehead."
Doctor Rockoff says the over the counter products aren't harmful, but he warns that many people like Nadine will need something more potent to see the best results. "If they reach the point where they see they're not getting enough effect that would be the time to move to a prescription product or procedure."
Doctor Rockoff says that it's important to give the products plenty of time to work. He also says that for best results, you need to use sunscreen when you're outdoors, because exposure to sunlight can make the problem worse.
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