Many people lighten their skin by using skin-lightening products containing chemicals, which reduce pigment in the skin. These products are available over the counter, but stronger doses may be prescribed by a doctor. Skin can also be lightened with natural items such as lemon juice, yogurt, aloe vera and turmeric.
Also known as fade, bleaching cream, skin brighteners and lightening products get rid or reduce the appearance of age spots, freckles, acne scars and other discolored areas. Some people use lightening products on their entire body to lighten a naturally dark complexion.
Most over-the-counter chemical-based lightening products contain about 2 percent of the active ingredient hydroquinone. Similar prescription strength lighteners are 4 to 6 percent hydroquinone. Some skin whiteners use steroids and retinoic acid as active ingredients. Plant-based arbutin and kojic acid, which comes from fungus, are often used in natural skin whitening products.
Mercury is the active ingredient in some bleaching creams produced outside of the United States. Because mercury is toxic and linked to mercury poisoning, psychiatric issues and neurological and kidney problems, bleaching creams that include mercury are banned in the United States. Prolonged use of skin whitening agents can lead to skin irritation, infections and cancer.