Skin-bleaching or whitening creams are available for African-Americans and others who wish to lighten their complexions. The creams work by slowing the production of melanin, the pigment that determines the darkness of a person's skin. Some people also use skin-bleaching or whitening creams to minimize age spots and other discolorations.
Skin lighteners work by means of active ingredients that reduce the amount of melanin wherever they are applied. The primary lightening ingredient used in the United States is hydroquinone, Some skin-bleaching creams use steroids or retinoic acid instead, and others use natural ingredients, such as kojic acid or arbutin. Some skin-bleaching creams from other countries are banned in the United States because they contain mercury, which is a toxic substance under U.S. law.