Some of the methods used to whiten skin include skin-bleaching creams and whitening soaps, according to Columbia University's Voices in Bioethics. The products, which are also called whiteners, often use mercury to lighten skin pigmentation, states WebMD.
Another method of skin whitening is steroid cream, asserts The New York Times. One bleaching cream, Hyprogel, is made with clobetasol propionate, a corticosteroid. Many skin-lightening creams use prescription-strength steroids to affect pigmentation. These topical creams are usually intended for nonfacial topical application.
Hydroquinone is one of the most common ways to whiten skin, according to Self magazine. The ingredient forces the body to slow the production of melanin. With lower levels of melanin, the skin automatically becomes lighter. Hydroquinone is usually prescribed by doctors to treat melasma and splotchy pigmentation. It is considered safe by the Food and Drug Administration, as of November 2015, but is under investigation as a potential carcinogen.
One of the most dangerous options for lighter skin is skin-whitening injections, claims the FDA. The injections often use glutathione, a drug that is not approved for skin lightening in the United States. Many injection products come from international sources and may contain human placenta. Although the injections are available at spas, the FDA does not recommend them.