Categorized | Skin Care

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Skin Whitening For African Americans

Skin whitening for African-Americans is becoming more popular every year. If you have African-American heritage, what are your options when it comes to obtaining a lighter tone of skin and is there anything specific to your skin type that you need to be aware of? In this article, I will explore these important factors and more.

The practice of skin whitening among African-Americans has risen markedly in recent years and in line with the suspected use of skin whitening products or services by celebrities such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Meagen Good, Halle Berry, Thandie Newton, Lil Kim and Jennifer Freeman to name just a few! Some also desire a lighter look due to uneven skin tone – for example due to the skin condition vitiligo or dark patches on the underarms or elbows.

So if you need or desire your skin to be lightened, what options are open to someone with your skin type?


This is a topical drug (applied to the skin) that has a depigmentation effect. It works by decreasing the excretion of melanin from the melanin producing cells in your skin. As it causes destruction of these cells, the effects are permanent. The effect is similar to the white patches on people with the skin condition, vitiligo, so this drug has long been used for those with widespread patches, in order to give a more even appearance to their skin.

This drug commonly comes in the form of a cream but also as a soap. Although in theory a person without vitiligo could use it to obtain a paler complexion, it is not recommended because the skin becomes unprotected from the sun due to the absence of melanin and the price of your new cosmetic appearance would be a radically increased risk of skin cancer.


Hydroquinone is a drug that has long been used to white the skin. It is reported that 19 tubes of hydroquinone cream were found after Michael Jackson’s death which he was using presumably as a treatment for his skin condition, vitiligo.

Whilst it definitely works it is also the subject of much controversy. Studies have shown that it may cause cancer and it has been banned in the European Union. It is still available in the United States, over the counter, in a cream of concentration up to 2%.

Natural Lighteners

The aim of all skin lighteners is to inhibit melanin production in the skin (melanin is the source of the dark colour). Some possible natural lighteners that work in this way include kojic acid, arbutin, bearberry and mulberry.

Natural lighteners are not usually as effective as drugs on a dose for dose basis but they are much safer. Over a longer period, similar results may be obtained.

Specific Considerations For African-American Skin

African-Americans can use the same products as those with different skin types with generally no differences at all. The major consideration you should make is to not over do it as unevenly used products can lead to patches or streaks that appear more prominent on darker African-American skin compared to other skin types.

Use minimal strength products and observe the effects on your skin. If you need to increase the dose then do so in a very gradual manner.

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