Which skin-lightening products are safe to use?

Jeanine B. Downie, MD
Dermatology
The skin lightening products that are safe to use include an ingredient called hydroquinone, and are prescribed by your dermatologist. In this video, dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD, discusses the various products she prescribes to her patients. 
Arthur W. Perry, MD
Plastic Surgery
Safe pigment reducers are vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin B3 (niacin). Other herbs like emblica and licorice, and fruit acids like glycolic acid, also work.

Beware, however, because the most common skin lightener, hydroquinone, is not uniformly safe. It's been banned in Europe and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed to ban it in the US. Hydroquinone may cause cancer and it causes rashes and can even darken the skin. And steer clear of any skin lightener that contains steroids. Although illegal without a prescription, some skin lighteners contain steroids so potent that they can suppress your immune system.

The worst of all the skin lighteners? They're the ones that contain mercury. This is a dangerous metal that can destroy your kidneys and your nervous system. But you can easily find these rogue products, even in the US. Why would any company knowingly use dangerous ingredients like mercury? Mercury salts are much cheaper than the good vitamins and herbs that work just as well.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.