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July 29 2014

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Lightening Up, The Natural Way

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This column features weekly tips and advice from a revolving cast of industry leaders, on hand to discuss your beauty dilemmas, from blemishes to Botox. To submit a question, e-mail celia_ellenberg@condenast.com.

As my summer tan continues to fade, I’m noticing more and more pigmentation marks that are sticking around. Is there a natural alternative to whitening products with hydraquinone that will help lighten the dark spots and even out my complexion?

Yes, there are numerous “natural” alternatives to hydroquinone, especially now that it is illegal to use it in Europe. Extracts of the following plants contain a variety of forms of arbutin, a natural and much safer derivative of hydroquinone: bearberry, mulberry, white mulberry, and paper mulberry. Other plant extracts having skin-whitening properties are monkey jack wood, which contains oxyresveratrol; pomegranate, which contains ellagic acid; turmeric, which contains tetrahydrocucumin and tetrahydrocucuminoids; and licorice, which contains glabridin. There’s also an Eastern medicine method for spot lightening that involves grinding Chinese hawthorn fruit, also known as shan zha, into a fine powder and mixing it with enough egg white to form a paste. Apply paste in a thin film on clean skin and keep on for one hour while massaging. Do this twice daily, morning and evening, over the course of 30 days. Keep in mind that whatever you do try, you will have to be patient. The results will come slowly.

A chemist, a molecular biologist, and ethnopharmacologist well-versed in the medicinal properties of plants, Dr. Saulius A. Alkaitis is a research scientist with a focus on holistic dermatology. Based in northern California, Dr. Alkaitis produces an eponymous line of dermaceuticals formulated with living ingredients and marketed as “raw health food” for the skin.

Photo: Getty Images

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