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April 19 2014

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A Word On Whitening Products

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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.

I have medium to dark-toned skin but am curious about whitening products—not to lighten but to brighten my complexion. Could they cause damage or will they just act to reduce discolorations and blotchiness?


Whitening products selectively weed out areas of hyperpigmentation so they are safe to use. They typically contain active ingredients like kojic acid, retinoic acid, or hydraquinone—which I do not believe is dangerous. Using whitening products that have these multiple ingredients can really even out your skin tone, so I’m definitely a fan. Avon has a very nice product along these lines called Luminosity Pro Brightening Serum. The only downside with most whitening products, though, is that you need to use them for a long period of time—three to six months, usually—to see improvement. There are a lot of good in-office treatments for pigmentation that work faster. I like using a 5 percent alpha-hydroxy and 4 percent hydraquinone, increasing the concentration of alpha-hydroxy every month. Fractional lasers and peels, like the VI Peel, are really helpful for acne scars as they exfoliate and make scars less visible. I also like using anti-inflammatory extracts, like the coffeeberry that’s found in Revale skincare, for redness and pigmentation. Niacin, licorice, and idebenone are also very effective.

New York-based Dr. Neil Sadick, MD, FAAD, FAACS, FACP, FACPh, is a clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College, the President of the Cosmetic Surgery Foundation, as well as the Global Medical Adviser for Christian Dior Beauty, specializing in dermatology, cosmetic surgery, internal medicine, and hair transplantation. His newly launched skincare collection, Park Avenue Prescription, will make its nationwide debut at Sephora in July.

Photo: Courtesy of Avon

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