The Difference Between Skin Whitening, Lightening and Brightening

Skin Whitening

Skin Whitening vs Lightening vs Brightening

Do you have dull, lackluster skin? Or do you have annoying dark spots? Are you looking for solutions to make your skin smoother, flawless, and brighter? You may be confused on which skin brightening products you should get due to the related terms you may have used. The question is: how is skin brightening different from skin lightening, or how is it different from skin whitening?

What is Skin Brightening?

Skin brightening is changing dull, drained, and sluggish-looking skin into fresh, glowing skin. Exfoliation is the magic trick to skin brightening.

When you’re in your teens, your skin cells can experience turnover every 28 days. This is a huge reason why youngsters have that natural, radiant glow. As you get older, this process of cell renewal gets sluggish. By the time you hit your mid-30s, your skin cell turnover levels will slow down to every 40 days.

Exfoliation simply speeds up the process of natural skin cell renewal. By regularly sloughing off the build-up of dead skin cells, you quickly remove the dirt that’s hiding the fresh, radiant skin cells underneath. This will result to brighter, even skin with a natural glow.

This is why the best skin brightening products are stocked with exfoliates. These slough off dead skin cells and stimulate the production of new skin cells.  These are the ingredients you should look for in a skin brightening product:

Manual Exfoliants

These are the “scrubs”, composed of tiny little exfoliating particles that we rub onto the skin to slough off the outer layer of dead skin. Just keep in mind that when it comes to exfoliating your facial skin, you should skip using plastic microbeads.  Go for gentle, fine exfoliating particles made from nature like rice bran powder, Manuka honey, or ground oatmeal.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)

They are chemical exfoliants that are able to enter more deeply into the skin. They work better than manual exfoliants to give a gentle yet very thorough exfoliation.

AHAs like lactic acid and mandelic acid suits for sensitive skin types.

Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)

They go even deeper into the skin than what AHAs so. They can cut through the oil that’s clogging pores. BHAs are great for oily and acne-prone skin types, though they can be a bit harsher to use than AHAs.

Fruit Enzymes

You can get a very gentle chemical exfoliation with all natural fruit enzymes. Certain fruits like papaya, pineapple, pumpkin and even figs contain enzymes. These enzymes gently remove dead skin without irritation.


Retinoids contains Vitamin A that can increase cell turnover. The spur of new skin cells is not only good for skin brightening. It also boosts collagen and elastin production and helps the skin to stay hydrated.  These elements help pores stay clear and free of blemishes and acne.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an essential factor when you are looking for a skin brightening product. It contains antioxidants that protect the skin from the dulling effects of environmental pollutants and UV radiation. The levels of vitamin C in the skin naturally decline with age. Adding a skin care product with Vitamin C is a good idea for skin brightening and lightening.


What is Skin Lightening?

A huge difference between skin brightening and skin lightening is that everyone wants skin brightening.  Skin lightening can get rid of hyperpigmentation like acne spots, age spots and sun damage. This is one of skin lightening assurances.

Skin lightening also involves the following characteristics:

  1. Even skin tone by getting rid of dark spots caused by sun damage. Other things to remove are acne scars, age spots and skin conditions like melasma.
  2. Diminishing out a tan or restoring the skin back to its pre-sun or light-exposed skin color
  3. Lightening your skin to its natural skin color. To get an idea of what yours is, look at the inner part of your upper arm for your natural color without ultraviolet light


Best Melanin Inhibitors

Here’s the list of the best melanin inhibitors to look for in skin lightening products:



Arbutin inhibits tryosinase activity. It also provides some skin lightening benefits without leading to side effects and risks which are observed in hydroquinone use.  Here is one highly-recommended product that contains arbutin: LumiEssence Organic Advanced Skin Brightening / Whitening Repair Treatment Spot Corrector, with Kojic Acid, Arbutin & Vitamin C. Lumi*Essence Organic Brightening treatment visibly corrects freckles and dark spots caused by excessive and cumulative sun exposure and helps to even out skin tone overtime.

LumiEssence Organic Advanced Skin Brightening / Whitening Repair Treatment Spot Corrector, with Kojic Acid, Arbutin & Vitamin C, 2oz. For uneven sun damaged skin, brown spots.

Azelaic Acid

This reduces melanin production by selectively aiming abnormal pigment-producing cells. It is a great melanin inhibitor to remove unnatural hyperpigmentation like melasma or acne spots.  One product that we highly recommend is the The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%. Its a multifunctional brightening formula that visibly targets uneven tone, dulness and textural irregularities.

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid


Kojic Acid

Kojic acid works by inhibiting the conversion of tyrosinase to melanin. It interferes with the uptake of oxygen required for enzymatic browning.  An effective product that contains kojic acid is the Kojie San Orange Whitening Soap. It evens out skin tone and removes dark spots.

Kojie San Orange Whitening Soap, 3 x 65 g


Licorice Root

Licorice root is perfect for those with sensitive skin. It contains two compounds – glabradin and liquirtin – that act as tyrosinase inhibitors. These disrupt melanin synthesis to lighten skin with little to no irritation.  One of the licorice products that we recommend is the Majestic Pure Skin Whitening & Skin Brightening Serum for Even Complexion. This potent licorice extract corrects dark spots and age spots.

Majestic Pure Skin Whitening & Skin Brightening Serum for Even Complexion, 1 fl. oz. - Potent Licorice Root Extract Helps Reduce the Appearance of Age Spots and Dark Spots and Promotes Skin Lightening


Mulberry Extract

This product is a new item for skin lightening world but it’s getting more popular. Various species of the mulberry plant effectively inhibit melanin production. It’s also gentle and non-irritating. This is why its ideal to use in delicate skin types.  One good product that contains mullberry extract is the Meladerm 1.7 oz Skin Lightening / Whitening Cream. Meladerm is used to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation such as melasma, age spots, acne marks and uneven skin tone on the body or face. 

Meladerm 1.7 oz Skin Lightening / Whitening Cream for Hyperpigmentation, Dark Spots, Scars, Discolorations, Uneven Skin Tone

And, of course, there are ingredients like Vitamin C that both brighten and lighten the skin. It’s not just Vitamin C, either – there is some overlap between ingredients for skin brightening and lightening. This is a really good thing since these various ingredients work synergistically together.


What is Skin Whitening?

‘Skin whitening’ is used in several different ways:

As marketing jargon.

In Asian countries where whiter skin is prized as a beauty ideal, many skin brightening and lightening products simply get labelled as ‘skin whitening’ products. This is to appeal to consumers. If you check the ingredients, you’ll find that the definite ‘skin whitening’ product is not some novel formulation.  Instead it is a mixture of brightening exfoliants along with melanin blocking skin lighteners.

As a more intense lightening process.

‘Skin whitening’ often refers to a goal to go beyond brightening and lightening your skin.  It is actually intense skin whitening. It includes a more potent combination of melanin blockers to whiten the skin. The intention goes beyond simply to lighten the skin several shades whiter.

As an actual bleaching agent.

Melanin-blocking ingredients can lighten skin, but there are also stronger skin bleaching agents that may strip the skin of its natural pigments. This produces dramatic skin whitening. Mequinol, for example, is a derivative of hydroquinone. This substance kills the melanocytes in your epidermis. It also makes the skin lookextremely pale. They are capable of whitening the skin to a lighter shade than the color that you were born with.

Unlike skin brightening and skin lightening products, skin whitening products may contain strong bleaching agents, so please read carefully the labels when exploring these whitening products.


Summary of Terms

  • Skin Brightening is about increasing radiance and glow and restoring vibrancy to the skin.
  • Skin Lightening has to do with decreasing pigmentation, getting rid of discoloration and evening out skin tone.
  • Skin Whitening can either be a combination of brightening and lightening.  Or it may involve stronger bleaching of the skin to produce an intense whitening effect that is several shades lighter than your natural skin tone.


Get All The Benefits in One!

Get brighter, lighter healthier, more glowing skin with Revitol Skin Brightening Cream! You can have skin you’ll be proud of – skin that looks healthy, bright, light and young with Revitol Skin Brightener! Not everyone is born with beautiful skin. And not everyone who’s born with beautiful skin can keep it. Harsh ultraviolet light, oxidizing free radicals and the aging process all cause skin discoloration and fading. But now there’s a way for your skin to look its best. Maybe better than you ever imagined!

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