Products to lighten skin have limited effects: physician

Skin color is mainly determined by genetics and applying skin lightening or whitening products would only help to recover a person’s original skin tone, so people should not overestimate their effects, a dermatologist said yesterday.

As a large number of women in Taiwan want to have a lighter skin tone, many products have been produced claiming to have skin lightening effects, Taipei Chang Gung Memorial Hospital dermatologist Huang Yu-huei (黃毓惠) said, adding: “It is impossible for people with dark skin to turn into ‘snow white’ by using these products.”

She said the ingredients used in most skin lightening products can only reduce melanin production and concentration in skin, but cannot make skin lighter than its original color.

Products with more or higher concentrations of whitening agents might not achieve better results, because skin has a limit to how much it can absorb and products with higher concentrations cannot be effectively absorbed, irritating or damaging skin, which can cause redness, itching or tingling sensations, Huang said.

“For facial creams, an amount about the size of a soybean applied twice a day would be enough,” she said, adding that skin lightening facial cleansers do not provide better or faster whitening when used several times a day, because they are washed off, and frequent washing of the face could even cause skin to become too dry.

Applying a skin lightening facial mask immediately after suffering a sunburn could also irritate injured skin, Huang said, adding that people with sensitive skin might even suffer from itchiness or swelling.

Food and Drug Administration Division of Medical Devices and Cosmetics section chief Hung Kuo-teng (洪國登) said the Ministry of Health and Welfare has only approved 13 types of skin lightening ingredients, most of which only deter melanin production and reduce the concentration of melanin already in the skin.

Hung advised consumers to carefully look at skin lightening products’ ingredients before making a purchase to avoid possible allergic reactions, to avoid applying such products on inflamed skin and to remember to take measures to protect against exposure to the sun.

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