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Alert: Avoid These 6 Skin-Lightening Ingredients! (Look for This One, Instead)

Many women use skin lightening products to achieve a healthy, youthful glow. Skin lightening doesn’t just help lighten darker skin — by reducing the skin’s melanin content, it can also help address acne scars, age spots and even hormone-related discoloration.

However, while the basic process of cleansing, masking, exfoliating and moisturizing is fairly straightforward, many of us do more harm than good by using the wrong products.

Simply put, many skin-lightening products (and other skincare items) contain ingredients that can contribute to significant health problems. Here are the ingredients you should watch out for if you wish to avoid negative outcomes from your skin lightening routine.


If you like to import your skin lightener, make sure it doesn’t contain mercury. As WebMD notes, “The use of mercury as an ingredient in skin lighteners is banned in the U.S. However, some skin lighteners produced outside the U.S. may still contain mercury.”

As a toxic agent, mercury has been connected with a wide range of significant health problems, including neurological and psychiatric conditions and even kidney failure. If you use these products while pregnant, your unborn child’s fine motor skills, cognitive thinking and other abilities may also be negatively affected.


Skin lighteners typically contain between two to six percent hydroquinone. Sometimes labeled as tocopheryl acetate, this product has actually been banned in the European Union, though it is still commonly used in products manufactured in the United States.

According to the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics, hydroquinone is most commonly linked to ochronosis, which can cause the skin to thicken and turn a blue-gray color. Hydroquinone exposure can also cause corneal damage, respiratory tract irritation and even increase the risk of skin cancer because of how it affects the body’s absorption of UVA and UVB rays.


As with many other beauty products, far too many skin lightening solutions contain parabens. Parabens have most notably been connected with hormonal imbalances because they act like estrogen. Unbalanced estrogen levels can increase the risk for breast cancer in women and contribute to infertility in men, among other side effects.

Because parabens are found in so many health and beauty products, it’s worth checking for them on everything you buy — not just skin lightening solutions.


Many skin lighteners contain topical corticosteroids, which can actually increase your risk for many different types of skin infections. A 2014 study evaluating the use of such products in India found a direct link between using skin lighteners containing steroids and conditions such as acne and telangiectasia (more commonly known as spider veins).

Topical steroids can also cause skin thinning, as well as increase one’s risk for skin infections and inadequate healing of cuts and other wounds.

Mercury ‘Alternatives’

Even when called by another name, mercury is still mercury, and it can have devastating results for your skin and overall health. Some skin lightener manufacturers try to hide their mercury content with other labels. Watch out for common alternative names like mercuric, mercurio, calomel and mercurous.

Whether appropriately labeled or not, mercury is most commonly found in skin lightening products produced in less-regulated parts of Asia, as most other parts of the world have some type of regulatory ban in place. Be mindful of where your skin lightener was manufactured when you buy.


As with parabens, fragrances are found in a wide array of health and beauty products, but their potential for harming your health is becoming increasingly well-known. Fragrances tend to contain a mix of both natural and synthetic ingredients that are combined to create a specific aroma.

The problem for many people is that these ingredients can be potent allergens. Applying a product with a fragrance — whether it be a skin lightener or a moisturizing lotion — can cause irritation, rashes or even hives. Individuals with acne, dermatitis, eczema and other similar skin conditions tend to be at the highest risk for a negative reaction.

What to Look for: Glutathione

While the previously mentioned products can cause significant harm to your skin and your health, glutathione and other natural products can help you achieve the desired results risk-free. Glutathione is an antioxidant that is naturally produced by your body, though over time, your body’s ability to produce glutathione can decline.

Glutathione works in conjunction with other natural skin lightening ingredients like Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to firm and brighten skin, and is a key ingredient in products from brands like Santeva Health & Beauty.

Glutathione actually assists in making DNA and the process of apoptosis (natural cell death), which increases the effectiveness of products like Santeva Brightening Vitamin C Serum.

This antioxidant has even been connected with preventing the progression of cancer, reducing insulin resistance and alleviating symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease. Because glutathione naturally occurs in the body, you don’t have to worry about experiencing negative side effects from using a glutathione-infused serum or taking a dietary supplement like Santeva Glow.

Healthier, Brighter Skin

As important as it is to reach your personal health and beauty goals, truly understanding what you’re putting on your skin matters.

By avoiding products with potentially harmful chemicals and using natural skin lightening products like glutathione, you will get the results you desire without putting your health at risk.