What is Whitening?
Koreans, and Asians in general, are obsessed about whitening products. Contrary to popular belief, whitening products aren’t designed to actually “whiten” your skin.
They’re not- I repeat- they’re not the bleach products that you use on your load of whites. Instead, the “whitening” that Korean women refer to is what they hold to a high standard- the luminous and pearlescent skin. Not dull or patchy, but glowy.
Women use Korean whitening creams to brighten skin, even out their skin tone, and treat problems of hyperpigmentation, including acne scars, sun spots, and melasma. The end result is radiant skin.
I look for certain active ingredients that help to stop melanin production. Again, the steps in the Korean skincare regimen, like moisturizing, exfoliating, applying sunscreen, are still crucial in helping your skin heal effectively.
Active Ingredients to Fade Scars and Hyperpigmentation
- Vitamin A– also referred to as retinoic acid, retinol, or retin-A
Vitamin A is a powerful product that can also be irritating to sensitive skin, so I recommend starting with products with lower concentrations of Vitamin A.
However, it is a clinically-proven ingredient that is effective in fading dark spots. It works at the cellular level by increasing cell turnover and boosting the production of elastic and collagen. It also repairs the DNA in your skin cells that become damaged and fade hyperpigmentation.
- Vitamin B3- Niacinamide
Niacinamide is a star ingredient. Not only does it suppress melanin production from transferring to the epidermis, but it also is a great anti-aging and anti-inflammatory ingredient. This will provide sufficient moisture for your skin, and thus help regulate sebum production. People have also seen great improvements with their enlarged pores, when using Niacinamide consistently. Look for products with over 5% Niacinamide for better potency.
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid, -ascorbyl)
Vitamin C is an amazing topical antioxidant. This vitamin inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for melanin production, to keep those pesky dark spots from forming. Vitamin C is effective for evening out and brightening your complexion.
The Best Korean Products for Whitening and Brightening Skin
I love this because it’s suitable for oily and acne-prone skin, yet it’s also great for sensitive, dry skin. It contains a beautiful blend of 97% Galactomyces Fermented Filtrate and Niacinamide.
Manyo Factory is an organic brand, and this essence is free from harmful ingredients, such as sulfates, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, formaldehyde-releasers, mineral oil, silicones, phthalates, peg, alcohol, tea, triclosan, propylene glycol, coal tar, mit, dye, talc, and formaldehyde.
This product’s fermented ingredients serve to speed up collagen production for tight and ageless skin. It is also a great moisturizer, which boosts the skin’s immunity against powerful UV rays that can cause acne scars and dark spots to become more pronounced.
* smoother, more refined
* brighter and luminous
* plump and moisturized
* more even up skin tone
* diminished pigmentation of dark spots
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% and Zinc 1%
This is another cult favorite. I use this product at night because of texture that’s slightly more goopy than other serums. If you use this under makeup it does tend to pill, but the price really can’t be beat for such a potent concentration of Niacinamide.
Zinc Oxide helps to clarify the skin. Together with Niacinamide, they regulate sebum production and reduces the appearance of skin blemishes.
Although this isn’t a treatment specifically for acne, ever since I started using this for my oily, acne-prone skin, I’ve noticed my skin produces way less oil throughout the day. Thus, I see less clogged pores and overall better pore texture, which prevents breakouts from forming.
Note: When using Niacinamide, The Ordinary suggests alternating it with other active ingredients. So apply this at a different time (Vitamin C in the morning, Niacinamide at night), if you’re using Vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid. If you use them both at the same time, their efficacy will reduce.
* brightened dark spots
* evened out skin tone
* more balanced and normalized skin
* brightened and moisturized skin
There are many Vitamin C derivatives, but L-ascorbic acid is the most commonly used and the highest version of Vitamin C. For L-ascorbic acid to be effective, it needs to be in a pH range of about 2- 3.5 at a 10-30% concentration.
Whenever your products contain L-ascorbic acid, make sure the packaging has a dark tint, an air-tight seal, and is shielded from light. The light oxidizes the product, which renders the product ineffective.
This Drunk Elephant Vitamin C serum contains 15% L-ascorbic acid, plus Ferulic acid and Vitamin E. (Skinceutical CE Ferulic) It’s proven that these ingredients work synergistically in providing broad spectrum sun protection and oxidative damage. Additionally, they effectively defend against pollution and external stressors.
More skin-loving ingredients include pumpkin ferment extract and pomegranate enzymes. These enzymatically digest surface dead skin cells…hooray for glowing skin!
Free of: Parabens, sulfates, phthalates
* clears complexion and prevents breakouts
* improved skin texture
* lightened brown spots
* brighter and glowing skin
This lotion is like an emulsion that’s packed with beautiful ingredients to brighten your skin complexion. The liquid absorbs quickly and really hydrates dull-looking skin. I’ve noticed that my sun spots have faded as well. It’s great to use as a moisturizing base then layering SPF and BB cream on top.
A really interesting ingredient in this White Cure Lotion is the white truffle extract, which is a rare delicacy. It’s rich in amino acids, minerals, and vitamin B to nourish the skin.
The Snow Lotus flower extract serves to calm down the skin and hydrate damaged skin. Missha also touts that this product is made with Soft Focus Technology that scatters light, and thus helps to blur pores and imperfections, while providing a beautiful glow to your skin.
* glowing and brightened skin
* diminished discolorations, acne scars, and sunspots
* smooths skin texture
* reduced redness, overall more even skin-tone
* controls sebum products
If you want to wake up to rested and radiant skin, use this luxurious sleeping mask can 2-3 times a week. This sleeping mask has worked wonders in fading my acne scars and sun spots. It has a gel-like consistency, which is very refreshing, lightweight, and soothing.
Some active ingredients are the much-favored Niacinamide and mulberry extract. Mulberry extract has similar properties as Vitamin C, in that it innhibits tyrosinase.
* skin is less tired/ dull and more awake
* reduces rosacea
* very moisturized and bouncy
* lightens discolorations and skin appear even-toned
This popular serum contains gentle brighteners like green tea extract, arbutin, mushrooms, and other all-natural ingredients. (Kojic acid, derived from mushrooms, is a potent ingredient used often in skincare products for its whitening properties.)
Arbutin is another natural lightening agent that works by releasing hydroquinone, which blocks Tyrosinase activity. Like Vitamin C, this will inhibit your skin’s melanin production.
I really enjoy the refreshing smell of this pH- balancing toner, and this feels nourishing and refreshing on my skin as well. It absorbs quickly and is perfect for my combination/ sensitive skin.
Within one use, the redness on my face was noticeably diminished. I always gain softer, brighter, and bouncier skin when I incorporate this into my regimen.
I hope this helps you guys! Let me know what products you guys are using to brighten up your skin. xo