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What Is Skin Brightening?

January 13, 2021 1 Comment

What is Skin Brightening?

What is Skin Brightening? 


Episode Summary:

Skin brightening is one of the biggest trends in the skincare industry right now. But what is it, does it involve bleach and will you come out looking like Michael Jackson? All these questions and more answered on today’s episode of the Korean Beauty Show.


Topics Discussed:

What Is Skin Brightening?

Skin brightening refers to fading dark spots caused by hyperpigmentation, sun exposure and ageing. Unlike skin bleaching, which involves changing the colour of the skin, skin brightening simply refers to the process of removing any dark marks that discolour your original skin tone.

To start with, let’s unpack what it causes skin pigmentation.


Melanin And Melanocyte – The Roots Of Pigmentation

You’ve probably heard of melanin, also known as the pigment that provides colour to our hair, eyes and skin. Melanin is controlled by melanocyte – the cell that manages melanin production. While melanocyte normally cares for melanin on the basis of our genetics, external factors can have an influence. The big one is sun exposure.


What is Skin Brightening?

The sun’s UV rays trigger melanocyte to produce melanin in order to protect you from skin damage. Additionally, melanin is also produced when your skin is damaged or inflamed. This could be if you have acne, or if your skin is damaged through daily life (think small burns when cooking, scraping your knee etc). These marks are often referred to as “post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation”.

Skin Brightening Ingredients

Some of the most common ingredients that reduce melanin formation are:

  • Hydroquinone
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B3 (also known as Niacinamide)
  • Vitamin E
  • Licorice Extract
  • Arbutin
  • Glycolic acid (a form of alpha hydroxy acid or AHA)

A few pointers here.

Hydroquinone has traditionally been regarded as the most effective way to brighten skin. Higher concentrations lead to skin bleaching, which is usually done under medical supervision. Current research suggests that hydroquinone combined with UV exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer. The Australian Government regulates cosmetics containing Hydroquinone and Arbutin.

Formulas that contain more than 0.02% of these ingredients fall under the the Poisons Schedule. They are “Prescription Only Medicine” and are only allowed to be sold by pharmacists.

At STYLE STORY, we only stock products that offer safe forms of skin brightening.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has many great benefits to the skin, including antioxidant and anti-ageing properties and increased collagen production. It also provides the skin with a brightening effect. This can reduce and improve the appearance of pigmentation from sun damage and post-acne scars.

Ferulic acid

Ferulic acid is a natural ingredient with excellent efficacy that helps to remove melanin. Melanin is responsible for causing age spots, dark spots, blemishes and imperfections. It also has wonderful antioxidant properties.


Niacinamide is form of Vitamin B3 that works well for overall brightening, reduction of the appearance of uneven skin tone, redness and acne marks. Korean Beauty products usually contain around 2% of niacinamide in them.


Retinoids contain high concentrations of Vitamin A. This helps to increase skin cell turnover and enhance brightening results while reducing the signs of aging. These are the big guns of anti-aging, but you’re going to need a prescription for retinoids in Australia. Note also that Vitamin A-based products must be avoided by pregnant and breast-feeding women, as it has been proven to cause birth defects.


Glutathione is an outstanding ingredient for minimising and preventing dark spots on the skin. It makes your complexion brighter and more even.


Incorporating Them Into Your Routine

It’s worth remembering that brightening ingredients work differently depending on their formulation and how you use them. For example, serums suit oily and sensitive skin, and are great if you have multiple steps in your skincare routine.

Creams and moisturisers are made for dry/combination skin, and might be better for simpler routines.

Most importantly though…stay sun safe and remember to apply sunscreen! Prolonged UV exposure can undo all the hard work you put into skin brightening.

My Favourite Skin Brightening Korean Beauty Products

Some of my favourite Skin Brightening K-Beauty picks include:

STYLE STORY – Your Style, Your Story

Battle Of The Pimple Patches I Ep-07
Battle Of The Pimple Patches I Ep-07
The Double Cleanse Method I Ep-09
The Double Cleanse Method I Ep-09
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APLB Glutathione Brightening Tone Up Cream
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APLB Glutathione Brightening Tone Up Cream

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Tosowoong Spot Whitening Vita Clinic Cream
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Tosowoong Spot Whitening Vita Clinic Cream

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"Unlike skin bleaching, which involves changing the colour of the skin, skin brightening simply refers to the process of removing any dark marks that discolour your original skin tone."

- Lauren Lee, Host of the Korean Beauty Show podcast

1 Response


March 24, 2021

Like to know more about brightening and cut c. Any products that has anti ageing.

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