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What Is Skin Brightening in Korean Beauty?

December 30, 2020

What Is Skin Brightening?

What Is Skin Brightening in Korean Beauty?

Relax, You’re Not Going To Turn Out Looking Like Michael Jackson.

Skin brightening is one of the biggest trends in Korean Beauty and the skincare industry If you're still confused about what is actually is and what it does, then read on. 


What Is Skin Brightening in Korean Beauty?

Firstly, skin brightening is not the same thing as bleach. Even though the words "brightening" and "whitening" are used interchangeably in Korean skincare, the correct translation in English is brightening. 

Brightening refers to skincare products that are designed to fade dark spots. These can be caused by a variety of factors, including hyperpigmentation, sun exposure and ageing.

Unlike skin bleaching, which involves changing the colour of the skin, skin brighteningsimply refers to the process of removing dark marks that discolour your original skin tone. To start with, let’s unpack what it causes skin pigmentation.

To find out more about skin brightening in K-Beauty, tune into the Korean Beauty Show podcast:



Melanin And Melanocyte – The Roots Of Pigmentation

Melanin is the pigment that provides colour to our hair, eyes and skin. It is controlled by melanocyte, a 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. The sun’s UV rays trigger melanocyte to produce melanin in order to protect you from skin damage.

Additionally, your skin produces melanin when it is damaged or inflamed. Skin damage can occur if you have acne or the skin has been disturbed through injury. Marks left over after acne are sometimes called “post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation”.

What is Skin Brightening in Korean Beauty?

Skin Brightening Ingredients

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

  1. Hydroquinone
  2. Vitamin C
  3. Vitamin B3 (also known as Niacinamide)
  4. Vitamin E
  5. Licorice Extract
  6. Arbutin
  7. Glycolic acid (a form of alpha hydroxy acid or AHA)

    Firstly, let us give you a few pointers here.

    Hydroquinone has traditionally been regarded as the most effective way to brighten skin. However, because high concentrations of hydroquinone lead to skin bleaching, this ingredient is not used in regular skin care products.

    Instead, the Australian Government regulates cosmetics containing Hydroquinone nder the the Poisons Schedule. It is only allowed to be sold by pharmacists. Current research suggests that hydroquinone combined with UV exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer.

    At STYLE STORY, we only stock productsthat offer safe forms of skin brightening. Find out more about some of our favourites like Niacinamide here, Propolis here, Vitamin C here, Acids hereand Licorice here.

    What is Skin Brightening in Korean Beauty

    Incorporating Brightening Products Into Your Routine

    It’s worth remembering that brightening ingredients work differently depending on their formulation and how you use them. The condition of your skin will also make a difference. The more dark spots, pigmentation or melasma you have and the longer it has been around, the hard it will be to get rid of. 

    Perhaps the most important product in any brightening routine is your sunscreen. 

    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.

    If you’ve got any questions about skin brightening, let us know in the comments!


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    "Skin brightening is not the same thing as whitening. If you're new to Asian beauty, and Korean beauty in particular this is a common mistake people make. But brightening your skin won't have you ending up like Michael Jackson."


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