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What is Skin Brightening?


Relax, you’re not going to turn out looking like Michael Jackson.


Skin brightening is one of the biggest trends in the skincare industry right now.


What is skin brightening and what does it actually do? Is it the same thing as skin whitening? Does it involve bleach? We answer your questions.    



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.  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”.


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. Find out more about some of our favourites like Niacinamide here, Propolis here, Vitamin C here, Acids here and Licorice here.



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.


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


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