Skip It: Brightening Cream for Spots
What it is: Topical ointments that promise to make your skin look brighter and healthier are made from a wide variety of ingredients, and not all are created equal. “Botanical or natural ingredients such as kojic acid, licorice extract, and vitamin C are safe to use,” says Caroline Chang, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University. “But stay away from creams with hydroquinone, which is a chemical bleaching agent.” The chemical is banned in concentrations greater than one percent in Europe due to possible carcinogenic effects, says Dr. Chang, although studies are ongoing and hydroquinone is still used in the U.S.
How it works: Hydroquinone prevents the production of melanin, your skin’s color pigment. It also breaks down excess pigment, ridding it of dark spots and patches.
Bottom line: In addition to carcinogen worries, some skin-brightening creams may also contain dangerous levels of mercury, according to an FDA investigation. Just not worth the risk.