If there is a topic that sparks a lot of confusion (and heated debates) is the whitening vs. brightening in Korean skin care. If you make use of Korean cosmetics, chances are you have come across product descriptions emphasizing their whitening properties. The term whitening is not used in Korea as a synonym for bleaching though. Korean skin care ‘Whitening’ substances are concerned with harmonizing your skin’s natural tone, and that means breaking up melanin that has been deposited as a result of skin damage or preventing these spots from forming in the first place. The correct English translation, IMO, should be ‘brightening’, at least that is the way most Western brands refer to cosmetics aimed at evening out skin tone. And who doesn’t want brighter skin?
Children have the most uniform, camera ready complexion. So what happened in between? Two things, mostly: sun exposure and acne. Exposing your skin to the sun without proper protection causes the skin to become discolored. Skin exposed to UV rays will trigger the production of melanin, which will intentionally darken the skin to improve its protection against UV. Repeated photo damage and melanin response, however, causes your skin to become uneven. Bummer.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), in turn, is a consequence of skin infections, such as pimples. The healing process following a skin inflammation, however, is not as smooth as we wish it would be. Very often, the regenerated tissue produces uneven levels of pigmentation, creating visible acne marks. To make things more complicated, these pigmentation spots are easily aggravated by the incidence of UV rays, giving rise to even darker spots. That's where brightening products come to the rescue. In most cases, you won’t see results overnight, but pigmentation will fade if you stick to a Korean skin care regime designed to fight discoloration.
Because the actives listed in most ‘whitening’ products aim at restoring your natural complexion, you should not worry they will turn you pale! But you can surely expect to see improvements in discolored areas and dark spots, which should gradually return to their original tone. If you want to fade photo damage and dark spots, look for products that contain niacinamide, vitamin c, licorice root extract, snail filtrate, BHA and AHA, or visit Honeysu's skin tone section, where we gather our picks for reverting uneven skin tone. There you will find:
How do you prevent hyperpigmentation and dark spots? Share your tips with us!