(Last Updated on December 1, 2023)
Are you sick of covering dark spots, acne scars, hyperpigmentation, melasma, and uneven skin tone with copious amounts of concealer?
You need a skin lightening cream to fade darkness and even out your complexion.
What’s more, you can help to prevent more unevenness from developing in the future.
We have scoured the market for the best skin lightening creams that are safe, easy, and effective for different skin tones.
Best Skin Lightening Creams
1. Meladerm by Civant
Our first product is Meladerm by Civant Skincare.
This is a smartly-designed treatment that promises to fade and lighten hyperpigmentation on the skin.
This includes acne scars, dark spots, melasma, age spots, and birthmarks.
The bottle itself is a “pro” in that it is an airless dispenser that protects the key ingredients from being degraded by air and sunlight.
There are 10 key ingredients including Bearberry Extract1, a plant-derived ingredient also known as Arbutin.
This botanical extract naturally brightens the skin.
Kojic Acid2, a newfound skin lightener, is found in mushrooms and the rice fermentation process.
It is great for brightening and fading scars, sun spots, dark freckles, and dark skin patches.
Licorice Root Extract3 helps to lighten dark skin patches while offering antioxidant support.
Vitamin C4 is a popular skincare ingredient for its brightening, replenishing, and antioxidant properties, all the while boosting collagen production for a plump and youthful complexion.
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) 5 is the third ingredient listed and works as a team with Kojic Acid, Arbutin, and Sepiwhite.
The second ingredient on the list is Caprylic Capric Triglycerides, often made of a natural mixture of coconut oil and glycerin.
This is a great ingredient as it moisturizes and hydrates the skin, creates a soft texture, and helps to disperse the active ingredients over the skin.
There are also three trademarked ingredients on the list: Gigawhite (plant-derived skin lightener), Symwhite (pine-derived antioxidant), and Sepiwhite.
Sepiwhite comes from amino acids and works with other key ingredients (niacinamide and AHA) to even the skin tone.
How it works?
- The product is massaged into the skin (face, underarms, knees, elbows, anywhere where dark skin is an issue) morning and night.
- Moisturizer and SPF can be applied over the top (as well as makeup).
- Caprylic Capric Triglycerides create a smooth, emollient texture for the product to slip comfortably over the skin, adding hydration.
- Active ingredients including Niacinamide, White Mulberry Root Extract, Licorice Root Extract, Kojic Acid, Alpha Arbutin, Symwhite, GigaWhite, and Sepiwhite gradually lighten dark spots.
- Cocoa Seed Butter, Argan Oil, and Glycerin soften and hydrate the skin.
- One bottle lasts about 7 weeks when used twice daily on the face (½ pump each application), or longer for smaller patches of darker skin.
- Cruelty-free and vegan.
- Free from parabens, sulfates, and phthalate.
- Airless pump for the preservation of ingredients.
- Great for all skin tones and ethnic backgrounds.
- Hydrating and nourishing.
- Varied effectiveness.
2. Amaira Natural Lightening Serum
Number two on our list is the Amaira Natural Lightening Serum (50 ml).
This is a smoothing, lightly-hydrating serum which is spread over clean skin.
While the directions don’t specify adding a moisturizer on top, many people have found it is necessary to prevent dryness.
One of the selling points for this product is “natural ingredients” and “no harsh chemicals”.
This is mostly accurate when looking at the ingredients list.
However, you will find sodium hydroxide lingering at the bottom of the list.
Sodium Hydroxide6 is a known irritant, so people with very sensitive skin should keep this in mind.
One of the key ingredients is Field Dock Extract, a natural ingredient that inhibits melanin production.
It does so by slowing down an enzyme called tyrosinase which boosts melanin production.
Another tyrosinase-inhibiting key ingredient used is Mulberry Leaf Extract7.
Kojic Acid (which comes from mushrooms) is also high on the ingredients list and appears in many skin lightening creams.
Kojic Acid is great for fading acne scars, hyperpigmentation, sun spots, and darker skin patches.
Other ingredients include glycerin, strawberry begonia extract, mallow extract, lady’s mantle extract, lemon balm leaf, cowslip primrose extract, and alpha-arbutin.
While Alpha-Arbutin8 is a popular skin lightening ingredient, it sits far down on the ingredients list, as Field Dock Extract, Kojic Acid, and Mulberry Root Extract are the key players.
How it works?
- The serum is applied to clean, gently exfoliated skin twice a day.
- Most people wait for the serum to dry before adding a hydrating moisturizer, especially if they have dry skin.
- Field Dock Extract and Mulberry Leaf Extract inhibit tyrosine so melanin production slows down.
- Kojic Acid fades scars, sun spots, and age spots.
- Irish Moss and Glycerin provide moisture and light hydration. Irish Moss helps to increase collagen production which gives your skin a youthful appearance.
- Results generally show after 6-8 weeks of usage.
- Made in the USA.
- Does not contain perfume.
- 60-day money-back guarantee.
- Contains sodium hydroxide (an irritant).
- Can cause the skin to feel and look dry.
3. Zeta White
At number three we have Zeta White, a 3-step skin lightening system made in the UK, with 100% natural ingredients, boasting a “95% organic” listing.
This is a 3-step program including a facial wash, moisturizer, and night cream.
The products are available individually also.
The face wash features papaya extract and lemon extract as the key skin-lightening ingredients.
It also features some nourishing, softening ingredients such as apricot oil, avocado oil, and glycerin.
The moisturizing step uses licorice extract as an active ingredient.
We were pleased to see some other skin-loving ingredients such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid9.
Finally, the night cream features Allantoin10as the main ingredient.
Naturally-derived Allantoin smoothes the skin, exfoliates the top layer, provides antioxidants, and hydrates the skin.
Note that the moisturizer and night cream have extremely similar ingredients.
Something we found a little off-putting with this brand was the marketing photos which showed men and women of color with an overall lighter skin tone.
This differs from a lightening of dark spots or discoloration to achieve an overall skin tone.
Instead, it suggested that the product is intended to change the ethnic appearance of the skin.
This may or may not be an issue for you, but it’s worth pointing out.
In terms of price, this is an expensive option, regardless of whether you choose the pack or the individual pieces.
How it works?
- The face wash is used every morning and evening, the moisturizer is applied every morning, and the night cream is applied before bed.
- Active ingredients such as papaya extract, lemon extract, licorice extract, and Allantoin work to lighten dark spots and reduce melanin production.
- Softening ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, avocado oil, and coconut oil provide moisture and nourishment.
- Sulfate and paraben-free.
- 100% natural ingredients.
- Provides 3 skincare steps for all-day effectiveness.
- Contains hydrating ingredients.
- Promotes overall skin-tone lightening (as opposed to evening-out skin tone).
4. Illuminatural 6i by SkinCeption
At number four, Illuminatural 6i by SkinCeption (50 ml).
This spot-treatment serum is designed to work with the skin’s natural renewal cycle which takes 28 days.
There are six key ingredients: Niacinamide, Sodium Lactate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate11, Whitonyl, and Alpha-Arbutin.
What’s more, it also includes the patented ingredients Hydrolite-5 and SymGlucan.
These have been used as delivery agents so the active ingredients can be utilized effectively by the skin. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) is a popular skincare ingredient because it helps the skin to renew, allowing softer, more even-toned skin to show.
What’s more, it keeps the skin hydrated and plump.
The philosophy behind this product is to improve the skin by using the skin’s natural 28-day renewal cycle.
The idea is to slow down the skin’s melanin production, exfoliate the skin, and give time for new, brighter skin to show through.
Darker skin cells are gently removed while awaiting, lighter skin cells have time to be revealed, which takes 3 skin cycles according to SkinCeption.
How it works?
- A small amount of product is applied to dark spots on the face and body, morning and night. You can apply moisturizer and makeup over the top as normal.
- Niacinamide helps to exfoliate skin cells, helps skin cells to renew, and stops melanosomes from reaching the skin cells.
- Sodium lactate hydrates the skin and helps to lighten skin by supporting other skin-lightening ingredients.
- Whitonyl inhibits melanin production and transfer of melanin to the skin cells.
- Alpha-Arbutin helps to fade existing dark spots.
- Hydrolite-5 and SymGlucan help the active ingredients to sink into the skin, and help to hydrate and soften the skin.
- 67-day money-back guarantee.
- Free from mercury, bleach, or steroids.
- Helps to block damaging UVA and UVB rays.
- Contains hydrating ingredients.
- Comes with bonus gifts.
- Contains fragrance.
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is a skin lightening cream?
A skin lightening cream is a topical skincare product designed to fade darkness caused by various factors.
For example, acne scars, freckles, hyperpigmentation, melasma, and sunspots cause the skin to appear uneven and blotchy.
A high-quality skin-lightening cream uses natural ingredients to gradually lighten dark spots to create an even tone.
Some come in the form of serums, and others come in the form of creams.
Who should buy a skin lightening cream?
Anyone can buy a skin lightening cream (with a few important exceptions, see below!).
It could be a great addition to your routine if you have the following skin concerns:
- Age spots,
- Acne scars,
Check with an esthetician or skin specialist if you:
- Have very sensitive skin.
- Are taking any medications which affect the skin (i.e. Accutane).
- Have active acne or open sores.
- Have other skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.
Note: don’t use a skin lightening cream if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Skin can become very sensitive during pregnancy and breastfeeding, which may mean skin lightening treatments can irritate you. What’s more, the ingredients may be absorbed into the bloodstream and ultimately reach the fetus.
What ingredients should I look for?
- Kojic Acid: from mushrooms and certain fermentation processes. A popular, natural skin-lightening ingredient for its abilities to stop tyrosinase from synthesizing melanin.
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3): keeps the skin hydrated and plump, and helps the skin cells to renew and repair. It also helps the skin to lighten by inhibiting the transference of melanocytes to keratinocytes (skin cells).
- Whitonyl: a registered skin-lightening product which slows down melanin production.
- Alpha-Arbutin (bearberry): reduces melanin production (by stopping Tyrosinase from creating melanin) and helps to fade existing darkness.
- Vitamin C: a powerful antioxidant that brightens the complexion and helps collagen production (full, young skin to go with your even skin tone!).
- Sodium Lactate: deeply hydrates the skin and supports other skin-lightening ingredients such as vitamin C.
- Licorice Extract: contains a compound which inhibits Tyrosinase (which is responsible for melanin production).
- Caprylic Capric Triglycerides: hydrates, smoothes and softens the skin while providing an emollient base for the key ingredients to be dispersed in.
- Glutathione: a strong antioxidant (our body produces it naturally) which can stop tyrosinase from creating melanin.
- Papaya extract: full of skin-brightening enzymes which help to fade existing dark spots, and gives the skin a radiant glow.
- Vitamin A (retinol): boosts the renewal process of skin by helping old cells to be removed and newer cells to come to the surface. It also helps with anti-aging and skin vibrancy.
- Glycerin: softens and hydrates the skin to help the skin to appear soft and young as well as even-toned.
Avoid harsh, irritating, and potentially carcinogenic ingredients such as:
Are there any side effects?
The reality is that absolutely any skincare product can cause side effects or reactions, regardless of whether it is natural or not.
Everyone has different skin, and some people are more sensitive than others.
However, skin lightening creams that have been formulated without known irritants such as fragrance, mineral oils, mercury, and hydroquinone will be far less likely to cause side effects.
Possible side effects from skin lightening creams include:
- Redness and rashes,
- Dryness and flakiness,
- Tiny bumps,
- Breakouts and blemishes.
Always use an SPF during the day (no matter the time of year!) when using a skin-lightening cream.
Try a patch test on a small area of skin (the arm is a good choice) before applying to the face or sensitive areas.
This will let you know if you are allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients.
The five skin lightening creams on our list are formulated with safe, often-natural ingredients that can hinder melanin production in the skin.
By doing so, they stop darker skin from forming and can fade existing dark spots and scars.
The key ingredients are Kojic Acid, Alpha-Arbutin, Papaya Extract, Licorice Root Extract, Symwhite, Allantoin, Niacinamide, and Vitamin C.
You will also find softening, hydrating ingredients such as glycerin which helps the skin to remain soft as well as even-toned.
There are certain ingredients to be wary of when it comes to skin lightening creams, none of which are found in our chosen products.
These ingredients include hydroquinone, bleach, steroids, and mercury.
Before using a new skincare product, it’s smart to try a patch test first, to ensure you are not allergic to any of the ingredients.
What’s more, it’s equally as important to apply an SPF daily when using a skin lightening cream.
This is because many active ingredients can cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun, which can create even more dark spots, the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve!