You know what brightening skincare products say, but what do they mean?

You know what brightening skincare products say, but what do they mean?

It has been given fancy monikers such as "snow", "bright", "white" or "pearl", while some brands have enticingly described it as "illuminating" or at its fanciest, "aura-activating".

However hard skincare companies try to outdo each other in hailing their newest skincare products, it's the same thing really.

They're all offering those who long for a clear complexion, the chance to even out or brighten their skin tone.

According to the Datamonitor Consumer Survey 2013, half of Asian consumers consider skin lightening benefits to be a key feature of skincare products.

One in five consumers in Asian countries say they use a lightening product almost daily.

The survey also reveals that less than a third of women globally consider skin whitening claims to be trustworthy.

With skincare products that promise "whitening" or the more accurate term of "brightening", what does it really mean?

"For skin to look bright, it means that it should be smooth, firm with abundant collagen, evenly coloured, properly hydrated and unblemished," says Dr Yap Hae Mun, a consultant aesthetic practitioner in Kuala Lumpur.

So, regardless of the colour of your skin - fair, medium, tan or dark - brightening is NOT about having fairer skin; it means having skin that looks healthy, even-coloured and unblemished.

Dr Yap points out that as one ages, the hormone level declines so we lose collagen and our skin's renewal process ability slows down.

"But younger women can also have dull skin, due to excessive sun exposure, skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis or lupus, or a lack of diligence in their skincare routine," she says.

"While a small amount of ultraviolet radiation is required for the production of vitamin D to keep bones and muscles strong and healthy, skin can burn from just 15 minutes of exposure to strong sun. It damages the DNA in our skin cells, leading to mutation or even cell death."

Sun protection

To maintain clear skin and avoid pigmentation, Dr Yap says sun protection is crucial and one should use sunscreen every day, even on a cloudy day.

"Protect yourself from UV radiation, both indoors and outdoors. Always seek the shade outdoors, especially between 10am and 4pm. Also, since UVA penetrates glass, consider adding tinted UV-protective film to your car's side and rear windows as well as your home and office windows."

"Remember that your sun protection only equals to the SPF of the product with the highest rating that you are using. For example, using a SPF12 foundation along with a SPF30 sunscreen, it only provides a SPF30 protection.

Generally, SPF30 is adequate but for those who are active outdoors, SPF50 will provide better protection," she advises.

Ivy Gan, training manager for Sulwhasoo Malaysia, concurs that living in a tropical climate affects our skin tone and colour.

"Aside from protecting our skin against the damaging UV rays, we need to choose skincare products that can help to calm and soothe skin because heat can damage our skin's collagen, resulting in duller skin tone," says Gan.

She advocates using skincare that works on strengthening your skin's collagen, and targets dark spots to reduce existing spots and prevent future ones.

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