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Is Lighter Better?

Brenda Nagel and Kim Barrowman of the Crystal Rose Skin Lightening and Brightening Range reveals some facts and truths about skin lightening

  1. Skin lightening is a controversial, highly emotive issue. What have you learned about your clients’ wishes and reasons for seeking this kind of treatment?

Our clients mostly want an even, more brighter skin tone and correcting of pigmentation. Some patients do want a lighter skin, but only one to two shades lighter. Their reasons vary from just wanting to be slightly lighter for personal reasons to the controversial misconception that lighter skin is more accepted.

1.What is the difference between skin lightening and skin bleaching?

Lightening will only take your skin to a certain level by suppressing the body’s production of melanin and this we achieve with products that do not contain any harmful “bleaching” agents. Bleaching involves using acids like kojic acid or hydroquinone, which are harmful to the body and are topical and can only be used at night as it compromises the skin in the sun. Skin lightening products like ours (Crystal Rose) can be used day or night – and it is safe to go in the sun.

2. Why is the idea deemed a taboo? What are the cultural nuances driving this trend (positive and negative) and the inherent dangers of seeking to alter your skin at a fundamental level?

It is deemed a taboo as a lot of black people feel that trying to be “white” goes against their culture – this is even more sensitive due to our history and a lot of our patients won’t even admit to their friends that they are undergoing treatment. There is still an undercurrent of “white is better and more acceptable”. However, many patients seek a lighter, healthy glow and don’t feel any political or cultural pressure – I would categorise these patients as more modern in their thinking. There are no inherent dangers in lightening your skin, unless you overuse products like hydroquinone, which gives you an unnatural yellow look, as seen with a lot of celebrities.

3. Seeking this treatment can be for aesthetic or medical reasons. Women want to improve their appearance, and other people might suffer from skin disease like vitiligo. How does the treatment differ between aesthetic and medical?

There is absolutely no medical treatment involved, as the product is cosmetic in nature. However, dermatologists treat pigmentation and hyper-pigmentation and our product will most certainly help, as it is a medical grade product and cannot be bought over the counter.

4. How does skin lightening work in general? What kinds of chemicals are used, and which are safe and which are harmful?

Skin lightening works on two levels – internal and external – internal being the capsules and external (topical) being the cream. There are plenty of products on the market that contain harmful chemicals like hydroquinone or kojic acid. Our products contain glutathione, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and a lot more, which act as tyrosinase inhibitors. Tyrosinase is a crucial enzyme in synthesizing melanin through melanogenesis and is the most prominent and successful target for mealogenesis inhibitors that directly inhibit the tyrosinase catalytic activity. Most skin-lightening products available are tyrosinase inhibitors.

5. What kind of pre-treatment consultation and advice do you offer a client before you agree to help or treat them?

Clients with skin issues such as acne, dark marks from acne or pigmentation are advised to come for a consult first, as they typically would need a combination of chemical peels, dermapen or laser, depending on what we treating.

6. What are the worst reactions/results you have seen in women who have tried DIY lightening treatments or who have received poor service from other professionals seeking shortcuts?

We have seen severe pigmentation and dark marks from DIY treatments, which takes a long time to correct and are sometimes even irreversible. Some professionals will push products/treatments that aren’t necessary and these may have an adverse effect on the skin.

7. All skin lightening is not created equal. Explain the difference between brightening, lightening and whitening.

Brightening and lightening go hand in hand. The brightening will come from the various ingredients such as niacinamide, hydrolysed hyaluronic acid and lactic acid, etc. and the lightening from glutathione and ascorbic acid, etc. Whitening is another word for bleaching and, in my opinion, sounds dangerous and means using dangerous chemicals like hydroquinone. Side note: If your dermatologist prescribes hydroquinone listen to them, as there is a medical reason for the prescription.

8. What precautions do you advise your clients (or our readers) to take pre- and post treatment, as well as cautions regarding product purchase and service providers?

I cannot stress this enough: sun block! If you use nothing else, please use sun block. Make sure you ask your professional what is in the treatment/product, how is it going to help you and if the treatment/product is suitable for your needs.

9. Who can you confidently advise women to approach for help?

Speak to your medical therapist or doctor; even your beauty therapist should know what products are safe and what is best for your skin type. Darker skins are more prone to damage from specific treatments like chemical peels and laser, so be very careful who you consult and make sure your therapist has knowledge in treating darker skins.

10. Tell us about you and your services.

At Crystal Rose, we offer a free consultation and services like medical chemical peels for targeted skin issues such as pigmentation, anti-ageing and acne. We will recommend a treatment plan for you, which may include the Crystal Rose skin brightening range but we also stock a host of other medical brands to help with all skin types. Our products include an underarm lightening serum for dark marks caused by shaving, laser and waxing and also a bikini lightening serum for the same reason. Our services and advice is tailored to each individual and not only for darker skins. We treat all skin types and only use safe, medical grade products and treatments. We are currently running a Christmas special on our products and you can contact us on info@crystalrose.co.za or +27 (0)84 226 2104.

Interview: Lelethu Tobi. Images: Crystal Rose

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