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Lightening creams have a lot of bad press, so we thought we'd unravel exactly what they are, what they're used for, and how to use them. Learn everything you need to know here.

Skin lightening creams are a multi-billion dollar industry. That figure may surprise you - after all, they're not that popular in the US, are they? Well, that's because they're not sold as skin lightening or whitening creams, for the most part. They're sold as dark patch creams or skin brightening creams, because advertising regulations forbids companies from selling products that promise to whiten skin, because it promotes a Westernized standard of beauty that is very much not the typical standard of beauty across the rest of the world, and nor should it be.

Having said that, not every person searching for a skin brightening cream is trying to whiten or bleach their skin. Many people are simply trying to lighten a dark patch, trying to minimize the appearance of a skin condition such as vitiligo, or minimize sun spots or age spots that become more prevalent as we get older. As a general guideline, the creams that you can buy in store from big name brands like Estee Lauder or Clinique do what they say on the tin - brighten darker patches of skin so that they blend into the surrounding areas of skin and become less noticeable, giving skin a brighter, fresher appearance. 

Products that you can only buy online, promising "white skin fast!" are merely bleach in a bottle: potentially very dangerous and promoting a dangerous beauty ideal that we should be fighting against for all we're worth.

Are Lightening Creams Really That Bad?

It really depends on your stance. Lightening creams that are marketed for their intended usage, i.e. dark patch creams that are used solely for fading dark patches - those are completely acceptable and in the vast majority of cases would not be suitable for use as a skin whitening cream, anyway. Creams that are marketed with the sole intent of making skin look whiter, cleaner, brighter and "prettier" are not okay. Caste and color are big issues in countries like India, and even though native Indian skin color is not white, those with lighter skin tones that are white or leaning toward white are almost always at the top of the class system or envied by their peers. Issues such as employment and relationships can be effects by how "white" you are perceived to be, and skin whitening creams are often used in order to appear whiter.

Unlike fake tan, these whitening products can have a serious and harmful effect on social hierarchy, effecting women of all ages and relegating women of color to the lower classes, regardless of their education or background.

This has led to the launch of a vast number of campaigns, including the Dark is Beautiful campaign, to try to encourage women to embrace their natural skin color as something genuinely beautiful. Unfortunately, though, in countries such as India and Thailand it can be very difficult to find any beauty product that does not contain whitening or lightening ingredients, which makes the search for "normal" makeup products that enhance natural beauty rather than mask it quite difficult.

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