Korean Skin Whitening Skincare Products, or is it Brightening? Lightening? Do They Bleach Your Skin?!

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I have been asked this question over and over again. Why are they labelled “Whitening”? Do they bleach?

So many of you love all things K-Beauty, and most likely you’ve probably encountered the term “whitening” while browsing your favourite Korean skincare products.

When many people come across the term “Whitening” for the first time, they a taken aback and don’t understand why brands are actually marketing their products as whitening. The term brings up scary images of people changing their skin colour, bleaching and so forth.

This makes us get to the bottom of the “Skin-Whitening” thing, and why it is confused with bleaching and changing of skin colour.

Skin Whitening Defined 

When most of us hear the term skin whitening, we think of literally whitening the skin’s color – bleaching it. In some countries, where colonization has a painful past, that sadly is what skin whitening means. Since whiter skin is often a standard of beauty in these countries people take drastic and often unsafe measures to painfully remove the melanin from their skin in order to make it whiter in color.

However in East Asian countries, especially in South Korea, skin whitening has a TOTALY different meaning.

In the context of most Korean skincare products, this term has nothing to do with the actual colour of the skin but speaks more to the texture, tone and overall health of the skin. They’re designed to result in skin that is radiant and luminescent; skin with a bright glow, not a lighter colour. I have used these products for over 10 years now, and I can for sure say that my skin colour is the same as before, only now more glowy, youthful and more healthier.

What Do Skin Whitening Products Do?

Due to factors such as sun exposure, stress, our skin can begin to experience hyperpigmentation or our complexions can start to look a bit dull with sun spots, and acne scars.

The ingredients, such as vitamin C, gold, snail mucin extract or mulberry extract, in these whitening products help to gently break down the melanin clusters that cause unwanted scars or spots and even out the skin tone by getting rid of dead skin cells by helping the skin renew itself.

Unlike true whitening products these creams, toners, lotions, ampoules and serums do not contain a bleaching agent that strip pigmentation from the skin. Most are made with all natural ingredients. After checking the labels of countless whitening products in some of your favorite products, you wouldn’t find bleach included in the ingredients – even after the translation. That means that the majority of these cleansers, creams and serums are safe to use daily and by anyone, no matter your skin colour, looking to fade dark spots, scars, or even out their skin tone. Almost majority of Korean products do not contain sulfate or alcohol, so they are very friendly to the skin.

Despite the countless times you will be concerned, afraid of or try avoiding these products, you will at the end of it learn that they do not cause any more harm than your current collection of beauty products, but instead they will help you find that glow you are always talking about.

In the end, you will discover that more often than not, the term “Whitening” is a loose/poor translation from Korean to English of the word “Brightening”. In fact, more and more of the favorite K-Beauty brands, particularly the larger ones, have started replacing the word whitening with brightening.

After discovering the true definition of skin whitening, in the context of K-Beauty, you will embrace these products are find them truly worth your money, and skin.