Lightening Creams Strike Twice

By Elizabeth Marglin

Women who decide to use bleaching agents (often hydroquinone) on their skin—to counter age spots, freckles, or a dark complexion—might want to pause before they lighten up. Last year, the FDA declared that products containing hydroquinone are potentially carcinogenic and proposed a ban on selling them without a prescription. Prolonged use of hydroquinone, especially prevalent in Africa and Asia, has also been linked to ochronosis, a disfiguring skin condition (think splotches, bumps, and spots).

“I have concerns about hydroquinone’s safety and don’t recommend it to my patients,” says Anne Marie Fine, ND, medical director of the Fine Center for Natural Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona. Instead, she suggests using natural lighteners such as plant extracts like kojic acid and azelaic acid. You can find them both in Lotus Moon Natural Skin Brightening Complex ($45, 1 oz; www.smbessentials. com). A mulberry and bearberry extract combo is another good alternative. We really like Zia Radiantly Firming Concentrate ($38.50, 1.6 oz; www.zianatural.com).