Fair skin has always been coveted by women since centuries ago. Women of the past used to bathe in milk, in the hope that their skin would turn ‘white as milk’. Now with improved technology and deeper know-how, we are much closer to attaining fairer skin than our ancestors.
However, trying to navigate amidst the myths and snake oils that flood the cosmeceutical market is indeed a tricky process. There are countless skin whitening products out there which unfortunately fall short on their promises. What’s worse is that there are others that caused more harm than good, with their unapproved ingredients which may be too harsh for our skin.
Here, our team set out to find the best lightening treatments for Asian skin types. Here is their verdict.
Problem: melasma, age spots
Results: 50% improvement after 3 sessions
Tester Verdict: “I had suffered from pregnancy-induced melasma for many years after my third child which did not improve even after years of lightening cream. I went for 3 sessions of Fraxel Light with Dr Low Chai Ling, who also combined the treatments with some photobiomodulation light to enhance my skin radiance. Initially skeptical, I was a convert after my second session and saw a significant improvement. There was no downtime from the laser which made the monthly treatments very tolerable.”
Caution: Not all lasers are created the same. There are generic lasers as well as FDA approved versions. Apart from the differences in price as well as technology, the resulting skin improvements are also worlds apart. So if you are not getting the results you are looking for, it’s time to check out if your doctor is using an FDA approved laser or a China or Korean made machine. Also look out for salons which may ‘borrow’ the name of a treatment hut use an inferior machine. Lasers company say they are trying to clamp down on these infringement of their trademarks but be aware that just because they say it is a certain laser, it may not always be so. Beauty salons in Singapore are also not allowed by law to perform laser treatments.
Read more: Best Facials for Acne in Singapore
Problem: freckles, sun spots
Results: 90-100% clearance after 3 sessions
Tester Verdict: “As the only guy on the team, I had my arm twisted to undergo treatment for my sun spots. I must say I am not exactly a mild case and did not expect miracles. My criteria was that the laser did not have downtime and was not painful, Pigment Laser fulfilled that. I was surprised to find out from Dr Kenneth Lee that Pigment laser at SW1 Clinic did not involve one laser. Rather, after careful analysis of my skin, he used a combination of 2 different lasers to target my pigment— one for the surface pigment, and one for the deeper pigment. So pigment laser was a term to encompass a group of lasers used to target various pigments of different depths in the skin.”
Caution: There is some darkening of the existing pigmentation after treatment, which then flakes off in a week. Also be aware that as with all lasers, tanned skins are associated with a higher incidence of problems such as post-laser redness. So attend the laser sessions when you have not tanned your skin, and use SPF for the week after for best results.
Problem: post-acne blemishes, melasma
Results: 40-50% clearance of post-acne blemishes
Tester Verdict: “I suffered from a plethora of blemishes from acne as well as melasma. I liked this non-greasy serum which absorbed quickly into the skin and worked well for post-acne blemishes. While it did not actually lighten my melasma, the general brightening of my complexion helped make my melasma look slightly better. Overall, for a skincare product, it was one of the better ones I have used that actually helped my skin without causing undue irritation.”
Caution: This product contained a combination of hydroquinone, glycolic acid and vitamin C. Some people may have particular sensitivity to any of the ingredients and ought to do a patch test of the product on the inner side of their wrist before using it on their face.
Problem: dull skin
Results: brightening of the general skin tone after one session
Tester Verdict: “Being one of the few smokers of the group has left me with the dubious accolade of having the dullest skin. Not keen on injections, lasers and impatiemt for instant results led me down the path of looking for painless quick fixes. The only facial that I found that made a difference was Illumi Facial. While it wasn’t technically a facial, it is done at a clinic and it combines light therapy to brighten and rejuvenate the skin with an enzyme facial. I could see instant glow right after! Very pleased.”
Problem: general discolouration, dull oily skin
Results: Brightening of skin after 1 session. Control of oil, sebum and acne after 3 sessions
Tester Verdict: “Having oily skin is a bane for a sportsperson like me. But thrice weekly Frisbee sessions meant lasers are out as I was not willing to give up my love for outdoor sports, though I do yearn for fairer skin. Why I picked Milk Peel as my winning choice was that not only could I could see a general brightening of my skin after one session, I was surprised that the treatment which included deep ultrasound cleansing and gentle milk acids controlled my oil and sebum effectively.”
Caution: More is not always better as I found in my testing journey. Stronger acids did not equate fairer skin as it reacted badly by being irritated, red and flaky, which in turh made it look worse than it did before. Not all fruit acids are made the same. Alpha hydroxyl acids can be derived from sugar cane (glycolic acids), apples (malic acids) or milk and yoghurt (lactic acids)— each delivering different properties.