Your summer tan, freckles, brown spots, and hyperpigmentation disorders like melasma all have something in common – melanin. This pigment in your skin gives it color and protects it from the damaging effects of the sun’s rays by absorbing or deflecting them. The more melanin you have the darker your skin. So, when you go out in the sun, your skin starts producing more melanin and gets tanned. While melanin can slow down signs of aging and even lowers your risk for skin cancer, excessive deposits can often lead to discolored patches of skin, brown spots, or even a stubborn tan. If this a problem you are grappling with, we’ve got some easy natural remedies that can reduce melanin levels in your skin and brighten up uneven skin.
1. Apply Avocado Pulp
Creamy rich avocados have created quite a buzz as a heart-friendly health food. But did you know that they can also decrease melanin levels? They contain an antioxidant called glutathione which inhibits tyrosinase – an enzyme crucial to the production of melanin. Apply some mashed up avocado pulp to hyperpigmented skin and watch it brighten up.2
2. Rub In Unpasteurized Soy Milk
Protein- and fiber-rich soybean is another food favored by health aficionados. And they can also reduce melanin. They contain proteins known as Bowman-Birk inhibitor and soybean trypsin inhibitor which interfere with a biological pathway for the transfer of melanin to the outer layers of the skin. Apply a little unpasteurized soy milk to pigmented areas. And make sure it’s unpasteurized as pasteurization can wreck the skin-lightening property of soy milk.
3. Slather On Some Turmeric Paste
Southeast Asian communities have traditionally used turmeric as a skin-lightening agent for ages. And here’s the science behind it. According to research, curcumin, a bioactive compound found in turmeric, inhibits melanin production.5 Mix turmeric powder and milk to make a thick paste. Apply this to darkened skin and leave it for a bit before rinsing it off.6
4. Dab On A Little Sunflower Oil
Linoleic acid, a major component of sunflower oil, has been found to have skin-lightening properties. Research indicates that it can suppress melanin production and reduce hyperpigmentation from exposure to ultraviolet radiation. It is also thought to reduce melanin content of the skin by accelerating the shedding of the outermost layer of the skin (stratum corneum).
5. Apply Arnica Infused Oil
According to research, arnica flowers can inhibit melanin synthesis.
To prepare arnica flower infused oil, place the flowers in a clean jar and top up with a carrier oil like sunflower oil. Let the flowers steep in the oil for around 2 to 6 weeks. Make sure you shake the jar once a day. Then strain the oil into a jar and apply as needed.
6. Try Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera has a place in so many skincare products thanks to its moisturizing and soothing properties. But you may not know that this amazing plant can also tackle hyperpigmentation.10 A compound in aloe vera known as aloesin has been found to inhibit tyrosinase activity and can, therefore, reduce the production of melanin.11 Break open an aloe vera leaf, scoop out the gel inside and apply to areas that you wish to lighten.12
7. Apply Licorice Tea
Licorice contains glabridin, a component that like aloesin is able to inhibit tyrosinase activity and retard melanin production. Steep licorice root powder in hot water for around 3 to 5 minutes and strain to make your own depigmentation concoction. Apply it to tanned or pigmented skin to tone down excessive pigmentation. You can also make a face pack with cooked oats and licorice powder for a skin-lightening and moisturizing effect.
8. Use A Seville Orange Peel Mask
Seville oranges may conjure images of a yummy marmalade rather than skin care, but this delicious fruit can help ease hyperpigmentation too. Research shows that Seville orange peel extracts inhibit the enzyme tyrosinase.
Grate the orange peel and mix with a little orange juice, honey, and yogurt to make a paste. Apply this paste and let it work for about 5 minutes before rinsing it off. You should start to see results in days by meticulously applying this every day.
9. Smear On Buttermilk
Here’s another unlikely candidate for your arsenal of skin-lightening agents! Buttermilk contains lactic acid. Research shows that skin treated with this alpha-hydroxy acid has lower deposits of melanin. As a bonus, lactic acid also increases collagen in the skin and can ease wrinkles and make your skin smoother.16 17 No wonder Cleopatra was a fan of a buttermilk bath! So go ahead and wipe darkened skin with some buttermilk to lighten it.
10. Dab On Radish Juice
Radishes perk up your skin as much as the salad you are making. Studies show that radish can inhibit tyrosinase, thereby decreasing the production of melanin. But that’s not all – radish is rich in antioxidants and may have an anti-aging effect too.So dab on a little radish juice and wash once dry to make your skin lighter.
- “The protective role of melanin against UV damage in human skin”. Photochemistry and Photobiology. 84 (3): 539–49. doi:10.1111/j.1751-1097.2007.00226.x. PMC . PMID 18435612.
- Solano, F. (2014). “Melanins: Skin Pigments and Much More—Types, Structural Models, Biological Functions, and Formation Routes”. New Journal of Science. 2014: 1–28. doi:10.1155/2014/498276. ISSN 2356-7740.